Superfoods For Enhancing The Nutritional Quality Of Breast Milk

  • Shivani Gulati MS Pharm, Medicinal Chemistry, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Hyderabad, India
  • Humna Maryam Ikram BS, Pharmacology, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK

This article highlights the importance of superfoods in enhancing the nutritional quality of breast milk, benefiting both mother and baby. It discusses the ideal superfoods for breastfeeding mothers and explores the long-term impact of breastfeeding on infant health and development.


Maternal nutrition plays a crucial role in influencing specific nutrients present in breast milk, including essential vitamins (A, B-6, B-12, D, and folate), minerals (iodine, selenium), and fatty acids. Understanding this relationship is vital for promoting optimal infant development and overall health. Breast milk is vital for a baby's growth and immune system, but its quality is significantly affected by a mother's diet. Incorporating nutrient-rich superfoods like leafy green vegetables, berries, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes can enhance breast milk with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, ensuring comprehensive nourishment for the baby's healthy growth, brain development, and immune system support during breastfeeding.1,2,3

Understanding superfoods

Superfoods combine components of both a food and a medication. They are a subset of the most potent, highly concentrated, and nutrient-dense foods accessible. Their exceptional ability to boost vitality and energy makes them invaluable. In enhancing breast milk quality, superfoods are chosen based on their nutrient density, containing essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and antioxidants that positively influence breast milk composition. By providing a wide range of vital nutrients to lactating mothers, superfoods work to enhance the nutritional content of breast milk. Additionally, specific superfoods possess unique properties that help correct nutritional imbalances in the mother's body, ensuring overall well-being and health throughout the breastfeeding period.4,5

Key nutrients in breast milk

Breast milk is a complex biofluid specially designed to nourish and protect infants as they grow. It contains many helpful components that support the baby's developing immune system and help prevent infections. Moreover, breast milk even influences how certain genes are expressed in the baby's gut, affecting how their cells grow and function.1

Within breast milk, there are special bioactive elements that reduce inflammation, boost the production of specific antibodies, and aid in the growth of essential immune cells called B cells. Also, breast milk contains pattern-recognition receptors that help the baby's body recognize and defend against harmful microorganisms in their respiratory tract and gut.1

Breast Milk Components:

  • Lipids: breast milk primarily relies on lipids as its main energy source, contributing 40%-55% of its total energy content. These lipids consist mainly of triacylglycerides, along with other essential components like diacylglycerides, mono-acyl-glycerides, free fatty acids, phospholipids, and cholesterol. With over 200 fatty acids, including important ones like oleic acid and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, breast milk plays a crucial role in influencing the baby's lipid profile, supporting their gastrointestinal tract maturation, aiding in central nervous system myelinization, and providing additional protection against pathogens such as Group B streptococcus (GBS).1,3
  • Protein: breast milk is a rich source of protein, consisting of more than 400 different proteins that play vital roles in providing nutrition, antimicrobial benefits, and aiding nutrient absorption. These proteins are categorized as caseins, whey, and mucin proteins, with lactocytes being the primary producers of breast milk protein. Additionally, breast milk contains non-protein nitrogen compounds, such as nucleotides and free amino acids, contributing approximately 25% of the total nitrogen content in the milk.1,2
  • Antibodies: breast milk contains abundant immunoglobulins, particularly secretory IgA (SIgA) and SIgG, especially in the early stages of lactation. These antibodies play a crucial role in protecting the baby while their immune system is still developing. SIgA is the primary protective agent found in breast milk, effectively inhibiting pathogens and neutralizing toxins to safeguard the baby's health.1,2
  • Carbohydrates and oligosaccharides: breast milk is rich in carbohydrates, with lactose being the primary source of essential energy for the baby's developing brain. Additionally, human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) represent the third largest component in breast milk and function as prebiotics, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria in the baby. The structure and function of HMOs are influenced by specific genes, and they play a vital role in protecting the baby from gastrointestinal and respiratory infections by acting as receptor decoys for pathogens.1

Superfoods for enhancing breast milk nutritional quality

  1. Green leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli and spinach are excellent sources of beneficial carotenoids. Human milk is a rich source of around 30 plant-derived carotenoids from the 50 found in the human diet, with lutein and zeaxanthin being specifically present in our neural retina. Lutein and zeaxanthin, which form the macular pigment, are known to protect against short-wavelength blue light and oxidative damage while also contributing to cognitive function in adults and children. Moreover, they are calcium-rich and offer a rich source of vitamins and minerals that benefit both the mother and the breastfeeding infant.6,7

  1. Berries

Including berries in the diet of breastfeeding mothers can improve inflammatory markers and support cardiovascular and gut health. Berries have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation and promote cardiovascular health. Additionally, berries are rich in antioxidants, which can positively impact the plasma lipid profile and boost the immune system.8

  1. Fatty fish

Regular consumption of fish can lead to an increase in fatty acid levels in breast milk. Fish, particularly fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, are abundant sources of the essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can be transferred to breast milk and provide crucial nutrients for the baby's neural development.9

  1. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds offer valuable benefits for breast milk due to their abundance of essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Fenugreek, for example, stands out as a Greek hayseed with impressive nutritional content, providing 50% fibre, 26.2g of protein, 5.8g of fat, and 44.1g of carbohydrates in just one hundred grams. Additionally, it serves as a natural source of iron, silicon, sodium, and thiamine, making it a popular choice among women worldwide to support lactation after giving birth.10

  1. Legumes

Legumes like beans, chickpeas and lentils have high protein and fibre content. Additionally, they are rich in essential minerals, contributing to the overall nutritional balance of breast milk. Moreover, legumes may positively impact digestive health in infants, providing potential benefits for their gastrointestinal system and potentially enhancing lactation in breastfeeding mothers.7

Incorporating superfoods into maternal diet

For breastfeeding mothers, maintaining a balanced diet is vital to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients for both themselves and their babies. Superfoods like leafy green vegetables, berries, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich sources of essential nutrients that can enhance breast milk and promote the well-being of both mom and baby. When trying new foods, breastfeeding moms need to be cautious about potential allergens or intolerances that could affect their baby through breast milk. Observing any adverse reactions in the baby and avoiding discomfort-causing foods is crucial. Additionally, emphasizing diverse food choices is key. Including a variety of superfoods in their diet helps provide a wide range of beneficial nutrients, ensuring comprehensive nourishment for their growing infants. Stay hydrated to support breast milk production, and consider vitamin D supplements for added support. Limit caffeine intake, as it can affect your baby's sleep. Maternal lifestyle choices can impact breast milk quality, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle is beneficial. If needed, you can explore fortified foods or supplements to ensure you and your baby get the necessary nutrients. Always consult with healthcare professionals before making dietary changes during breastfeeding.


Maintaining a balanced diet during breastfeeding is crucial for both maternal and infant health. Superfoods like leafy green vegetables, berries, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes play a vital role in enhancing the nutritional quality of breast milk. These nutrient-rich foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids, promoting optimal infant development and bolstering the baby's immune system. Breastfeeding offers long-term benefits for infant health and development, so it is a valuable practice for ensuring the overall well-being of both mother and child.


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  10. Abdou RM, Fathey M. Evaluation of early postpartum fenugreek supplementation on expressed breast milk volume and prolactin levels variation. Egyptian Pediatric Association Gazette [Internet]. 2018 Sep 1;66(3):57–60. Available from:
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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Abdullah Khalil Abdullah Mutahar

Master of Science - MS, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences with Management, University of Dundee

Abdullah holds an MSc in Biomedical and Molecular Sciences with Management from the University of Dundee, Scotland, and a BSc in Biological Sciences from Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany. He has keen interests in immunology, cosmetology, nutrition, and public health. Abdullah sees his involvement in an online medical library as an ideal way to simplify complex information and promote health awareness. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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