Sometimes it can feel difficult to identify how to best support yourself and your baby as you breastfeed. This can be especially true if you are working with specific nutrition plans, such as vegetarianism. The good news is that vegetarian and vegan diets can provide many health benefits and may even prevent certain diseases. Plus, research shows that the breast milk of a vegetarian mother contains fewer environmental toxins. Keep reading for some helpful tips about breastfeeding while on a vegetarian diet.
Get the facts
Vegetarian diets can provide many health benefits and may even contribute to preventing certain diseases. Plus, research shows that the breast milk of a vegetarian mother contains fewer environmental toxins.
Choose healthy, energy-dense foods to keep up with an increase in appetite
You might have noticed that you feel quite hungry when you’re breastfeeding. Roughly 300 to 500 additional calories per day are recommended for breastfeeding. The exact amount you need depends on how much milk you are producing and how active you are. Yummy higher-calorie vegetarian foods include avocados, nuts and nut butters, legumes and bean spreads like hummus.
Add more nutrients
Luckily, a vegetarian diet can support your nutritional needs, as long as you are enjoying a variety of different vegetables, fruits, whole grains and proteins. However, particularly for those who are not consuming any animal protein at all, there are a few vitamins and minerals to pay extra attention to:
“Calcium (1000 mg/d)
Calcium exists in dairy, dark leafy greens, tofu, orange juice, sesame seeds, and fortified alternative milks
“B12 (2.8 mcg/d)
You can find this in dairy products, fortified cereals, fortified plant milks and fortified soy foods. If you are concerned with your B12 intake, talk with your physician about whether or not you need to be supplementing this important nutrient.
“Zinc (12 mg/d)
Zinc is in beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast
“Omega-3 fatty acids
This exists in fish, fortified eggs, seeds (like chia, ground flax, and hemp) and walnuts.
If you are a vegetarian mom and you are not sure if your diet is complete, talk with your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist. They can offer support and guidance as you decide what works best.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Creighton C. Vegetarian Diets During Lactation. Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Available at: www.vegetariannutrition.net Accessed June 16, 2017.
- Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intake Reports. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Available at: https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/dri-tables-and-application-reports Accessed June 16, 2017.
- Kolasa K, Firnhaber G, Haven K. Diet for a Healthy Lactating Woman. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Dec;58(4):893-901.
- Lawrence, Ruth A., and Robert M. Lawrence. “Chapter 9: Maternal Nutrition and Supplements for Mother and Infant.” Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2016. N. pag. Print.
- Mead N. Contaminants in Human Milk: Weighing the Risks against the Benefits of Breastfeeding. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Oct; 116(10):A426-A434.
- Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Dec;116(12):1970-1980.
- Bonyata, Kelly. “Vegetarian Diets and Breastfeeding • Kellymom.com.” KellyMom.com, 9 Apr. 2018, https://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/vegetarian/.