A mom’s breastmilk is the best nutrition she can give her baby, no matter what she eats, even if her diet is poor or lacks nutrients. However, proper nutrition has so many amazing benefits.
A breastfeeding meal plan just means eating a diet rich in whole, real foods. That’s it, mama! Instead of a special diet, it’s better to keep it simple and use the tips that follow to ensure you’re getting a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods.
You can also use these tips to develop a plan to lose weight while breastfeeding if you want to as well. The importance of a healthy breastfeeding meal plan along with how to lose weight while breastfeeding is discussed in detail below.
Why Should I Follow a Breastfeeding Meal Plan?
There are so many benefits to a nourished mother. Sometimes you may have to think of it as a special diet, but really, it’s just a diet rich in whole foods so you can optimize your health, and the nutrition you’re giving your baby.
A breastfeeding meal plan can really help you get back on track after having a baby. This is especially important if you didn’t eat healthy foods in pregnancy, or even ate more than you should have. Having a breastfeeding meal plan can provide another level of accountability so you start seeing results in your energy and losing the baby weight.
Plus, you’ll want to provide the best nutrients to your baby through your milk, so a breastfeeding meal plan can help ensure you are doing just that through a balanced diet full of healthy foods. And that’s all it is really, healthy foods in the right portion sizes (more than normal since you’re breastfeeding).
Breastfeeding Meal Plan Benefits For a Nourished Mother
There are many benefits to eating healthy foods while breastfeeding. While breast milk is still the best for your baby no matter your diet, a healthy diet will help you feel better and heal faster.
Studies also show that nourished mothers are more likely to play with their infants than mothers that feel depleted. A healthy breastfeeding meal plan also ensures you’re getting enough Omega 3s in your diet, which can help prevent postpartum depression.
A study conducted among moms with postpartum depression found that most were deficient in omega-3s. You can either supplement or eat wild salmon a few times a week to help prevent postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
Here are more benefits to a healthy breastfeeding meal plan.
• healing faster postpartum
• better able to care for and play with your baby
• more energy and less exhaustion
• improved mood
• better sleep
• less food cravings
• less fussy baby
• easier to identify problem foods
• supports healthy milk production in general
Nutrients That Pass Through Your Breast Milk
When your body is properly fueled and can function well, you will be able to perform well, and that includes making the best breast milk possible for your baby. A healthy and diverse diet can boost your milk supply with a lot of the key nutrients your baby needs.
Some nutrients can pass through to your breast milk. So, if you eat foods rich in nutrients, your baby will get a boost from the nutrients in the milk. Here is a list of vitamins and nutrients that are passed through breast milk to the baby.
• Vitamin D
• Vitamin K
• Vitamin A
• B Vitamins
• Fatty Acids (Omegas)
• The Amino Acids
• Phytonutrients for oxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits
• Probiotics for gut health
Nutrients Not as Reliant on Mom’s Diet
In the case of the below-listed nutrients, your maternal stores will come into play if you’re not getting enough of these nutrients through the food you’re eating. Your baby requires these either way and will get them through breastmilk.
So, while your diet doesn’t impact whether your baby receives these nutrients as much, you still want proper amounts in your body to help maintain good health for yourself. Calcium is especially important for your bones, so if your baby is pulling it from you through breastfeeding, you’ll want to supplement or check to see how much calcium you’re getting in your diet on average.
Even if you don’t eat dairy, there are plenty of other foods that are high in calcium, like dark leafy greens. If you’re taking a prenatal or postnatal vitamin, it will likely have these key nutrients, as well, which is helpful as you continue to nourish your baby and body after having a baby.
I typically recommend moms continue taking a quality postnatal up to a year after having a baby, even if you stop nursing during that time.
How To Create a Breastfeeding Meal Plan To Lose Weight
It will give you a quick start with a 21-day sample meal plan, grocery shopping lists to pick from, and lots of tips to get your other kids eating healthier too. I also included a breastfeeding calorie calculator to take the guesswork out of trying to figure out how many extra calories you need to see weight loss results.
The grocery lists will also allow you to pick the foods you will want to eat, rather than me telling you exactly what foods to eat. A sample meal plan is available though if you do need a little extra guidance and an example.
If you want to create your own breastfeeding meal plan, you’ll want to identify the number of calories you need. This needs to be done by also considering how much you’re breastfeeding, your maternal stores, activity level, age, height, etc. (all of this included in the L.E.A.N. Mamas calculator).
Then, you’ll identify the types of foods you want to eat. I always suggest keeping it simple especially at first. Don’t try to create a bunch of new recipes. You will cause overwhelm and you won’t stick to it long-term.
Identify a list of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meats/poultry/seafood, and snacks that you want to pick from. Then, start choosing from those lists to create a meal plan for yourself. You can track your food at first to help you stay within your caloric requirements.
Some moms find they are not eating enough food. If you are not sure, I strongly suggest tracking your food for a few days using a phone app like My Fitness Pal. Once you feel more comfortable and you’re seeing results, you don’t need to track as often.
If you’re currently eating a highly-processed diet of food, with lots of prepackaged foods, you may find it is hard to eat just real foods. I suggest easing into it, replacing foods with healthier ones is a gradual process for some.
There’s no shame in taking it slow. It should become a lifestyle for you rather than a crash diet.
If you start noticing a stall in your weight loss progress, make sure you’re drinking enough water, adding electrolytes, tracking your food, reevaluating your calorie requirements, exercising in moderation (swimming and walking are great exercises you can do with your baby), doing light strength training when you’re cleared by your doctor, reducing your stress levels, and getting support when you need it.
Stress can actually raise your cortisol levels in your body, causing you to hold on to weight, even if your diet is perfect. Utilize your support system to take time for yourself too. This will help you see results faster.
Inside my L.E.A.N. Mamas program, I’ve given you all the tools to help you achieve weight loss while breastfeeding using a breastfeeding meal plan that you can adapt to fit your needs.
A Healthy Breastfeeding Meal Plan Provides Nutrition for Healing
Nutrition also greatly affects your body’s ability to heal itself after giving birth. Healing whole foods can help prevent postpartum disorders like depression and anxiety and help a mom heal a lot faster.
A study conducted on nourished mothers found that nourished mothers are better able to care for their baby and more likely to play with their baby than an undernourished mother.
Keep It Simple
So, I encourage you to keep it simple and add more nutrients into your meals through real foods that are not processed. Make sure you consume enough calories for milk production.
Allow between 250-500 extra calories per day, depending on how often you’re breastfeeding, more if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, and less if you’re partially breastfeeding. Don’t go on crash diets as that can affect supply and cause a mother’s body to release toxins into her bloodstream, which is how milk is made.
Keep calories at, at least 1,800-2,000 per day, if not more, based on body type, how you are breastfeeding, and activity level.
What Foods Should You Avoid On a Breastfeeding Meal Plan?
Avoiding foods will be dependent on you as the breastfeeding mother, and your baby, but generally speaking, no foods should be avoided if you’re eating a nutrient-dense diet with variety. If your baby is experiencing allergic reaction-type symptoms, I would suggest you start keeping a food journal to understand what is causing the reaction.
This journaling will help you identify the problem foods so you can experiment with elimination and reintroduction at a later time. No need to live your life doubting all the foods you’re eating with every bite.
Common Symptoms of a Baby with Food Sensitivities or Allergies
Oftentimes moms are told to remove certain foods from their diets like dairy or eggs. While this is sometimes the case, it is not always the cause of a baby experiencing the below symptoms.
▹ Sore bottom
▹ Diaper rash
▹ Runny nose
▹ Weeping eyes
▹ Body rash
▹ Excessive crying, inconsolable
▹ Sleepless baby
▹ Overly fussy
▹ Excessively gassy without relief
Before removing foods from your diet, be sure you’ve seen a lactation consultant to rule out other causes like a poor latch, oversupply of milk, or milk imbalance. These can sometimes lead to these same symptoms which may cause you to think it’s something related to your diet.
Also, keep in mind if you do remove foods from your diet that food manufacturers are really clever about hiding ingredients under new or different names. It’s easiest if you eat a diet with real, whole foods so you know there are no additives that may contain the foods you aren’t supposed to be eating.
A clean diet for a few weeks can really help you determine if a certain food is an issue. You can always try adding it back in once your baby’s digestive tract is a little more mature if you determine a particular food is indeed the culprit.
Family History of Food Allergies
If there is a history of food sensitivities or allergies in the family, you may want to avoid that food until your baby is six months old. At this point, the baby’s digestive system is a little more mature and may be better able to tolerate it or you could test the food.
Avoiding foods altogether with no exposure could lead to allergies later on, so it’s best only to avoid if necessary. Also, exposure to the food tastes through breastmilk helps babies get used to the various types of tastes.
Common Food Allergens
If a baby is colicky or overly fussy, avoiding dairy, caffeine, and some cruciferous vegetables could minimize the effects on the baby as well. Some herbs like sage, peppermint, rosemary, and thyme can cause a decrease in supply and should be avoided in large quantities.
Here is a list of common food allergens that are important to be aware of when breastfeeding.
• Cow’s Milk/Dairy
Meal Plan for Breastfeeding Mothers To Increase Milk Supply
Like I’ve mentioned, a breastfeeding meal plan doesn’t mean a special diet, it just means adding more nutrient-dense foods to your diet. Eating foods that are rich in nutrients is the best advice when it comes to nutrition and promoting a healthy milk supply.
There are a lot of commercial products out there promoting special breastfeeding diets, and if you want to indulge because it and makes you feel less stressed, then go for it. But in general, a diet rich in whole foods and quality water will promote a healthy milk supply.
Most of the lactogenic foods are everyday foods that you can cook and enjoy with your family. These foods include the following list.
• Whole Grains and Flours
• Spices, Herbs, and Yeasts
• Fruits and Vegetables
• Eggs and Dairy: eggs, full-fat Greek yogurt (low or no sugar), whole milk, butter, and cream
• Beans and Pulses
• Fats and Sweeteners: extra-virgin coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, molasses, coconut sugar, dates
• Protein: organically raised or wild-caught fish and meat
Your body needs water for its bodily functions to perform well, whether you’re breastfeeding or not. So, I recommend you drink to thirst, but at least half your baby’s body weight in ounces per day. Drinking water will help ensure your body is adequately hydrated so all your cells can function properly.
What To Do If You Are Not Making Enough Milk
Many moms have a fear of not producing enough milk for their baby, and a lot of it stems from not knowing what to look for in terms of a healthy, thriving baby. Instead of a breastfeeding meal plan, focus on the signs that indicate your baby is healthy and thriving.
I don’t feel that there’s enough education for mothers before giving birth. There is so much knowledge and confidence that can be instilled before your baby arrives.
You may think they don’t have enough milk supply after your baby arrives because of the different signs you see. Some of these signs include your baby eating a lot, your breasts not being engorged anymore, and you don’t feel a milk letdown.
As long as you are nursing on demand, at least 8-12 times in 24 hours, and your baby is transferring milk well and seems satisfied, everything is probably going just the way it should. New moms generally don’t expect babies to eat as much as they do.
You may be surprised by this too. So, giving you the confidence to know you are doing everything right can help you continue to breastfeed, especially on the hard days. You should also use your instincts to look for a satisfied baby.
Things to look for are appropriate weight gain for a baby’s age and adequate poo and pee diapers. Remember, go back to the basics when in doubt.
If you need more information about breastfeeding, learn more in my Breastfeeding with Confidence Course. It is an in-depth course that will answer all your breastfeeding-related questions with videos and handouts.
A Healthy Breastfeeding Meal Plan Will Promote Your Milk Supply
Stress and anxiety can sometimes inhibit milk supply. It’s important for you to enjoy this time with your baby and reduce as many stressors as possible. Some things you can do to reduce stress are listed below.
1. Nourish yourself properly for the fastest recovery possible.
2. Eat nutrient-dense food for optimal recovery and health.
3. Practice self-love with affirmations, a healthy mindset, and doing kind things for yourself.
4. Buy yourself something.
5. Make time for quiet time and meditation.
Your Breastfeeding Meal Plan When Starting Solids
Your breastfeeding meal plan will change based on how often you’re breastfeeding your baby, and how much milk you’re producing. The calories required to make milk vary between 250-500 calories, which means if you are making more milk for your baby (before introducing solids), your body will make more milk and require more calories.
This means your meal plan needs to reflect that increase in calories. As your baby starts eating more solid foods, then you will need to produce less breast milk because they won’t be interested in milk as much/require as much.
You may be on the lower end of the calorie requirement spectrum. You will adjust your breastfeeding meal plan accordingly. This is why I’ve included a breastfeeding calorie calculator inside my L.E.A.N. Mamas program– so you know how many extra calories you need based on many factors like how often you’re breastfeeding your baby.
When your baby starts eating solid foods, your supply may decrease slightly because your baby is eating more solid foods in addition to milk. Keep offering to breastfeed though.
You should wait until your baby is at least six months old and showing signs of readiness. A baby’s digestive system is not mature enough to handle food before that. They should be sitting up, interested in you eating, and grabbing for your utensils and food.
You can start by offering your baby very small portions in size and shape that your baby can easily pick up. Moms can quarter or cut in half small fruits like grapes and blueberries.
Offer different foods often so your baby is exposed to a variety and can experiment with different tastes and textures. He or she may not like a food one day and then like it the next. The key is constant exposure.
Before one year old, your baby is still relying on breast milk for the majority of his or her nutritional needs. Nurse or offer a bottle of breast milk first, and then offer solids.
After one year, breast milk comes after offering food. Offer your baby a meal or snack, and then breast milk 10-15 minutes later.
Make sure you’re eating something while they are eating so they learn to mimic your behaviors while eating. You are an example for them.
All babies are different in terms of when they get interested in solids. If you’re concerned your baby is not showing interest, just chat with your pediatrician about it. Our son was a late bloomer in this regard, but he is almost two now and eats well.
Having a healthy breastfeeding meal plan is very important for mom’s health, baby’s health, and for maintaining a good milk supply. You can also lose weight while breastfeeding by sticking to a nutritious and smart meal plan.
A breastfeeding meal plan is a helpful way to get back on track after having a baby. It will help you eat the right foods and portions, and also help you provide the most nutritious milk for your baby. You can create your own plan, or follow mine for the easiest start.
If you’re ready for an easy breastfeeding meal plan for weight loss, sign up for my L.E.A.N. Mamas program. I’ve taken all of the guesswork out of creating a meal plan, including a 21-day sample plan and I teach you how to create your own from shopping lists. You can learn more about it by clicking here.