Although you’re no longer pregnant, you’re still eating for two as breastfeeding will be your baby’s primary source of nourishment. The good news is that this means you have scope to eat more than usual (milk production burns approximately 400 calories a day), the bad news is that quality is still much more important than quantity. Follow our guidelines closely.
Foods to Consider when Breastfeeding
The most important aspect of your breastfeeding diet is finding a good balance. Consider the following as part of a balanced diet:
- 5 portions of fruit and vegetables – the cornerstone of any healthy diet.
- Fibre – wholemeal bread, pasta, cereals, beans and lentils can help with constipation and other bowel problems that are common after birth.
- Protein – lean meat, chicken, eggs and fish are a great source of protein. Fish is particularly good and two portions a week are recommended.
- Dairy – calcium is an important part of your breastfeeding diet and can be found in milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- Fluids – while there is no correct amount, it is always good to drink plenty of uncaffeinated, unsweetened drinks. It is also good practice to keep a drink of water within reach while breastfeeding.
- Iron – Breastfeeding mothers need the same amount of iron as they do during pregnancy. While the amount of iron in your breast milk won’t be affected by your intake, it is important for your health to keep your iron levels up in order to avoid anaemia and associated health problems. Red meat is the preferred source of iron for breastfeeding mothers as iron in meat is in a form very easily and readily absorbed by the body.
Foods to Avoid when Breastfeeding
While there are some restrictions when breastfeeding, there is certainly more on the menu than off. Keep a balanced diet and avoid the following and you should be fine:
- Oily fish – more than two portions of oily fish (mackerel, sardines, trout, fresh tuna) can be harmful as they contain small amounts of pollutants. Shark and other exotic fish should be avoided too as they contain mercury.
- Caffeine – coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks and certain medicines all contain caffeine which can harm your baby and keep them awake. Caffeine intake should be occasional at most, certainly not daily.
- Nuts – There are conflicting opinions regarding nuts and other highly allergenic foods. Many believe they should be avoided, especially if you have a history of allergies in your family. However, there is a school of thought that suggests having nuts in the diet can help to develop exposure and, as a result, reduce the chance your child will develop an allergy. Consult your doctor for more information.
- Herbs - Certain herbal teas and medicines should be avoided – always read the label. Teas with ingredients used in cooking, such as fennel, camomile and peppermint are generally okay.
- Alcohol – View our breastfeeding and alcohol section for more information on how much alcohol is suitable when breastfeeding.
- Other drugs – aspirin, codeine, phenylephrine and guaifenesin are not advised. Contact your doctor for a suitable substitute.
One of the best supplements you can take while breastfeeding is Vitamin D. There are several such supplements available to buy designed specifically for breastfeeding mums. Taking Vitamin D supplements is particularly important if you don’t get much sunshine in your daily routine.
Remember, a suitable breastfeeding diet is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. To ensure you and your baby remain healthy, you should also get plenty of rest and take part in some gentle exercise.