Nutrition While Breastfeeding: 3 Common Myths

Nutrition While Breastfeeding: 3 Common Myths

Publish Date March 9, 2023 5 Minute Read

Nutrition is important during all stages of life, including breastfeeding. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for 2 years or beyond. Unfortunately, breastfeeding isn’t always a simple journey. Breastfeeding individuals may face a variety of challenges that can affect the decision to breastfeed from the start (or to continue to breastfeed). Some of these challenges may even be related to your nutrition. If you’re making an important decision about your infant’s feeding, then having the correct information is a priority. Let’s explore some common nutrition-while-breastfeeding myths to help make your infant feeding decisions a little easier.

Myth 1: I don’t have an appetite and skip meals, so I won’t be able to make enough breastmilk for my baby.

After birth, many women find that they have a decreased appetite, or they may skip meals frequently due to a busy schedule or hormonal changes. Food is fuel for your body, and skipping meals may make you feel tired. It’s recommended that women get 500 more calories per day while breastfeeding. However, it won’t affect your milk production negatively if you don’t meet that recommendation. The body is amazing and will adapt to prioritize milk production. Working with a registered dietitian can help with learning meal planning skills or strategies to keep your energy levels up during this busy time.

Myth 2: I don’t eat healthy, so my breastmilk won’t have the nutrients my baby needs.

Eating a balanced diet is important, because your body needs different nutrients from each of the food groups to stay healthy. The USDA MyPlate food groups include fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains and dairy. If you’re a picky eater, or if you skip some food groups, your baby will still get the nutrition they need from your breastmilk. Women have successfully breastfed under hard conditions like famine and scarcity of food from poverty for centuries. Talk to one of our registered dietitians about ways to work through picky eating, and to find out if a multivitamin is right for you.

Myth 3: I can’t eat certain vegetables or dairy while breastfeeding.

Some breastfeeding women say that when they eat certain foods and then breastfeed, their baby reacts as if they have a sensitivity to that food. These symptoms could include gassiness, colic, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive crying, bloody stool and more. Some breastfeeding women have found it helpful to eliminate the food causing these symptoms. However, cutting out a whole food group, like dairy for example, could make it hard for a breastfeeding individual to consume enough calcium. It’s recommended that breastfeeding individuals get 1,000 - 1,300 mg of calcium per day, depending on age.

If the baby has no symptoms, it’s not necessary to cut out those foods while breastfeeding. If the baby is having some of those symptoms, there could potentially be many other causes, including:

  • Oversupply or overfeeding, which are common causes of gassiness. Pumping or expressing some milk before latching the baby, or using the laid-back breastfeeding position, can help with gassiness from oversupply. And a technique of slowing the baby down while feeding with a bottle, called “paced infant feeding,” could help prevent gassiness from overfeeding.
  • If the baby is vomiting a lot, talk to your doctor about reflux. Some babies are born with the flap that separates the stomach and esophagus not fully formed. This could make the baby more likely to vomit. You can keep the baby sitting up for at least 30 minutes after feeding, and the doctor may recommend medication for reflux.
  • Excessive crying could mean that the baby is cold, wants attention, is sick or a number of other things.

Once some of these other potential causes are ruled out, then restricting certain foods that cause symptoms for the baby might be appropriate. Be sure to talk with your doctor right away if the baby has diarrhea or bloody stool.

As a breastfeeding individual, taking care of your baby is a priority, but it’s also important to take care of your health as well. Schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian to talk about your nutrition or food sensitivity concerns while breastfeeding.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.