High-Protein Diet For Breastfeeding Moms

  • Divya JadejaPharmacology and Physiology, Pharmacology, University of Westminster


As a dedicated caregiver, you consistently aim for the well-being of your young one, and it all starts with their health. Guaranteeing your child's intake of essential nutrients, such as protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins, profoundly impacts their optimal growth. The inherent nutritional potency of breast milk naturally fulfills all vital requirements for your child. Nurturing this precious natural endowment compels mothers to augment their diet and restore the lost nutrients during breastfeeding.1

Importance of proteins 

Were you aware that breastfeeding necessitates an added 25 grams of daily protein intake?

Proteins fundamentally serve as the building blocks for cellular and tissue composition, significantly influencing your child's overall development. Inadequate protein assimilation may lead to potential nervous system abnormalities, and organ dysfunctioncausing severe consequences. Amino acids, as byproducts of proteins, assume a pivotal role in producing hormones, antibodies, and enzymes, all indispensable for optimum body functioning.2

Enzymes especially, facilitate food digestion and ensure vitality for thriving well-being. Furthermore, proteins bestow our bodies with fortification and structure, strengthening our muscles and enabling unhindered movement. Within our bodies, specialized motor proteins proficiently ferry blood and nutrients to precise destinations, boosting comprehensive health. Consequently, during breastfeeding, augmenting protein intake emerges as an imperative concern, encompassing both your and your child's health and progress.3

The quality of breastmilk is an important factor for the growth of your child and can even have long-term impact on your child. Insufficient nutrients and hydration have been linked to neurological problems such as autism, problems with hearing, learning disorders, and epilepsy which is a condition affecting the brain leading to frequent seizures. However, sufficient levels of proteins in breast milk can prevent these problems from occurring and lead to a healthy and developed child since low levels of protein and other nutrients can lead to weakening of the body.13

Protein use in postpartum recovery 

There are around 303,000 maternal deaths each year, many of these are after giving birth Therefore, it is important to stay healthy during this period to recover faster.7 Postpartum recovery is the phase after childbirth in which the body tries to heal back to its usual state before pregnancy. This phase can last for several weeks and even a year after birth.

During this phase the body goes through significant changes such as the healing of the organs and the fluctuation of hormone levels as the body transitions from pregnancy to postpartum. This hormonal fluctuation can cause mixed emotions of sadness and anxiety from time to time. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet during postpartum recovery can help to smoothen the journey, as nutrients like proteins are important to support the growth and organ function through breastmilk.4

Therefore, it is highly important to increase protein intake which can function in repairing and healing tissues recovering from the delivery.3 Moreover consuming protein can help regulate the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, these hormones are necessary to produce milk and contract the uterine which can recover the uterus size.6 To recover from the postpartum period it can require a lot of energy and protein can provide all the extra energy required for your body and boost the overall nutritional needs.3

Around 1 in 10 women will suffer postpartum depression after birth, this can usually last 3-6 months. However, there is good news, it has been discovered in studies that consuming protein is linked with reducing depressive symptoms, which can be beneficial in preventing postpartum depression.8 Now you must be wondering how is that possible?

In our brain we have neurotransmitters which are chemical substances passed between nerve cells. These neurotransmitters are called dopamine and serotonin and are made from the amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan respectively. These are required to keep our mood stable and happy to maintain a healthy balance. However, if these two amino acids decrease we will not be able to make enough neurotransmitters which can lead to aggression and low mood causing depression. This can easily be prevented with a high-protein diet.9

After proteins are broken down into amino acids they play a crucial role in the immune system, these amino acids are important in building other proteins such as antibodies which are cells that fight against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances. Therefore, protein is highly important in keeping the immune system healthy and a decreased protein level can easily lead a person to be more likely to get an infection since after giving birth the immune system could be compromised.10 The postpartum period can be linked with weight loss including muscle loss therefore to prevent this it is recommended to consume a high-protein diet, this will support the body to return to a healthy weight.11

Protein requirements 

Typically, breastfeeding mothers aged 14-18 require 63 grams of protein and mothers aged 19-50 require 67 grams of protein, however these statistics are general guidelines and are not specified to the persons requirement, there are other factors associated that influence protein requirement including activity level, age and weight. If a mother has higher body weight it is likely that she would require more protein to meet the metabolic requirement. Moreover, if the mother is more engaged physically she would require extra protein to support postpartum recovery and repair the muscles.

Furthermore, age can also increase the requirement for protein, this is because aging leads to changes in the metabolism and the mass of the muscle, therefore it is required for older mothers to increase their protein intake.12 It may be beneficial to consult a nutritionist or dietitian, who can provide advice on the mother’s individual diet and lifestyle to ensure that the baby is growing healthily and fully developed. 

High-protein food

No matter if you follow a non-vegetarian or vegetarian diet there are many high-protein food choices available according to preferences and dietary requirements.

Non-vegetarian breastfeeding mothers can find high-quality protein in chicken, fish, and eggs. These are not only high in protein but also provide other essential nutrients such as vitamins, iron, and zinc which are also important for the growth of the child.13

Although it can be a little challenging for vegetarian or vegan breastfeeding mothers to achieve a high-protein diet it is not impossible. There are plant-based protein options available that can meet the daily requirement for protein. These include nuts for example, walnuts, almonds, and cashews. Apart from increasing protein they can also provide fiber and micronutrients for the child. Moreover, seeds such as pumpkin seeds can provide high levels of protein and are also filled with minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Moreover, legumes for example, chickpeas, black beans, and lentils contain high levels of protein and these can be included in soups and salads.13

Alternatively, mothers with a busy schedule or other food preferences can consider consuming protein powder. Protein powder is sourced from food containing high protein levels and is widely used by athletes to grow muscles.16 It can boost breastfeeding mothers’ protein levels without the requirement to prepare a separate meal and can help to provide energy during the postpartum period. Protein powders are easily available to everyone, you can buy them online or even in your local grocery store, but it may be recommended to check the health and supplement stores for richer quality protein powder.

How about trying this easy and healthy treat that can be consumed every morning?

What do you need?

Well, nothing much just a medium-sized banana which can provide your body with a great source of nutrients. Milk, if lactose intolerant you may use non-dairy milk, soy, or almond milkaccording to preference. Now to give that recipe a boost of protein why not add a spoon of crushed nuts, these can be almonds, walnuts, or cashews. A spoon of protein powder can also be added if you wish to receive a booste of protein. This recipe should first be consulted with your dietician in regards to your health conditions and allergies.


To conclude it is important to ensure that adequate levels of proteins are consumed during the phase of breastfeeding to provide energy for the mother and the child. Proteins are the building blocks of cells and tissues and affect the development and growth of your child. As mentioned, insufficient protein can lead to harm in the nervous system affecting the organs causing severe problems as a result.

Moreover, protein allows speedy recovery from pregnancy by playing an important role in regulating hormones, repairing tissue, and providing energy. Breastfeeding is highly important in providing nutrients and hydration making the immune system stronger as well as helping neurological development. Mothers must maintain a healthy and consistent balanced diet with protein to ensure high-quality breast milk.

To ensure that the child receives the correct amount of protein you should consult your dietitian as they can take into account activity level, weight, age, and preference for diet to provide the best possible advice according to these factors.


  1. Ares Segura S, Arena Ansótegui J, Díaz-Gómez NM, en representación del Comité de Lactancia Materna de la Asociación Española de Pediatría. [The importance of maternal nutrition during breastfeeding: Do breastfeeding mothers need nutritional supplements?]. Anales De Pediatria (Barcelona, Spain: 2003) [Internet]. 2016 Jun 1;84(6):347.e1-7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26383056
  2. Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Medical Clinics of North America [Internet]. 2016 Nov;100(6):1199–215. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5104202/
  3. LaPelusa A, Kaushik R. Physiology, Proteins [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32310450/
  4. Postpartum nutrition guidance [Internet]. Australian Journal of General Practice. 2022. Available from: https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2022/march/postpartum-nutrition-guidance-for-gps
  5. Wu G. Amino acids: metabolism, functions, and nutrition. Amino Acids. 2009 Mar 20;37(1):1–17.
  6. Mustafa Al-Chalabi, Ihsan Alsalman. Physiology, Prolactin [Internet]. Nih.gov. StatPearls Publishing; 2019. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507829/ 
  7. What matters to women in the postnatal period? [Internet]. www.who.int. 2020. Available from: https://www.who.int/news/item/22-04-2020-what-matters-to-women-in-the-postnatal-period 
  8. Li Y, Zhang C, Li S, Zhang D. Association between dietary protein intake and the risk of depressive symptoms in adults. British Journal of Nutrition. 2020 Feb 20;1–12.
  9. Sathyanarayana Rao T, Asha M, Ramesh B, Jagannatha Rao K. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian Journal of Psychiatry [Internet]. 2018;50(2):77. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/ 
  10. Munteanu C, Schwartz B. The relationship between nutrition and the immune system. Frontiers in Nutrition [Internet]. 2022 Dec 8;9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9772031/
  11. Dodd JM, Deussen AR, O’Brien CM, Schoenaker DAJM, Poprzeczny A, Gordon A, et al. Targeting the postpartum period to promote weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews. 2018 Jun 7;76(8):639–54.
  12. Rasmussen B, Ennis M, Pencharz P, Ball R, Courtney-martin G, Elango R. Protein Requirements of Healthy Lactating Women Are Higher Than the Current Recommendations. Current Developments in Nutrition. 2020 May 29;4(Supplement_2):653–3.
  13. Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Medical Clinics of North America [Internet]. 2016 Nov;100(6):1199–215. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5104202/ 
  14. Wilde VK. Breastfeeding insufficiencies: common and preventable harm to neonates. Cureus. 2021 Oct 4;13(10).
  15. Kårlund, A., Gómez-Gallego, C., Turpeinen, A. M., Palo-oja, O. M., El-Nezami, H., & Kolehmainen, M. (2019). Protein Supplements and Their Relation with Nutrition, Microbiota Composition and Health: Is More Protein Always Better for Sportspeople? Nutrients, 11(4), Article Number 829. DOI: 10.3390/nu11040829

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Divya Jadeja

Pharmacology and Physiology, Pharmacology, University of Westminster

I am a dedicated Pharmacologist with a comprehensive background in medical writing and over 3 years of experience in clinical research and education. Currently serving as a Medical Writing Intern at Klarity, my role involves actively shaping high-quality medical content. Engaging in thorough research on intricate medical topics, I collaborate with medical professionals, ensuring that our content adheres to regulatory guidelines and is optimized for search engines.

In addition to my specialized experience, I bring forth a wealth of knowledge gained through tutoring in science. Crafting lessons for GCSE and KS3 students, I have honed my communication skills and the ability to translate complex medical concepts into accessible information.

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