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  • Writer's pictureMegan Dunn

Necessary Nutrients During Lactation

The following nutrients are necessary for every stage of life but may also be contributing factors to low milk production as they are often found at deficient levels during pregnancy and postpartum.

Iron and low iron anemia are factors for low milk production. Fatigue and shortness of breath during activity are common symptoms with this condition. Iron rich foods include meats, legumes, and dark leafy greens which is absorbed best when combined with Vitamin C. Supplementation with vitamins can be helpful, too. The RDA is 9-27mg for pregnancy and lactation.

Zinc is fast becoming a common nutritional deficiency in the US. Oysters, lamb, beef, pumpkin seeds, almonds, oats, chickpeas, and chicken are all good sounds. 12 mg is the RDA during lactation and may work best when combined with magnesium and a protein rich meal.

Iodine needs to increase during pregnancy and lactation. This is an especially important nutrient for people with thyroid deficiency. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iodine is between 220 micrograms (mcg) and 290 mcg in pregnancy, and 290 mcg during lactation. Food sources include Seaweed (nori, kelp, kombu, wakame), Fish, shellfish (cod, canned tuna, oysters, shrimp), Table salts labeled “iodized”, Dairy, Eggs, Beef liver, and Chicken.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are healthy fats which are essential for everyone at every stage but most Americans don't have the correct balance. Many parents needs more Omega 3 Fas to make the amount of milk they would like and their baby needs. Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines) Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts) Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 300-600 mg of DHA daily might be an appropriate dose for pregnant and nursing women.

Fiber is necessary for our health and the balance of beneficial bacteria which supports our digestion, immune system, and nearly every system and function in our bodies. These healthy fibers are sometimes referred to as prebiotic foods which can include: Dandelion Greens, vegetables in the allium family, like garlic, onions, shallots, scallions, and leeks, Chicory Root, Jerusalem Artichokes, Unripe bananas (try them blended into smoothies), Whole Oats and other whole grains, Apples, Asparagus, Legumes, Blackberries, raspberries, marionberries, Chia, and Flaxseed (grind these and mix with water, yogurt, or milk prior to consuming). Pregnant and lactating parents need to eat between 20 and 35 grams of fiber each day which may also be taken as a supplement.

Addressing these potential nutrient requirements when you have lower milk production than expected without any known medical conditions, can help improve your milk production and overall health.

If you are unsure how to incorporate these into your diet, consult with a Registered Dietitian (RD) for guidance.

Source: "Making More Milk" by Marasco & West

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