Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

New Years Resolutions: Facts for the Breastfeeding Mother

on December 30, 2013

This time of year seems to spur many people to make resolutions, and many of those resolutions involve food and eating. Breastfeeding mothers may be thinking about how their eating habits and caloric intake could affect their milk production and quality.

Fact: Breastmilk production has been estimated to use about 500 calories per day. This will vary somewhat depending on the age and nursing habits of each individual baby. Mothers of multiples will be using more calories and mothers of occasionally nursing toddlers will use less. Some of those calories come from food intake and others come from the mother’s body stores put down during pregnancy.

Fact: Mothers create good quality breastmilk regardless of their nutritional status unless they are living in famine or near famine conditions. Canadian mothers whose caloric, vitamin, mineral and fiber needs aren’t being met as well as they could be may feel the effects themselves, with lower energy and lower resistance to illness, but their breastfeeding babies will be well nourished.


Fact: The types of fatty acids found in breastmilk are influenced by what the mother eats. Mothers eating diets high in unsaturated fats (fish, nuts, seeds & plant oils) have milk higher in unsaturated fats than mothers eating diets higher in animal fats. This is a normal variation.

Fact: Breastfeeding mothers are often thirstier than they were before baby arrived. Having something to drink at the first sign of thirst will keep mum feeling better. Pale yellow urine and no sign of constipation are indications that mum is getting enough fluids. Busy mothers may have trouble remembering to keep their fluid levels up. It can be helpful to keep a filled water bottle handy in your usual nursing locations and to make a point of having a drink of water whenever you are near a tap. Excess fluid intake does not improve milk supply. A small Canadian study showed a decrease in milk supply when the mother’s fluid intake increased or decreased by 50% over their usual amount.

Fact: You don’t have to drink cow’s milk to make human breastmilk. Cow’s milk is one source of calcium, but there are many others if you don’t like or tolerate cow’s milk.

Fact: Most mothers can eat their normal diet without any negative effect on their baby. Babies are exposed to the flavours found in the family diet while breastfeeding and are more likely to accept these flavours when they begin to eat solid foods. Spices and garlic do change the flavour of breastmilk but babies don’t seem to mind. A 1991 study found the babies tested took more breastmilk when their mothers had taken concentrated garlic capsules. There are many and varied beliefs about foods that promote breastmilk production and foods that should not be eaten by breastfeeding mothers. Some of foods show up on both lists depending on the cultural background of the list maker.


La Leche League’s philosophy about food can be summed up as: “Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.”

Fact: Not all weight gained during pregnancy is lost right away after the baby is born. Because the fat reserve laid down during pregnancy is intended by nature to help fuel breastfeeding, most mothers will lose weight in the first six months simply through exclusive breastfeeding and “eating to hunger”. Some mothers will find their post-pregnancy weight stays relatively stable over the first six months and then begins to decrease. The variation of “normal” post-pregnancy weight loss patterns is considerable.

Fact: 1800 calories per day is the minimum recommended for breastfeeding mothers. If mothers choose to take in less calories it is important to make sure those calories are nutrient-dense, and adding a vitamin/mineral supplement should be discussed with a health professional. Increasing activity levels and very moderate reduction in calories (100 per day) is likely to promote weight loss for mum without compromising her health and energy or baby’s weight gain.

Fact: Mothers considering diets which eliminate or severely limit any food group should consult with a nutrition professional to ensure their current nutritional needs and long term health status will not be compromised. The body will take what it needs from the maternal stores to create high quality breastmilk regardless of whether those stores are being replenished.

Fact: Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family by La Leche League International is a useful resource for breastfeeding families.

Feed Yourself, Feed Your FamilyLLLI

Whatever your current size or shape your baby loves you exactly the way you are. Creating goals to improve your and your family’s health by eating well and getting some exercise is a good way to start a new year but so is focusing on ways to relax and enjoy your baby and this special time in your family’s life journey

Wishing you a year of adventures and good health in the new year.

by Fiona, La Leche League Leader

If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking  or  Internationally



One response to “New Years Resolutions: Facts for the Breastfeeding Mother

  1. […] posting details of our next meeting very soon. Are you planning to make any New Years Resolutions? Read this first, courtesy of La Leche League Canada.   […]

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