Here's What To Eat When You’re Breastfeeding
If you are pregnant or are currently breastfeeding, you might be wondering what to eat when you’re breastfeeding, if you need to eat a special diet, or if there are any foods you should eat or avoid.
We look at a healthy diet during breastfeeding and what to eat when you’re breastfeeding.
Healthy Eating During Breastfeeding
What type of diet should you eat when you are breastfeeding?
The good news is you don't need to eat a special diet while you are breastfeeding your baby. However, it's a sensible idea for you, just like everyone else, to eat a healthy balanced diet.
The basics of healthy eating after birth remain the same as during your pregnancy. A healthy diet when you’re breastfeeding is no different to healthy eating at any other time – it’s just particularly important to ensure that you are eating enough of the essential nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, calcium, vitamins, and minerals, for both you and your baby.
In the first year your baby grows a lot, so the nutritional requirements of breast-feeding are quite high.
Not only are you providing your baby with vital vitamins and minerals, but you will also be replacing those lost from your body during pregnancy. It is important for both of you that you eat a healthy, varied diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals.
A Balanced Breastfeeding Diet
A balanced diet while you’re breastfeeding includes a wide range of foods from different food groups:
- Starchy carbohydrates (wholemeal bread, pasta, cereals, rice etc.)
- At least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day (this includes fresh, frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetables)
- Dairy foods (milk, cheese, yoghurts etc.) as these contain calcium and are also a source of protein.
- Protein (meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, soya, pulses etc.)
Your energy needs will be higher so you may need to include regular snacks in addition to meals if breast-feeding. Always keep a healthy snack to hand for when you’re feeding and the hunger hits.
Vitamin D During Breastfeeding
The UK Department of Health also recommend that all pregnant and breast-feeding women should consider take a daily supplement containing 10µg (micrograms) of vitamin D, especially during the autumn and winter. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to maintain normal bones, teeth and muscles.
Calcium During Breastfeeding
In addition to vitamin D, getting enough calcium is important to help maintain healthy bones and teeth. Breastfed babies place demand on the mothers’ own calcium supplies and your requirements (RNI) increase by an extra 550mg per day (Source: Department of Health, Dietary Reference Values, A Guide 1991).
- Sources of calcium in food include:
- Milk, cheese, and other dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables such as curly kale, bread
- Soy drinks with added calcium
- Anything made with fortified flour.
To help safeguard the calcium in your diet in the important post natal period, Pregnacare Breast-feeding provides 700mg calcium and Pregnacare New Mum includes 400mg calcium.
Omega-3 During Breastfeeding
Even once you’ve given birth, try to continue eating oily fish once each week, such as salmon, trout or sardines. Oily fish and fish oils are a good source of Omega-3 DHA and EPA essential fatty acids.
DHA is important when you are breastfeeding because it helps support your baby’s development; maternal intake of DHA contributes to the normal brain and eye development in breast-fed infants*.
Pregnacare Breast-feeding Supplements
A healthy, varied diet is vital for new mothers, to help produce nutritious breast milk and maintain their own health during the demanding postnatal period.
Many women choose to continue taking a one-a-day multivitamin and mineral supplement that is suitable for breast-feeding in order to support their diet and for peace of mind that they are safeguarding their diet with all the nutrients they need.
Pregnacare Breast-feeding contains essential vitamins and minerals including calcium which contributes to the maintenance of normal bones. Plus, 10µg vitamin D, which is recommended by the Department of Health during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It also includes an Omega-3 capsule which provides DHA. Maternal intake of DHA contributes to the normal brain and eye development in breast-fed infants*.
If you have taken Pregnacare in pregnancy, then Pregnacare Breast-feeding is an ideal follow-on once your baby has arrived.
* A beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 200mg DHA in addition to the recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids for adults.
Staying Hydrated When You’re Breastfeeding
Drinking enough water is also important when you’re breastfeeding, as your body needs water to produce breastmilk. You will need to drink enough fluids to make sure you avoid dehydration as well as tiredness and headaches.
- Tips to stay hydrated:
- Try to remember to drink an extra glass of water, milk, or fruit juice every time you feed your baby
- Every time you sit down to feed, have a glass of water by your side (as well as the TV remote!)
- Keep a glass of water by your bed for the night feeds
- Carry a water bottle with you whenever you leave the house.
Healthy Eating Ideas For On The Go
In the hectic early baby days and daily life with a baby and toddler it can be tricky to find the time to eat at all, but it is important to try and make sure you are eating nutritionally balanced meals, especially when you are breastfeeding.
Try these simple healthy snack ideas that are easy to prepare, and you can eat one-handed, or while you’re feeding the baby:
- Yoghurt or fromage frais with fresh fruit, like blueberries
- Milky drinks, unsweetened fruit juice or smoothies
- Sliced banana on toast with peanut butter
- Humus with toasted pita or carrot and pepper crudites
- Sliced cucumber with cream cheese
- Mashed avocado on toast
- Dried fruit and nuts.
For More Information:
You can also access The Breastfeeding Friend, a digital tool from NHS Start for Life, with practical information and advice on breastfeeding, answers to questions asked by new mums, and tips on things like sore nipples and what to do if your baby cries during feeds. The Breastfeeding Friend is available on Amazon Alexa and Facebook Messenger.
Read our breastfeeding tips from our bloggers, with experiences and advice on breastfeeding your baby.