Nutrition for Mom and Baby


For mothers who count calories it is recommended that you eat an extra 500 calories a day while breastfeeding. Many women actually consume about 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day. If your activity level is high, you will need more calories to maintain your energy level and not feel tired. We suggest that you eat to satisfy your hunger. Some women like to eat three well-balanced meals a day plus a snack before bed. Other women can't find the time to sit for a meal and prefer many frequent smaller meals to satisfy their hunger. Choose foods high in protein, foods that will keep your energy level up and help you resist illness. Fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and all sources of protein like meat and fish are all excellent choices.

Eating a variety of foods will give your baby a variety of flavors in your breast milk. Eat the foods that YOU tolerate well, avoiding the foods that you do not tolerate. Occasionally, babies have difficulty with the foods that mothers eat. If your baby is very gassy and crampy for extended periods throughout the day, call a lactation consultant for dietary advice.


The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women who are pregnant or nursing eat eight to 12 ounces a week of a variety of seafood that is low in mercury. But it's hard to figure out which fish are best.

Avoid a few key species:

  • King mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Ahi tuna
  • Bigeye tuna

All of these fish contain high levels of mercury.

Peanuts and tree nuts

Unless your infant is at high-risk for peanut allergy, you can consume peanuts and tree nuts while breastfeeding. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, new research has shown early introduction of peanuts into the diet of infants at high risk of peanut allergy can play a role in the prevention of peanut allergies. Health care providers should recommend introducing peanut-containing products into the diets of high-risk infants between ages four and 11 months.

As always, discuss these concerns with your pediatrician.


Drink enough liquids to satisfy your thirst. Observe your urine. Urine should be pale and clear. Drink more liquids if your urine looks concentrated or dark yellow/gold in color. Some nutritious sources of liquids are: milk, fruit and vegetable juices, bouillon, soups and non-caffeine teas. We recommend that you sip one to two large glasses of water during each breastfeeding session.


Limit beverages and foods containing caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and may cause your baby to be wakeful and alert when you want your baby to be quiet and restful. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and many sodas contain caffeine in various amounts. Drink these beverages earlier in your day rather than later. If your baby is very sensitive to your caffeine intake, limit caffeine to the mornings or avoid altogether. Remember, chocolate candies and desserts also contain caffeine.


Though lactation places an increased demand on your body for calcium, absorption of calcium from your intestines is most efficient during lactation. You will need about 1300 mg daily. Listed below are foods that are an excellent source of calcium. You may also choose your calcium in supplement form. If you choose calcium supplements, it is recommended that you take no more than 600 mg at a time and take it with foods high in vitamins C and D for better absorption. Ask your physician what type of calcium supplement is better absorbed.

Best sources of calcium

Food Portion mg
Swiss cheese 2 ounces 544
Yogurt/skim milk 8 ounces 452
Orange juice with calcium 8 ounces 452
Provolone cheese 2 ounces 424
Cheddar cheese 2 ounces 408
Muenster cheese 2 ounces 406
Colby cheese 2 ounces 388
Brick cheese 2 ounces 382
Sardines 3 ounces 371
American cheese 2 ounces 348
Milk, skim 8 ounces 302
Buttermilk 8 ounces 285
Limburger cheese 2 ounces 282
Salmon 3 ounces 274
Broccoli 1 medium stalk 148
Dandelion greens 4 ounces 147
Pizza, cheese ⅛ of 14” pie 144
Blackstrap molasses 1 tablespoon 137
Soy flour ½ cup 132
Collards 4 ounces 110
Tofu 3 ounces 109
Kale 4 ounces 103


Vitamins are extra insurance you are getting nutrients not found in the foods you eat. Eating a well-balanced diet is the most economical way to produce adequate breast milk. If you choose to take a vitamin supplement, over-the-counter multivitamins are often sufficient. If you are stressed, foods high in B vitamins will help you fight stress and fatigue. Discuss any concerns with your physician.

Best sources of B vitamins

Food Portion
Beef, lean 1 tablespoon
Brewer’s yeast 3 ounces
Chicken, white meat 3 ounces
Chick peas ¼ cup
Egg, hard cooked 1
Flour, rye ¼ cup
Flour, whole wheat ¼ cup
Kidney beans, dried ¼ cup
Kidney, beef 3 ounces
Liver, beef 3 ounces
Liver, chicken 3 ounces
Milk, whole 8 ounces
Navy beans, dried ½ cup
Peanuts ¼ cup
Rice, brown, raw ¼ cup
Salmon steak 3 ounces
Swiss cheese 2 ounces
Wheat germ, toasted 1 tablespoon


You will need to replenish your iron stores after delivering your baby. Choose from the following list of foods that are high in iron.

Best food sources of iron

Food Portion mg
Beef liver 3 ounces 7.5
Blackstrap molasses 1 tablespoon 3.2
Roast beef 3 ounces 3.1
Ground beef, lean 3 ounces 3.0
Lima beans, dried and cooked ½ cup 2.9
Sunflower seeds ¼ cup 2.5
Prunes ½ cup 2.2
Turkey, dark meat 3 ounces 2.0
Apricots, dried ¼ cup 1.8
Broccoli raw 1 stalk 1.7
Spinach raw 8 ounces 1.7
Almonds ¼ cup 1.6
Peas ½ cup 1.5
Beet greens ½ cup 1.4
Brewer’s yeast 1 tablespoon 1.4
Raisins ¼ cup 1.3
Kidney beans ¼ cup 1.1
Turkey, white meat 3 ounces 1.1
Chicken, white meat 3 ounces 1.0
Endive or escarole 1 cup 1.0
Cod/haddock 3 ounces 0.9


Very few medications may be passed through your breast milk to your baby. If you require medication for illness, remind your physician that you are a breastfeeding mother and wish to continue breastfeeding your baby. Request a medication that is safe while nursing. If you have any concerns or questions concerning a certain medication, contact our warm line at 484.565.8075. You can also call a lactation consultant or the Infant Risk Center at 806.352.2519 ( for the newest information on a specific drug and its safety with breastfeeding. Some drugs can be timed when you take them to limit the amount of the drug that passes through to your baby in your breast milk. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are considered safe to take while you are breastfeeding (if tolerated by the mother) and both are also used to treat babies who are ill. Follow the package information on dosage or call your physician for advice.


Nicotine, absorbed through your system during smoking, may decrease your milk production and interfere with your letdown response, resulting in an inadequate milk supply and a hungry, unhappy baby. Second-hand smoke inhaled by your baby will irritate his/her respiratory tract and make you baby prone to respiratory infections and increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If you are unable to kick the habit while pregnant or breastfeeding, please smoke outside your home and change your clothes after you smoke, before you pick up the baby. Consider trying nicotine patches which are considered a safer substitute than smoking while breastfeeding.


The routine use of alcohol during breastfeeding is not recommended. Alcohol passes quickly into your blood supply and rapidly into your breast milk. If you would like to have occasional and limited use of alcohol, please discuss this with your baby's physician. The effects on your baby are directly related to the amount of alcohol that you drink. Slow weight gain and failure to thrive can result in babies whose mothers routinely abuse alcohol.

Recreational drugs

Recreational drugs are illegal. If used by a breastfeeding mother, these drugs will pass into the breast milk to your baby. The effects on your baby can be fatal, even with infrequent use. If this is a concern that you have, please discuss with your physician.

Main Line Health breastfeeding/pumping mothers' groups

For an opportunity to speak with other breastfeeding or pumping others, to share your experiences, and to check your baby's weight, please join us at any of the following mothers' groups. All groups have a baby scale. There is no charge for any of the groups and no reservations are necessary. Feel free to bring a beverage and a snack, babies and their siblings are welcome. Call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) for weather cancellations, information about dates, room locations or directions to the group meetings. Please note that the groups do not meet on holidays.

Find out more about breastfeeding groups at Main Line Health