August 18, 2022
Author: Angela Trotter, M.S., CNS, AFMCP, Clinical Functional Nutritionist
When it comes to feeding baby, there are options. While there can be so many thoughts, beliefs, and emotions regarding the types of feeding used, we acknowledge that there are many factors that can impact this choice. In honor of Breastfeeding awareness month, we will solely focus on the importance of nutrition during breastfeeding, suggested caloric intake during this time, and specific nutrients to pay special attention to in order to continue supporting the growth and development of baby after birth.
Nutrition is such a valuable component of preconception, pregnancy, and breastfeeding while also
supporting the health and recovery of mom post-pregnancy. From a foundational standpoint, we
understand the importance of adequately supporting the growth and development of baby, while also
remembering that mommy is also in need of adequate nutritional support during this time. With this in
mind, it is essential to ensure adequate caloric intake during each phase.
However, there is so much more at play here that can impact generations to come. This process as it is
associated with nutrition is known as nutritional epigenetics, in which proper intake of valuable
nutrients are shown to regulate gene expression and can play a role in supporting the health of the baby
throughout their life, and for following generations to come.
For some women, breastfeeding comes with ease, while for others it can be incredibly difficult. Before
continuing we want to acknowledge that each person has a uniquely different experience with
breastfeeding and that we need to honor and respect that for each person. The information provided
here will be foundational, however, there are always ways to support and ensure adequate nutritional
intake when the road through breastfeeding is not an easy, nor peaceful process.
Lactation will require energy, and therefore we must meet these increased energy demands with
increased energy via dietary intake. The general guidelines for lactating women is to consume an
additional 500 calories per day, in addition to their baseline suggested intake prior to pregnancy.
Without adequate caloric intake, milk supply can dwindle, and the health of mom may also start to decline with more fatigue, hair loss, and impaired sleep.
Specific Nutrients to Consider
Below we will provide some major nutrients to consider that are shown to have an epigenetic effect
on baby, and ensure adequate growth and development. However, each woman will be uniquely
different in what nutrients she may need during each stage of pre-conception through breastfeeding
Ensuring a well-balanced dietary intake with each meal that consists of adequate protein, suggested at
approximately 71g per day, or an additional 25 grams per day in addition to pre-pregnancy baseline
intake. Ensuring intake of healthy fats will enable the proper absorption of necessary fat soluble
vitamins and will support the rapid development of baby’s brain. Adequate vegetable intake will
provide essential vitamins like B12/Folate, the stress-reducing mineral magnesium, and also provides a
source of calcium, while also providing adequate fiber intake to feed the mother’s gut microbiome which
will also seed baby’s microbiome through breastmilk, while starchy vegetables and grains can provide additional support to reduce stress and some specific grains like oatmeal and barley are shown to
support milk supply.
1) Omega 3 Fatty Acids, EPA & DHA
Omega 3 fatty acids are vital for both brain and eye development of baby. The brain is
made up of approximately 60% fat, with 10-15% of this coming from the important
omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, which must come from dietary intake.
We see the brain grows at a much greater rate in these early years of development, up
until the age of 2 years old. Commonly deficient in the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet),
ensuring additional intake of clean, low mercury fish options like Wild Caught Alaskan
Salmon can provide these necessary building blocks for brain growth, and function.
B12 and Folate are vital B vitamins necessary for methylation, a process we will not dive
into fully, but in pregnancy can play a role in decreasing the risk of developing neural
tube defects, like spina bifida. All prenatal vitamins will contain an adequate intake of
these two essential nutrients, which are commonly suggested to continue while
breastfeeding as well.
In addition to playing an important role in gene regulation for baby, they can also help mom
in reducing fatigue and supporting her nervous system during pregnancy, and post-
pregnancy. Adequate intake of raw dark leafy greens each day can be a great way to get
a decent intake of these essential B vitamins in a bioavailable form.
3) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another essential nutrient during pregnancy that may need to be continued
for many women while breastfeeding, especially if not getting adequate skin exposure
to sunlight each day. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, reduce infection(s) during pregnancy, and can also reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia in mom.
There are also numerous studies continuing to learn the benefits of adequate vitamin D
for baby in which we note a role in regulating metabolic processes, inflammation,
neurogenesis, and risk reduction of developing asthma in baby.
Ideally, we would get our vitamin D from food sources like Wild Caught Alaskan salmon,
which has been shown to have one of the higher concentrations of vitamin D. Another
way is of course adequate skin exposure in sunlight where vitamin D is synthesized in
Please note, vitamin D needs to be supplemented according to each individual’s specific
needs to avoid toxicity. Ensuring you have your doctor monitor your vitamin D levels
would be highly suggested to determine specific needs if choosing to supplement vitamin
Several Foods to Consider Incorporating While Breastfeeding
Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon – provides healthy omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D.
Eggs – provide brain nutrient choline, and B12.
Dark Leafy Greens – provide magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and a source of fiber to feed good
bacteria in the gut.
Nuts/Seeds/Avocado – good sources of healthy dietary fats important for brain and neurological
development of baby in the first few years of life.
Healthy Carbs – quinoa, oatmeal, and barley have been shown to be beneficial for supporting milk supply. They also support the production of stress-reducing neurotransmitters.
Proper Hydration – adequate fluid intake is essential to producing milk supply, it is suggested that an
additional 32 ounces of water be added to baseline intake during both pregnancy and lactation.
Overall, these are some basic factors to consider in order to support the breastfeeding process and allowing adequate intake to continue to nourish mom and provide the necessary intake to support healing post-pregnancy. Of course, there are always caveats, like food sensitivities and/or allergies that may need to be considered for some. To learn more about ways to adequately nourish yourself while breastfeeding or for a customize plan for your body’s unique needs, Contact Angie Today.
Author: Angela Trotter, M.S., CNS, AFMCP, Clinical Functional Nutritionist
*Please Note: The information provided on or through this website or blog is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. Engaging with this material does not constitute a client/therapist relationship*