Importance of Nutrition when Breastfeeding

Now that your gorgeous little newborn baby has arrived safely into your arms, you’re nurturing them in the best way possible – by breastfeeding. While you are so busy looking after your baby’s every need and feeding regularly, it can be easy to forget about yourself and your needs, but you need lots of looking after too. Your baby is counting on you to keep yourself well nourished by eating healthy, balanced meals and snacks and drinking plenty of water, as breastfeeding can be a thirsty business. A good diet will make sure you have a good and nutritious milk supply – it will also give you the energy you need to enjoy this special journey with your baby.

Whilst it is recommended to exclude certain foods during your pregnancy, the same food restrictions don’t apply when breastfeeding your baby. So you don’t need a special diet to be a successful breastfeeder, you just need to follow a few golden rules where healthy eating is concerned so you’ll both gain the benefits – “Drink to thirst, eat to hunger”

  • Oily fish is good for your heart health and is important for the development of your baby’s brain and eye development. Include 1-2 portions of oily fish in your diet every week. Some good examples of oily fish include salmon, mackerel, herring, trout or tuna.
  • Take a low dose vitamin D supplement (5µg) or look for vitamin D rich food sources such as eggs, oily fish or fortified milks or cereals
  • Include at least 3 portions of dairy products, choose low-fat milk and milk-based dairy options
  • Drink lots of fluids (water) – at least 8 glasses (2 litres) every day

Some breastfeeding Mums need to restrict certain foods in their own diet if their baby has an allergy. It is best to speak to your doctor, public health nurse or dietitian before your restrict any food in your breastfeeding diet.

Caffeine certainly has its uses in the early weeks but a small amount of caffeine can be passed to your baby through breastfeeding. It’s possible that this can cause poor sleep and irritability. The latest guidance would be not to restrict all together (phew!) but to limit caffeine intake to 2-3 cups of caffeinated drinks each day. There are some caffeine free herbal teas that are widely available which you might like to try too.

Like caffeine, small amounts of alcohol can also be passed your baby in breastmilk. Follow the guidelines for the recommended maximum alcohol intake for women (11 units per week e.g. ½ pint of beer, a measure of spirits or a small glass of wine). If you are planning a well deserved outing and you will be drinking alcohol, you should try to express breastmilk before drinking. If you have taken alcohol less than 2-3 hours before your baby is ready to feed, you should express and discard your milk and you can give the milk you had expressed before to your baby. The weekly alcohol limits for women is no more than 11 units of alcohol spread over a week.

Protect your baby from smoking at all times. Not only does smoking decrease your milk supply, but most importantly, the chemicals in cigarettes can pass through breastmilk causing damage to your baby’s developing lungs and organs.

If you have any questions on breasfeeding please call our freephone Careline on 1800 50 570.