Meal Plan to Support your and your Baby’s Bone Health during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are important times during life when what we eat not only affects our own nutrition and health, but our baby’s as well. Both pregnancy as well as postpartum are incredibly important for the development and maintenance of healthy bones.
Calcium is a mineral stored in our bones and teeth that helps keep them strong.1 Vitamin D is also important to bone health, enhancing the absorption of calcium in your body. In fact, research shows that if you have chronic and/or severe vitamin D deficiency, the body is often not able to absorb as much calcium, which may lead to weakened bones.29
Why are calcium and vitamin D important for both you and your baby?
While you are pregnant and breastfeeding, having enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet is important to help your developing baby build their skeleton and teeth.3
But even your own bone health is at higher risk during pregnancy and breastfeeding.4 During both of these times, your baby needs a lot of calcium, and some of this calcium comes from your own bones (which double as your calcium stores).5 The less calcium you take in from your diet, the more of this mineral will be taken from your bones to meet you and your baby’s heightened needs.
What foods are rich in calcium?
Calcium containing foods include:
Dairy products (yogurt, cheese, milk, cottage cheese)
Fortified orange juice and fortified plant-based milk alternatives
Canned sardines and salmon with bones
Tofu made with calcium sulfate
Dried figs, almonds, sunflower seeds, kiwifruit
Fortified breakfast cereals
Soybeans, spinach, kale, pinto beans, broccoli, and chia seeds1
Read more: Why Does Calcium Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama?
What foods are rich in vitamin D?
There are not many foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D.
Vitamin D containing foods include:
Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, and sardines
Fortified cow’s milk and fortified plant-based milk alternatives
Fortified breakfast cereals
Our biggest source of vitamin D is exposure to the sun’s UVB light. The amount our body can make from the sun depends on the time of year, cloud cover, sunscreen application, and skin tone, among other things.6
Read more: Why does Vitamin D Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama?
Breastfeeding and Vitamin D: Even if you’re getting adequate vitamin D from the sun and your diet, breastmilk alone will not provide enough vitamin D for your baby.7 If your infant is exclusively breastfed, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends supplementing your infant with 400 IU of vitamin D starting within the first few days of life.8 Always be sure to discuss supplements for you or your baby with your health care provider.
Exercise for bone health: In addition to calcium and vitamin D, exercise is also important for your bone health. Weight bearing exercises put pressure on the bones, which causes them to be stronger.3 Weight-bearing exercises that are usually safe during pregnancy include:
Resistance exercises or weightlifting
Chat with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine to make sure it’s safe for you.
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Meal Plan for Bone Health during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Choosing meals and snacks from the below listed options will help you choose foods that provide calcium and/or vitamin D.
Option 1: Plain low-fat Greek yogurt topped with chopped figs and sunflower seeds
Option 2: Fortified whole grain cold cereal with banana and low fat milk or fortified plant-based milk alternative
Option 3: Hard-boiled egg with a side of whole grain toast topped with nut or sunflower butter and sliced strawberries
Option 4: Scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach with fortified orange juice
Option 5: Fortified instant oatmeal with low fat milk or fortified plant-based milk alternative topped with berries and chia seeds
Option 1: Shredded Kale salad tossed with chopped chicken, almond slivers, dried cranberries, lemon juice, olive oil, and shredded parmesan cheese
Option 2: Tuna wrap: whole grain tortilla stuffed with canned salmon and spinach
Option 3: Fajita bowl: layer brown rice, pinto beans, chopped tomatoes and diced peppers. Top with guacamole, shredded cheese, and plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Option 4: Whole grain pita stuffed with canned salmon, lettuce, tomatoes, lemon juice, and dill with a side of sliced apple and kiwi
Option 5: Tofu stir-fried with zucchini, peppers, yellow squash. Serve over quinoa
Option 1: Whole grain pasta with ground chicken, marinara sauce, and spinach or collard greens
Option 2: Grilled turkey burger or salmon burger with cheese on whole grain bun, steamed broccoli
Option 3: Grilled or baked salmon, oil-massaged kale salad with feta cheese, roasted butternut squash
Option 4: Whole grain or corn tortilla tacos stuffed with sautéed shrimp and white beans. Top with salsa and shredded cheese
Option 5: Egg hash: Sauté diced sweet potatoes, broccoli, onions, and white beans. Top with over-hard eggs.
Option 1: Hardboiled egg and a kiwi
Option 2: Almonds and dried figs
Option 3: Cottage cheese topped with sliced almonds and berries
Option 4: Greek yogurt topped with chia seeds and berries
Option 5: Turkey** and Swiss Cheese Roll-Up with apple slices
*Pregnant women should eat no more than 6 ounces of high mercury fish per week10
**If pregnant and using deli turkey, be sure to heat in pan or microwave until steaming 11
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
Can I Have Caffeine while Pregnant and Breastfeeding?
What Should I Know about Iron Deficiency Anemia During Pregnancy?
Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs or allergies. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for you. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for you and your child.