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Your healthy breastfeeding diet

your healthy breastfeeding diet Eat the rainbow

SUMMARY

From staying well hydrated to eating a healthy balanced diet while breastfeeding, the nutritional choices you make enable your baby to get the vitamins and minerals they need to support their future health, while also helping you to sustain your energy levels.

Variety – the key to your breastfeeding diet

All of your baby’s nutrition comes directly from your breast milk. That means every crunchy salad, curry or tuna steak you eat provides them with vital vitamins. And as they taste what you taste, breastfed babies may be more adventurous when it comes to weaning1.

But it's not just your baby who will benefit from the nutritional choices you make. Eating well can help you get the energy and nutrients you need to keep going. And eating the right amount – not too much or too little – will help maintain your milk supply.

“Now is a great time to health-check your diet to make sure you’re getting the key nutrients your baby needs for optimal growth and development."

While you're breastfeeding, it's important to look after yourself too. You might find that you don’t need to make any changes to your existing diet, but as a guide, try to include the following in your breastfeeding diet plan:

  • A variety of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, whether fresh, frozen, dried or tinned
  • Starchy foods like wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
  • Plenty of fibre from wholegrains (cereal or bread), pulses, fruit and vegetables
  • Protein from lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and pulses
  • Calcium from dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt
  • At least two portions of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish

Swap sugary foods for…

While Danish pastries, biscuits and chocolate might satisfy a sweet craving, foods high in sugar and calories often lack nutritional value. For a longer-lasting energy boost, try a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds with raisins, cranberries or goji berries.

Or, for something more substantial, choose a wholemeal pitta filled with salad and either lean meat, salmon, sardine or grated cheese; a bowl of high-fibre, fortified cereal with milk; or fresh fruit and yogurt.

Staying hydrated

Drinking fluids is extremely important for maintaining your breast milk production. For this reason you should aim to drink 2 litres a day – or eight glasses. Water is the very best for hydration, but you can include milk and fruit juice too.

 Breastfeeding can be thirsty work. Keep a large glass of water next to you while you feed.

Too much strong tea and coffee should be avoided as small amounts of caffeine can be passed on to your baby. Alcohol should also be avoided as it can pass into your milk.

Eliminating foods from your diet

If your baby is unsettled or cries a lot after a feed when you have eaten a specific food – something spicy, for example – make a note of it and speak to your health visitor or GP to discuss the possibility of eliminating it from your diet. This can help you avoid missing out on necessary nutrients.

Taking vitamin D for your baby’s bones

Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is essential for normal bone development. Due to a lack of sunlight in the UK, the NHS advises taking 10 micrograms a day to reduce the risk of your baby developing bone problems such as rickets2.

LCPs and your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system

Research shows that two LCPs in particular – AA (Omega 6) and DHA (Omega 3), found naturally in breast milk – are important for the development of a baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system. Eating more LCP-rich foods like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, can encourage better visual and brain development.

Next Steps

Add these items to your shopping list:

  • A vitamin D supplement of 10mcg/day
  • Different fruits and vegetables to achieve your ‘5 a day’ (i.e. blueberries, satsumas, bananas, broccoli, red peppers – fresh, dried, tinned and frozen varieties all count)
  • Wholemeal bread or pasta
  • Fortified breakfast cereals (Bran Flakes, Weetabix and low sugar options are best)
  • Oily fish (salmon, mackerel or sardines)

View references

Hide references

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1. Beauchamp G and Mennella J. Flavor Perception in Human Infants: Development and Functional Significance. Digestion. Mar 2011; 83(Suppl 1): 1– 6.

2. NHS Choices – Vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy [Online] Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant.aspx [Accessed July 2014]

Last reviewed: 28th July 2014

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