Diet & breastfeeding
This article may help answer:
Why is diet important while breastfeeding?
What foods should you eat when breastfeeding?
Should I avoid any foods or drinks while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is a demanding time for your body and a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is important for your overall health and your baby’s development.
Find out more:
Why is diet important during breastfeeding?
Breastmilk alone allows your baby to grow and develop until around the age of six months when you should start to introduce solids.
As a new mum, eating healthily will support your breastmilk production and provide your baby with all the essential nutrients it needs to be able to thrive. Some important nutrients and where they can be found are:
- Omega 3: Sources include fish such as salmon and sardines, beef, flaxseeds, and walnuts
- B group vitamins: The body has a limited capacity to store surplus B-group vitamins. That’s why it’s important to eat a range of foods that contain them such as leafy greens, eggs, legumes, poultry and meat
- Protein: This can be found in meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Iron: Get your iron intake up with red meat and green leafy vegetables
- Calcium: Milk, cheese and yoghurt are great sources of calcium, as well as green leafy vegetables
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, kiwi, cabbage, tomato, capsicum all contain vitamin C
- Vitamin D: Levels can deplete post-pregnancy. The best source of vitamin D is spending some time in the sun, but if you can’t get outside you can also top up with fortified foods such milk and yogurts – look for labels indicating fortification with vitamin D
- Folic acid: Known for its benefits during pregnancy, folic acid is still important post-birth and found in beans, leafy vegetables, and grains
- Iodine: Dairy products and seafood contain iodine, as well as table salt (look for this specified on the label)
How much do I need to eat while breastfeeding?
If you’re breastfeeding exclusively you are technically eating for two. Just remember that one of you has a stomach about the size of a walnut so you don’t need to double your calorie intake.
“If you’re feeling hungrier than usual reach for healthy snacks”
Most women can produce plenty of breast milk by eating 1800-2200 (or more) calories per day. If you’re feeling hungrier than usual reach for healthy snacks – such as chopped vegetables, low fat yoghurt or fruit, and avoid high-fat, sugary treats that provide little nutritional value.
You’re likely feeling very thirsty so stay hydrated. Caffeine and alcohol can pass into breast milk so try to avoid them, and make water your main source of liquid.
What foods should I avoid when breastfeeding?
A great breastfeeding diet minimises or avoids highly processed foods and instead features lean meat, fish, vegetable, fruits, whole grains and low fat dairy.
Although it’s unlikely to affect your baby if you get sick, this risk can be minimised by avoiding under-cooked meat, or foods which may be past their best. Your body needs all the vitamins and energy it can get during this demanding time so only eat food you feel has been prepared safely.
For a more detailed guide on what to eat while breastfeeding, a good source of information is the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which includes recommendations for breastfeeding women.