Eating Right for Nursing Moms

I was asked recently about fish oil supplementation and vitamins during lactation and thought this might be an area of interest for other nursing moms.

There are actually several nutrient needs that are increased in lactating women. One obvious one is increased calories. You need extra daily calories to make breast milk based on the calories in the breast milk itself. During the first 6 months, you need at least 330 extra calories and at least 400 extra calories after that.

So we recommend you eat up!

healthy food for nursing moms

You also need extra protein: 25 g extra per day is recommended.

For vitamins, nursing requires extra vitamin A, C, E, B6 and B12, folate, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. Minerals needed in extra amounts include iodine, selenium and zinc.

The recommendation for nutrition while breastfeeding is to try to get the necessary extra nutrients through your diet rather than supplementation. However this is not always possible and can be stressful to try to eat perfectly, so you should stay on your prenatal vitamins because it can’t hurt and may be helpful.

If you don’t eat fish you should also take fish oil or an omega 3 fatty acid supplement. If you eat fish don’t overdo it due to the high mercury content in fish. Two servings per week of low mercury content fish is advised such as shrimp, light tuna (only 1 serving/wk if white albacore tuna), salmon, pollack or catfish.

So in summary, breastfeeding moms need lots of extra nutrients compared to non lactating women. So enjoy the opportunity to eat lots of extra food knowing that it’s for a good cause, but stay on your prenatal vitamins to round out any deficiencies (and add fish oil if you don’t eat fish).

Debra Berry, MD

About Debra Berry

Dr. Debra Berry is a board-certified pediatrician in Lone Tree, Colorado providing comprehensive pediatric care at Lone Tree Pediatrics. Her primary goal as a physician is to help each of her patients live a healthy life and grow into a happy productive adult.