How Does My Diet Affect My Breast Milk?

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Article Reviewed by: Casey Seiden MS, RD, CDN, DCES

After giving birth, many women choose to breastfeed, which provides their child with essential vitamins, calories, minerals, and other nutrients for growth and health. This process can benefit both the mother and infant and is also a great way to bond. If you are planning on nursing your child or are currently nursing, read on to learn more about breast milk and how it is affected by your diet.

Does the quality of a mother’s diet have an influence on her milk?

Milk composition is dependent on maternal intake. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and 12, A, D, E, K, Choline, fatty acids, and trace minerals are influenced by mom’s dietary intake. Breastmilk is less dependent on the mother’s intake of folate, iron, and calcium. However, rest assured that even a low-quality diet produces high-quality breast milk.

Can certain foods boost milk production?

Although there is little scientific evidence, there are certain milk-promoting foods, called galactagogues, that certain cultures have used safely for centuries to help nursing mothers. Fenugreek and milk thistle, as a tea or capsule, may help to increase supply and are safe to consume. Additionally, in Asia papaya has been used for breastmilk supply and is a delicious high-fiber fruit to enjoy, but no concrete evidence exists to support this. Foods such as oats, flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast are popular items to include in lactation cookie recipes; they contain B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber, which may help boost supply.

Does caloric intake impact milk production?

It takes approximately 600 calories to produce breastmilk, so the bottom line is that most women need to be eating more to support breastfeeding. Women who are quick to want to diet after giving birth by restricting their calories may in fact jeopardize their milk supply.

How does dehydration impact milk production?

Breastmilk is about 88% water, so the mother’s intake of overall fluids is very important. It has not been shown that drinking more water will enhance supply, but certainly being dehydrated will decrease milk production. Nursing mothers are encouraged to drink at least 128 ounces daily.

What is the best way to increase milk supply?

The best way to increase milk supply is to frequently nurse or express milk. Breastmilk production is a supply and demand process, and so the more you remove milk from the breasts, the more your body will produce milk.

Contact Us Today

For more information about nursing or to learn more about our offered women’s health services, please contact Carnegie Women’s Health in New York, NY today. We will be happy to schedule your appointment to get started.

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Carnegie Women's Health

At Carnegie Women’s Health, we’re more than just a gynecological practice. We’re partnered with some of the most experienced and award-winning obstetricians and maternal fetal medicine specialists in the field of women’s health.

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