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Dairy foods and pregnancy

Dairy foods and pregnancy


Discover how dairy helps your baby develop

Dairy products have a well-deserved reputation for supporting healthy bones. As sources of protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, they also contribute to the health of your baby’s heart, teeth and developing nervous system. Discover how much you should be aiming to eat each day.

What are the benefits of eating dairy during pregnancy?

Dairy foods can be important in pregnancy because they provide a variety of nutrients that support your baby’s development. Protein helps to build healthy tissue1; fat is essential for energy and growth2; and calcium3 and vitamin D4 both play vital roles in your baby’s normal bone development.

“Dairy foods provide a powerful blend of nutrients that support your baby’s development.”

Aim to eat 2-3 servings of calcium-rich dairy foods each day. To make healthier choices, opt for low-fat varieties, such as low-fat yogurt; try reduced salt cheese; and use low-fat spreads instead of butter. When using cheese to add flavour, try using a stronger tasting cheese such as mature cheddar so that you don't need as much of it.


Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) of calcium each day


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glasses of semi-skimmed milk


What’s in a dairy serving?

Eating or drinking the 2-3 servings of dairy a day will help you meet your daily calcium and protein requirements. This includes the milk you have with cereal and in tea, so should be easy to achieve5.

Cream and butter are classed as fats so should be only eaten in small amounts. Cheese should also be limited, due to the saturated fat and salt it contains, and some cheeses should be avoided during pregnancy altogether, including soft blue cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert. These can contain listeria, which is a bacteria that carries significant risks during pregnancy9. It’s also important to make sure any milk and dairy foods you consume are pasteurised9.

Dairy-free diets

If you're lactose intolerant or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet you can substitute dairy with other food sources of the nutrients that dairy products would otherwise provide10. Protein can be obtained from meat, fish and pulses, while soy products and dark green leafy vegetables are recommended for an adequate calcium intake. For vitamin D, regular exposure to sunlight and taking the recommended 10mcg/day as a supplement will help you meet your needs11.

Foods that contain dairy

As sources of protein, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D, they also contribute to your baby’s heart health, teeth and developing nervous system.

If you suffer from lactose intolerance, aged hard cheeses are worth trying as the processing reduces the lactose content. You may also find that you can tolerate yogurt, which contains less lactose than milk due to the bacteria and cultures it contains9.

Your midwife or healthcare professional will be able to advise you further about getting sufficient levels of calcium and other beneficial nutrients in your diet.

Next Steps

Good sources of dairy to add to your shopping list:

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese

View references

Hide references

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1. British Nutrition Foundation. Protein [Online]. 2012. Available at: [Accessed September 2016]

2. NHS UK. Fat – the facts [Online]. 2013. Available at: [Accessed September 2016]

3. British Nutrition Foundation. Dietary Calcium and Health [Online]. 2005. Available at: [Accessed September 2016]

4. NHS UK. Vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy [Online]. 2013. Available at: [Accessed September 2016]

5. Food Standards Agency. McCance and Widdowson's the Composition of Foods: Summary Edition. 6th Ed. Cambridge. Royal Society of Chemistry, 2002.

6. NHS UK. Milk and dairy foods [Online]. 2015. Available at: [Accessed September 2016]

7. NHS UK. Lactose intolerance [Online]. 2016. Available at: [Accessed September 2016]

8. NHS UK. Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy [Online]. 2015. Available at: [Accessed September 2016]

9. Savaiano DA. Lactose digestion from yogurt: mechanism and relevance. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2014;99(5):S1251-55.

Last reviewed: 9th September 2016
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