Does Mom’s Diet Affect the Quality of Breastmilk?

Breastmilk is undoubtedly the best source of nutrition for infants. But what if mom doesn’t eat all the right things? Will her breastmilk not be good enough for her child?
For years it was thought that the foods in a mother’s diet would affect the quality of her breast milk. Mothers were often encouraged to increase their milk or dairy consumption in order to maintain an ample supply and to avoid eating certain foods like garlicky or spicy foods because they could cause the baby to become fussy or colicky.
There seemed to be quite a lot of restrictions on the mother’s actions in order to do something that was supposed to be natural.


However in recent years women have been told that there is not one specific diet for all breastfeeding mothers to follow because her diet will not affect the quality of her milk. More and more doctors are now urging mothers to continue the same well-balanced diet they followed during pregnancy throughout their breastfeeding relationship.
Breastfeeding can be stressful enough, and it seems far better for a mother to eat a well-balanced diet that satisfies her appetite than to obsess over each thing she eats.
Indeed, research now suggests that a mother’s diet affects the quantity of breastmilk that she produces rather than the quality of its composition. Therefore certain foods needn’t be avoided to preserve the milk’s quality unless there is a family history of food allergies. The quality of breastmilk is said to be fairly consistent amongst breastfeeding mothers that eat a healthy and varied diet.
It seems that only in very extreme cases will a mother’s diet adversely affect the quality of her breastmilk. La Leche League even goes as far to say that “anything you are happy eating is okay for you to eat while you are breastfeeding.”
That’s a relief!


This article was contributed by Elizabeth from Breast Pumps Direct. As a nursing mother to her 1 year old daughter and a breastfeeding counselor, she spends a great deal of time everyday thinking, talking and writing about breastfeeding basics and breastmilk.

13 comments on “Does Mom’s Diet Affect the Quality of Breastmilk?

  1. Absolutely! For too long, people thought the way to handle breastfeeding was like how they handled formula-feeding; with lots of rules. As more and more women have breastfed and discovered that all the rules didn’t apply to them, then the rules started being dropped.
    Here’s the reality – most women will produce enough milk of the right quality regardless of what they eat. Eating a well-balanced diet helps preserve the mother’s sense of wellness and health rather than affecting the quality of her milk. Avoiding certain foods is only necessary if that baby has problems. Too often, a mother will blame something she ate for a period of gas or fussiness when the reality is that gas or fussiness was simply part of the life of baby at that time.
    I am a Lactation Consultant and I frequently deal with mothers needing nothing more than reassurance that their baby is normal and that their milk is enough. Too often these mothers have been told by well meaning doctors or friends that they have to restrict their diet – and why? – because the doctor’s wife or the friend thought they had to restrict theirs. Oh, and on the subject of spices, just go look at babies in Thailand, India, or Brazil- where the diet of the mother’s includes many spices and hot peppers as a matter of course. Breastmilk takes on the flavor of the food, which is a special treat for the breastfed baby. So, go ahead, eat what you want, eat lots of variety, eat it as naturally as possible because it’s better for you, and enjoy breastfeeding.

  2. hi. i am giving breastmilk for my 2 months old baby girl. According to one of my relative whom breastfed her 2 children till they were 2 years old, taking oranges can cause discomfort to baby. is it true? is it safe to take hi-fibre package while breast feeding?

  3. MY BABY IS 5 WEEKS OLD-HE WEIGHED 7LBS 6 OZ. AT BIRTH. hE GOT DOWN TO 6LBS 12 OZ IN THE HOSPITAL. hE NOW WEIGHS 7 LBS 14 OZ. i AM BREAST-FEEDING ONLY. hE SEEMS CONTENT AND SLEEPS WELL. aNY THOUGHTS ON HOW TO INCREASE HIS WEIGHT?

  4. Hi, I came across your blog when looking for an article or medical review about breast milk quality/quantity, would you mind sharing your sources ? It would be very helpful if i could forward trustful/medical sources to people that say “if you skip a meal, your milk will only only be water at the next feeding ! or “where do you get that milk quality is pretty much the same for underfed people in africa and overweight people in USA ?”
    Thanks !

  5. I don’t use drugs or alcohol, I am 21 years, I follow a diet consisting of green veggies, some fruit (because they have lots of sugar), almost half a gallon of milk a day and constantly drinking water. I eat whole wheat fiber cerals and breads in the morning and only eat chicken maybe 2-4x a week and venison (because it is so lean) 1x a week.
    I get a good amount of excercise and fresh air. My son was born 6 lbs 13 oz. and lost 10oz. in the hospital before he came home. He is strictly on breastmilk and is gaining above the average 1oz. per day. He sleeps very well, and is pretty active (for a newborn) when he is awake. He is not at all colicky or fussy (unless he is hungry or has a dirty diaper, but thats ok!). I currently have over 200 extra oz. of frozen milk.
    My daughter was born at 25 weeks gestational, she was only 1 pound and 9 ounces and 12 inches and was in the hospital for 3 months. I learned everything about pumping and storing breastmilk. I only use sterilized bags, and they are marked date, time, and amount. I follow only strict guidelines when thawing and storing.
    Breastmilk is only good for 1 hour out of the fridge, 24 hours in the fridge.

  6. I have 3 children and one on the way. After my last child I have much weight I needed to lose. I tried to not eat as much and eat lower calories meals. But was always hungry and worried my milk would dry up or the baby would not get enough nutrients from me.
    I began a weight loss shake I purchased from http://www.safewellnessproducts.com . It is all natural and completly safe to use while breastfeeding.
    I drank a shake for breakfast and lunch and ate dinner only.
    I lost all of the weight I needed to, felt great, and had a very healthy happy baby.
    I am pregnant again and still drink the shakes, one because I like them, 2 because they are full of good vitamins and nutrients, and 3 it is much more healthy than fast food or a quick lunch at home.
    [Note from Dave Taylor: Always do your own homework — and check with your doctor — before you change your diet while pregnant or nursing. –DT]

  7. I do lack one major qualification for being a mother… but am the father of four children. All of them were breast-fed. The youngest is now 14 months old and still loves to nurse (although she eats anything else that she can get her hands on!).
    If I can give just one bit of “opinionated advice”, it would be this: don’t worry about dieting until AFTER your child is done nursing. I think that this article contains great information; if you’re hungry for something, then eat it. Don’t stress out about getting back down to your pre-pregnancy weight until your child decides that s/he is done nursing.
    Best regards,
    Tom

  8. Bravo! I was attacked in one of my college classes for saying something about breastfeeding. The teacher and another student said that breastfeeding isn’t healthy unless you are eating a special diet, and that nowadays it is impossible to eat this way!! UGH.

  9. I’m happy to have stumbled upon this article while doing a search about breastmilk and how it is affected by mother’s diet. I have a twelve week old daughter as well as a 12 and 13 year old daughter. I am a single mom and we are always on the run. I have found it mostly impossible to cook/eat at home. Most meals are grabbed on the go. I try to make as healthy a choice as possible – even if going through a drive through – but I find myself feeling guilty much of the time about whether or not I am giving her quality nourishment. I question whether she would be better off on formula…Any advice is much appreciated.

  10. can someone help?? does missing a meal affect the production of my breastmilk? it seems to i assume bc if i miss breakfast then by my sons next feeding it seems like im empty. same if i miss lunch or dinner- does missing a meal lower the quantity of my milk???

  11. Can someone tell me if stress in the life of a nursing mother can effect the QUALITY of her milk production? Everything I read speaks to the quantity, buy never to the quality. The nursing mother in question has plenty of milk, but the baby is constantly hungry, wanting to eat every two hours.
    (Incidentally, the stress is due to a situation the mother does not have control over.)

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