What to eat when breastfeeding
To help you eat better and keep your baby healthy, here are some tips for improving your breastfeeding diet
At a glance
Eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fibre
Add an extra 450 calories of healthy food a day
Drink lots of fluids to replace what your baby drinks
Limit caffeine and alcohol as it may cause colic
You don't need to follow a special diet while you're breastfeeding. But it's a good idea for you — just like everyone else — to eat a healthy and varied diet. Breastfeeding mums require an extra 450 calories a day but that doesn't mean overdosing on 'empty' calories from sugar or refined carbs. A balanced, healthy diet will help you and your little one get all the vitamins, proteins, minerals and calories you need without piling on the pounds.
Foods to eat when breastfeeding
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced are fine) – as always, have at least five portions of a variety each day
- Starchy foods, such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other root vegetables
- Protein, such as lean meat and chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, pulses (beans and lentils) – these foods are also good sources of iron
- Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt which contain calcium and are a useful source of protein
- Plenty of fibre, from wholegrain bread, nuts, pasta, rice, pulses and fruit and vegetables. Fibre will help with any constipation problems
- Drink plenty of fluids — six to eight glasses a day. You’ll need to drink plenty of fluids to replace the fluid your baby takes. Water, milk, herbal tea or unsweetened fruit juices are all good choices
- During breastfeeding it is recommended that you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D. A healthy balanced diet will provide all the other vitamins and minerals you need
Foods to avoid when breastfeeding
- Shark, swordfish and marlin more than once a week. To limit mercury intake, the FSAI (Food Safety Authority of Ireland) recommends avoiding these fish all together
- Oily fish – Eating fish is good for your health and your baby's, but while you are breastfeeding you should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week. A portion is around 140g. Oily fish includes fresh mackerel, sardines, trout and tuna, but not canned tuna, as the good fats are lost in the canning process
- Alcohol and breastfeeding — It’s best not to drink alcohol while breastfeeding
Caffeine and breastfeeding
- Your baby can consume caffeine through your breast milk and this may affect your baby and keep them awake
- While breastfeeding, limit your caffeine consumption to less than 200mg per day. That means:
- One mug of filter coffee: 140mg
- One mug of instant coffee: 100mg
- One mug of tea: 75mg
- One can of energy drink: up to 80mg
- One 50g plain chocolate bar: up to 50mg
- One cola drink (354mls): 40mg
- Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals as the tannins may impede iron absorption
Some breastfeeding babies seem to react to foods their mothers eat. If you think that some foods you eat are affecting baby, talk to your GP or health visitor. Remember, it’s normal for breastfed babies to have loose stools. Read more about tummy troubles
“I make up snacks beforehand for when I’m doing night feeds to stop me overeating.”
Breastfeeding diet plan
Here’s a simple guide to the foods you need to include in your daily diet:
Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen around your body. It helps keep your energy levels up and prevents excessive tiredness and supports your baby’s brain development.
- Good sources: fortified breakfast cereal, red meat, sardines or pilchards, pulses, leafy green vegetables (like broccoli or spinach) or eggs
Replenish your calcium stores after birth to promote strong bones and help your newborn develop strong bones and teeth.
- Good sources: glass of fortified orange juice, full fat yoghurt, cows' milk, a thumb sized piece of cheese, spinach
Iodine is required to produce thyroid hormones – important to many bodily processes, such as metabolism. It also plays an important role in the early development of your baby’s brain.
- Good sources: white fish, oily fish, cows' milk, full fat yoghurt, prawns
This helps your body absorb calcium to promote strong teeth and bones. The vitamin D you pass on helps your baby build their own stores to support the development of their bones and teeth.
- Good sources: a daily supplement containing 10mcg, fortified breakfast cereals, full fat yoghurt, sunlight – 10 to 15 minutes a day without sunscreen
‘Good’ fats like omega-3 keep your heart healthy and help support your baby’s eye and brain development.
- Good sources: oily fish, some nuts and seeds and omega-3 rich vegetable oils, such as rapeseed and linseed oil
Vitamin C helps maintain healthy tissue in your body and improves the absorption of iron from non-meat sources. It helps maintain and support your baby’s blood vessels, muscle and bones.
- Good sources: oranges, strawberries, orange juice, steamed broccoli florets, grapefruits and baked potato