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What should I eat when I'm breastfeeding?
Best Food for Breastfeeding Mothers 2019.
You don’t need to eat any special or different foods while you’re breastfeeding.
Just do your best to follow a balanced diet, which is a combination of healthy foods.
A balanced diet includes:
Starchy foods, such as bread, potato, pasta and rice. Choose wholegrain varieties of cereal-based starchy foods for added nutrients and fibre.
Some dairy produce, such as a yoghurt or a glass of milk.
Some protein, such as lean meat, fish, eggs, or pulses.
Plenty of fruit and vegetables.
When you have a baby there may be times when eating is the last thing on your mind, or you simply forget to eat.
But you need to keep up your energy levels when you’re a new mum.
What you should opt for
Opt for easy-to-grab, nutritious meals and snacks, such as:
A homemade sandwich, ideally with some salad added to the filling.
Carrot or cucumber sticks, or breadsticks, with hummus.
Fresh or dried fruit, and unsalted nuts.
Soups with wholemeal bread.
Eggs or beans on toast.
A pot of yoghurt.
If you don’t have time to fix yourself something, ask someone to make you a snack.
The NHS recommends that everyone over the age of one, including breastfeeding mums, take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D.
If you’re not taking a vitamin D supplement, ask your midwife or health visitor about it.
You can get all your all other vitamins and minerals from eating a balanced diet.
What shouldn't I eat when breastfeeding?
You don’t need to follow any kind of special diet, as long as you’re eating healthily.
Your body makes breastmilk just right for your baby each time he feeds.
However, traces of what you eat and drink can get into breastmilk.
If your baby is sensitive to a particular food, it may affect him.
Some babies react to a protein in cow’s milk.
Babies and children who are allergic to cow’s milk protein tend to show symptoms straight away.
Look out for:
Your baby not feeding well, and not putting on weight.
Poo problems such as diarrhoea or constipation.
Red itchy lumps (hives) on your baby’s body.
A red itchy rash around your baby’s mouth.
Swollen eyes, face or lips.
If you think that dairy is affecting your baby, talk to your health visitor or GP first.
Something else may be making your baby unwell, and it’s important to look at all possibilities to make sure your baby gets the treatment he needs.
Once other causes have been ruled out, your GP may ask you to cut out cow’s milk products for two weeks to six weeks to see if your baby gets better.
If it’s confirmed that your baby has a cow’s milk allergy, your GP will advise you to stop eating anything with cow’s milk protein in it for at least six months, or until your baby is a year old.
Your GP may suggest you top up with a daily calcium supplement, because you won’t be getting it from dairy products.
It’s unlikely that anything you eat or drink while you are breastfeeding causes your baby to have colic.
Colic could be caused by a number of things, such as your baby not being latched on well, or gulping milk too fast and taking in too much air.
Colic may also be a developmental phase that some babies go through, so changing your diet won’t help.
Some mums worry about eating peanuts while breastfeeding. In fact, there’s no evidence that this makes your baby more likely to develop a peanut allergy.
Some research even suggests that continuing to breastfeed while introducing solids may protect your baby against developing food allergies.
If you tend to eat a lot of fish, there are some guidelines to be aware of:
Don’t have more than one portion of swordfish, shark or marlin a week. These types of fish may contain traces of mercury.
Limit yourself to two portions of fresh oily fish a week.
Oily fish includes salmon, mackerel, and fresh tuna.
Canned tuna is not classed as an oily fish, so you can have as much as you like.
Do I need to drink more water when I'm breastfeeding?
You will be more thirsty when you’re breastfeeding, so drink enough to quench your thirst.
Keep a big glass of water next to you when you’re feeding.
Your body is very good at keeping your milk supply going, however much or little you drink.
So don’t worry that your baby will miss out if you suddenly get thirsty.
It’s about keeping yourself comfortably hydrated.
If you’re worried about whether you’re getting enough to drink, check the colour of your wee.
If it’s pale-coloured, you’re getting plenty to drink.
If it’s dark yellow, or smells strongly, or if you feel lethargic or faint, you may be dehydrated, in which case you should drink more water.
Do I need extra calories when I am breastfeeding?
You don’t need to have extra calories as a new mum, because your body is so efficient at making milk.
Be guided by your appetite, and eat when you’re hungry.
It’s normal for your body to lay down fat stores during pregnancy to help you prepare for breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding your baby can help to convert these fat stores into energy for making milk.
You may have come across different advice about extra calories when you’re breastfeeding.
But it’s hard to say whether you need extra calories every day, because so much depends on:
your pre-pregnancy weight
how much weight you gained during pregnancy
how active you are
Having said that, breastfeeding usually gives you a big appetite. So if you don’t feel like eating, it could be a sign that you need extra emotional support.
Women who have postnatal depression sometimes lose their appetite.
If you’re finding it a struggle to eat, talk to your doctor or health visitor.
Can I lose weight while I'm breastfeeding?
You should be fine to lose weight gradually.
Losing about 500g (1lb) to 1kg (2lb) a week shouldn’t affect the amount or the quality of milk you make.
It may be best to wait until you’ve had your postnatal check at about six weeks to eight weeks before you actively try to diet.
Then you can discuss the best ways to eat healthily and exercise with your GP or practice nurse.
They may be able to recommend local support groups, too.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to keep up your strength as a new mum.
Trying to do too much after giving birth may slow your recovery and make you feel even more tired.
This is especially the case if you’ve had a caesarean, or a difficult birth.
Can I drink tea and coffee if I'm breastfeeding?
Try not to have too many caffeinated drinks when you’re breastfeeding.
This can be tough, especially in the early days when you’re exhausted from breastfeeding round the clock.
The NHS recommends you keep your caffeine intake below 200mg a day.
It’s hard to estimate how much caffeine is in a cappuccino or latte, so you may be safer to stick with decaffeinated coffee or herbal tea when you’re out and about.
If your baby seems very unsettled or restless, or finds it difficult to sleep, try cutting back on caffeine, or not having any at all.
This may help your baby to settle more easily.
Can I drink alcohol if I'm breastfeeding?
Alcohol passes through your breastmilk to your baby.
It could harm your baby if you drink more than two units of alcohol more than once or twice a week.
It’s always best to be cautious, so you may want to cut out alcohol while you’re breastfeeding, especially in the first three months.
When he’s a newborn, your baby’s stomach is very small and will need filling up often.
The amount of alcohol in your blood peaks between 30 minutes and 90 minutes after you have a drink.
If your baby is feeding often, there won’t be enough time between feeds for the alcohol to clear from your system.
Your baby’s liver is immature too, and needs protecting from traces of alcohol.
Do I need to take any supplements if I'm breastfeeding?
Keep taking your daily supplement of 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is important, because it helps bones and teeth to grow healthily.
That’s why the government also recommends that breastfed babies from birth to one year should have a daily supplement containing 8.5mcg to 10mcg of vitamin D.
If your baby’s formula-fed, the formula will have added vitamin D, so she won’t need an extra supplement.
If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for free healthy start vitamins, which contain vitamins A, C and D.
Find out more at your doctor’s surgery or health visitor’s clinic.
Can I have herbal remedies if I'm breastfeeding?
You can drink most herbal teas when you are breastfeeding.
Herbal teas that use ingredients you might cook with, such as fennel, camomile and peppermint, are safe to drink.
Herbal medicines, however, are a different matter.
You shouldn’t take them while you are breastfeeding, because we don’t know enough about how they affect breastmilk.
Always check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking any medication while you’re breastfeeding.