What To Eat When Breastfeeding
When exclusively breastfeeding, your infant solely relies on you for all of their energy, making it incredibly important for you to consume a healthy balanced diet. Your breastmilk is full of goodness for your baby. Everything from all the nutrients it needs to the extra antibodies and bacteria that will help them grow and develop.
In this article, I’ll go through the types of foods to eat and the important nutrients to help your beautiful baby thrive.
Lactation raises nutritional needs, mainly because of the partitioning/loss of nutrients first through colostrum and then through breast milk. Although there isn’t a specific number of extra calories you should consume, producing breastmilk is a demanding task for your body, so naturally it requires more calories and nutrients.
To get a healthy balanced diet, you must consume foods rich in healthy fats, lean proteins and whole grains.
Some quick and tasty snacks you can include in your diet are:
Hummus & veggies
Bagel with peanut butter and banana
Yoghurt pot (Skyr - high in protein) with granola and fruits
Avocado toast with a poached egg (if you have time)
Cottage cheese on toast with roasted or fresh tomatoes
Baked oats - Find our easy delicious overnight oats recipe here
Nutrients Needed When Breastfeeding
During lactation, you need to consume enough protein. Protein is needed to support your muscle mass AND your growing babies through breastmilk. Eating a high-protein diet will also keep you fuller for longer.
Sources: Nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cottage cheese.
Many new mothers opt to take vitamin D and omega-3 supplements. Vitamin D supplements are advised by the NHS to be taken during the winter months as the sun's UV rays are simply not strong enough for our bodies to produce sufficient vitamin D.
Sources: Fatty fish like salmon, sardines and herring, egg yolks and orange juice.
Although food is an important source of vitamin D, just 10 minutes of sunlight can boost our vitamin D levels.
Iodine is crucial in thyroid hormone synthesis in infants, which is key in brain development. A lack of iodine in maternal diets can lead to insufficient amounts in breast milk, leading to insufficient status in infants.
Sources: Seaweed, shrimp and dairy products
It’s important to note that some salts in the UK are fortified with iodine, however, this is not common. To increase iodine intake, an alternative to ‘normal’ table salt could be choosing one which is fortified with iodine.
Iron is necessary to make haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells, to all parts of the body. Iron supports neurological development in infancy and early childhood. Human breastmilk has very little iron, however, if mothers have low iron storage then this can negatively impact breastmilk stores further.
Sources: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, fortified cereals, lentils, chickpeas, dried apricots and figs.
Pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin-C-rich foods such as citrus fruits and peppers can help enhance iron absorption.
Here is an example of food pairings:
Breakfast: Fortified cereal with milk and a glass of orange juice
Lunch: Chicken salad with fresh tomatoes with a lemon dressing
Dinner: Steak with a quinoa red pepper
Most people in the UK don’t eat 2-3 portions of oily fish a week. Fish is a food which you can get a significant amount of your omega 3s from, so many opt to take omega-3 supplements.
Omega-3s are essential for both your and your baby's brain development.
Sources: Fish such as salmon and trout, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Everyone is different, so before taking any supplements or making significant changes to your diet, speak to a healthcare professional.
Things To Avoid When Breastfeeding
Certain things should be avoided and limited within your diet whilst breastfeeding. These include:
Alcohol can pass through into your breastmilk and consequently be consumed by the infant. Although enjoying a drink or two is perfectly fine, any milk you then produce following this should be pumped and discarded.
It’s advised to avoid breastfeeding your infant when drinking. The level of alcohol in your milk will reduce at the same rate as it does within your body. It’s important to note that infants metabolise alcohol at only half the rate of adults do and so it can be VERY dangerous for the infant to consume breastmilk containing alcohol
Caffeine is a stimulant, and although okay to consume, a limit should be placed on how much you drink a day. It is recommended that no more than 200mg is consumed which is approximately one large cup of coffee. Due to the infant's gut not being fully developed, it will struggle to metabolize caffeine. It may also make the infant restless and affect their sleep.
Caffeine doesn’t just appear in coffee it’s also important to remember that there is caffeine in tea, fizzy drinks and energy drinks - so don’t just count your coffees!
It’s important to remember that every mother is different, and whether you choose to breastfeed or not the choice is up to you. If you choose to breastfeed, you don’t have to have the ‘perfect day’ every day. You’re allowed to eat fast food, chocolate and enjoy life!
Breastfeeding is a very demanding task as you are producing food for another human, so make sure to eat when you need to and keep hydrated. Seek comfort from those around you and lean on them for support.
The key is having balance and moderation. You have got this!
Join 1000's of families learning at home
Get 3 months of free access to our award-winning nursery education app.