Health Tips for Nursing Mothers

August 5, 2015 at 5:09 am  •  0 Comments


Happy World Breast Feeding Week! If you have chosen to breast feed, you are probably wondering if you have to make changes to your diet to support this process and to ensure that your growing baby is provided with all the key nutrients for growth, brain development and a healthy immune system. Breast milk is very resilient and very much an automatic process. Your body will extract what it needs from you to create it. So for the most part, you can rest assured that as long as you eat a well-balanced diet and drink enough fluids, your baby will be provided with the quality and quantity of milk that he or she needs.

However, it may be necessary to make a few adjustments to your diet so that your body has all the necessary requirements for producing milk and to provide you with the mental and physical strength to take care of your baby during this post-partum period.

Here are some of my health tips for nursing moms.

Increase Your Caloric Intake

In order to produce enough milk for your baby, it is important to increase your total caloric intake. During pregnancy, it is recommended to increase your caloric intake by approximately 200 calories. While breastfeeding, it is generally recommended to increase your caloric intake by approximately 500 calories. The exact amount you should consume will vary depending on your metabolism and how much you are breast feeding. Instead of counting calories eat small meals every 3 hours to keep blood sugar levels stable and your energy levels high. It’s also important to choose nutrient dense whole grains or starch, healthy fat and protein which will help to keep you full for longer.

Prenatal Vitamin

A prenatal vitamin with omega-3 fatty acids will help fill in the gaps where your nutrition may be lacking. I recommend that my patients continue their prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding to ensure adequate levels of important nutrients such as folic acid, B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Folic acid and B12 are important for the continuing development of your baby’s brain and immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA are important for your baby’s nervous system development and for the prevention of post-partum depression and anxiety.

Avoid Environmental Contaminants

Environmental contaminants such as pesticides readily find their way into breast milk. To minimize your baby’s exposure, use the Environmental Working Group’s, ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’ guidelines to educate yourself on which foods contain the highest and least amount of pesticide residues and purchase organic and local as much as possible. Peel fruits and wash them well if purchasing organic produce is not always an option. Locally grown fruit and vegetables that are in season tend to contain less environmental contaminants. Persistent exposure to pesticides may negatively affect your infant’s developing nervous and hormonal systems.


Your body is making breast milk around the clock and water is important for this process. Drink water throughout the day and preferably before you feel thirsty. To help breast feeding moms remember this important tip, I recommend drinking 1 cup of water each time you nurse. Drink approximately 8 cups of non-caffeinated fluid daily. Choose filtered water, avoiding water that has been stored in plastic containers. If you have trouble drinking enough water, flavour your beverage with lemon, lime or other fruit.

Watch Your Caffeine Intake

Too much caffeine while breast feeding may lead to agitation in your infant, disrupt sleep patterns and cause bowel irritation. It is understandable that the sleepless nights may lead you to reach for that morning cup a Joe, however, if your baby begins to display any of these negative effects, you may want to cut back. Limit your caffeine to a maximum of 2 cups daily and be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, as caffeine is a known diuretic.

Limit Alcohol

Alcohol is not safe for your baby as your baby’s detoxification system is not completely developed to process it. Alcohol may slow motor system development and decrease your baby’s milk consumption. Some types of alcoholic beverages may even reduce your milk supply. It takes approximately 3 hours for 1 serving of an alcoholic beverage to clear from your system. If you choose to consume alcohol while nursing, store milk prior to drinking and avoid breast feeding until the alcohol is completely cleared from your system.

If you have questions or concerns beyond the scope of this article, be sure to contact your local naturopathic doctor, your midwife or a lactation consultant for the advice and support specific to your needs.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose is a naturopathic doctor and a registered acupuncturist with a family practice located in the Beaches area of Toronto. She graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences. In 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine where she completed 4 years of study and a clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic and at the Sherbourne Health Centre where she worked with patients afflicted with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Olivia is also the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a program that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination in Toronto fertility clinics. In practice, her special areas of interest include stress management, heart disease, digestive health, infertility, pediatrics and weight management.

In her free time, when she is not at the spa or spending time with her husband and tea-cup Yorkie, Dr. Rose guest lectures at corporate events, local groups and schools. She is featured regularly as a health expert on Global Toronto’s “News at Noon”. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and upcoming events please visit,