7 things to eat when you are breastfeeding

Nutripaeds, Parenty’s resident paediatric dieticians, has some tips on how to optimise your diet to make sure you’re getting the perfect nutrients to support you and your little one!

Breastfeeding is hard, and worry over whether you are making enough milk is a big stressor for moms. Diet plays a big role in your milk production and the quality of milk you are producing. If you want healthy production and healthy breastmilk, you need to make sure you are eating a healthy diet.

1. Eat enough energy

This is important because, if you don’t get enough energy, you won’t make enough milk. Most breastfeeding moms need a quarter to one third more calories than the average woman, so don’t underestimate how much food you need!

Respect your body’s signals and eat when you are hungry – about five to eight small meals and snacks a day. If weight loss is an important goal to you, we recommend you avoid going on a diet until your baby is at least two months old, and not to drop below 1800kcal a day.

2. Fill up with healthy fat

The major source of energy in your breast milk is fat. Baby especially needs ecosapentanoic acid (EPA) and decosahexanoic acid (DHA) for brain and eye development.

And you can get these from eating oily fish such as fresh salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, flaxseeds and flaxseed oils, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. A good supplement with between 200mg and 1000mg DHA will be helpful – most pregnancy supplements provide 200mg-300mg per day which is perfect. You will still need to avoid high-mercury fish, including shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.  Eating 90g of fatty fish no more than three times a week is healthy and safe.

3. Pack in the protein

If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, baby won’t get enough protein from your milk for and protein is critical for growth, immune system and brain development.

Make sure you’re eating lots of protein-rich foods like chicken, fish, meat, dairy, nuts and beans. 

4. Fit in fluids

Breastfeeding moms need around three litres (12 cups) of liquid a day, depending on your lifestyle. Dehydration will compromise your milk supply!

The best bet is to listen to your body and respond to your thirst, and always have a water bottle with you. Watch for signs of dehydration like dark urine or constipation that mean you are not drinking enough.

5. Stick to special nutrients

Baby does have some special requirements. Choline and lutein are necessary for brain development. Polyamines are essential for gut development. Vitamin D is essential for bone and brain development. Iron is important to support your health and prevent anaemia.

  • Choline: egg yolk, chicken, turkey, meat, cocoa and chocolate, flaxseed, nuts (especially pistachios), broccoli, Brussel sprouts, dark green leafy vegetables
  • Lutein: egg yolk, dark green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, corn
  • Polyamines: mature cheeses, potatoes, grains, meat, poultry
  • Vitamin D: egg, fatty fish, sunshine
  • Iron: meat, fish, poultry, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit

6. Don’t avoid these foods

There is no need to avoid gassy foods (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beans), strong flavours (spicy, chilli, garlic), or acidic foods (citrus, tomato). It is also unnecessary to avoid allergenic foods (eggs, soya, nuts, gluten, fish).

Only avoid a type of food if you suspect an allergic reaction in baby and you have a family history of allergies.  Only avoid foods with the guidance of a professional. Exposing your little one to a range of flavours in your breast milk is excellent for helping him or her accept a range of foods later in life.

7. Moderate these foods

Most artificial sweeteners won’t have an effect on your breast milk, but it is best to avoid them. Caffeine won’t impact your breast milk supply, but some babies are caffeine sensitive. Moderate alcohol intake is probably safe, but does not increase your milk supply!

Sweeten food and drinks with honey, sugar or xylitol. Stick to two or less cups of coffee a day, and reduce this if you see your baby struggling to sleep, being unusually alert or fussy. Try not to drink more than two alcoholic drinks a week, and wait for two hours after drinking to breastfeed or express milk.

And then a bonus tip to help you make breastfeeding and feeding your self a little easier… 

Running around a newborn baby, especially one in the ICU, can make balanced eating seem almost impossible! Use these time-and-labour-saving tips:

  • Focus on  the kinds of food that be chucked into a car or lunchbox: Fruit, dried fruit, wholegrain crackers, nuts, nut butter sachets, chickpeas, biltong, boiled eggs, leftover chicken pieces
  • Ask loved ones to help out with freezer-friendly soups, casseroles and stews filled with meat and veggies
  • Make food in bulk when you have time – boil twelve eggs at once, make extra portions of soups to freeze, make two roast chickens and freeze the second, make easy quiches in advance and freeze
  • Prepare for smoothies by freezing bags or Tupperware of chopped fruit and nuts. Empty the still-frozen foods into your blender with some milk or yoghurt for a frosted smoothie
  • If you feel yourself struggling, take the pressure off by including a supplemental milk designed for breastfeeding moms
  • There is nothing wrong with opting for frozen fish or vegetables
  • Salads are always quick to throw together, especially if you can buy vegetables already chopped. Make them nutritional goldmines by adding legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, boiled eggs, or leftover meats. 
Breastfeeding eating plan

Source: Nutripaeds


NutripaedThe heart of Nutripaeds is to be a friendly resource of nutritional information and support for families with babies and children. A place to share your stories, ask your questions, request assistance and find out about what is new and happening in the field of Paediatric and Adolescent Nutrition.

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