SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- It’s important to eat a diet rich in protein, iron, calcium, iodine and vitamins while you are breastfeeding.
- If you want to lose weight, do it gradually. Don’t go on a ‘crash’ diet.
- Drink plenty of water.
About breastfeeding and diet
Breastfeeding uses a lot of energy and nutrients. It is important that your diet supplies the nutrients you need during breastfeeding, including:
You need these nutrients for your own health and wellbeing. Try to eat regularly and include a wide variety of healthy foods.
How to get your daily nutrient requirements
Eating well during breastfeeding will help you meet your extra nutrient needs and the demands of caring for a new baby. Try to make time in your busy schedule to eat regular meals, including foods from all food groups.
Breastfeeding especially burns up a lot of energy (kilojoules). Some of the energy will come from the fat you laid down in . However, most women will need to eat extra snacks to meet their energy needs.
A steady weight loss back to your pre-pregnant weight should be the goal, rather than rapid weight loss. Use your appetite and weight to work out your energy needs.
Snack suggestions and breastfeeding
Ideal snacks that provide nutrients and energy include:
Fluid and breastfeeding
Many women are very thirsty during breastfeeding, a sign that you need to drink plenty. Expect to drink up to 2 litres a day.
Protein and breastfeeding
It is important to include plenty of protein in your diet, including:
- , and
- cheese and yoghurt
- nuts and seeds
- legumes – for example, lentils, baked beans and split peas.
Calcium and breastfeeding
- such as milk, cheese and yoghurt (these are the best source of calcium)
- soymilk fortified with calcium – look for a brand that includes around 120mg calcium per 100ml soymilk.
If your diet does not contain plenty of calcium, your body will use calcium from your bones to meet your increased needs. Fortunately, calcium lost during breastfeeding is usually recovered within several months after ceasing breastfeeding.
Iron and breastfeeding
Pregnancy uses up your iron stores. During breastfeeding, you need to rebuild your iron stores with iron-rich foods, such as:
- red meat, chicken and fish
- legumes – for example, baked beans
- nuts and dried fruit
- wholegrain bread and cereals
- green leafy vegetables.
Iodine and breastfeeding
Iodine is important for your baby’s brain development. Seafood, dairy foods, bread flour fortified with iodine and iodized salt will help increase your iodine intake, however it can be difficult to get enough iodine from food.
Most breastfeeding multivitamins will also provide adequate amounts of iodine.
Folate, vitamins and breastfeeding
Breastfeeding also increases your need for:
- folate – for example, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts
- vitamin C – for example, citrus fruits, berries, tropical fruit, tomatoes, capsicum and potatoes
- vitamin A – for example, dark green and yellow vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and pumpkin
- vitamin D – your baby will need more vitamin D than your breastmilk can supply, so your baby should be supplemented with 400 IU of vitamin D per day for the first 12 months of life.
Getting back to your usual weight
Although breastfeeding burns up a lot of energy (kilojoules), it can take several months to get back to your usual weight, so be patient. Some women do have a problem with extra weight. Tips for losing weight include:
- Grill, steam, bake or casserole lean meat, fish and poultry.
- Eat vegetables – at least 5 servings per day.
- Eat fruit – at least 2 servings per day.
- Choose low fat dairy products.
- Use butter and margarine sparingly.
- Avoid high fat foods, such as chips, rich desserts or greasy takeaways.
- Limit your intake of , such as , sweet biscuits, cakes, and lollies.
- – for example, push the pram around the block. Build up to 30 minutes daily.
- Enjoy healthy snacks to meet your energy needs (see above).
Foods and drinks to avoid while breastfeeding
There is little evidence that certain foods upset babies or give them or .
passes into breastmilk, so large amounts of tea, coffee and cola drinks are best avoided. Drinking small amounts of drinks with caffeine (3 or less drinks a day) should not be a problem.
If you choose to drink alcohol, it is best avoided during the first month while breastfeeding is being established. After that, limit to one to 2 standard drinks occasionally. Try to avoid breastfeeding for 2 to 3 hours after drinking alcohol.
Vegetarian and vegan mothers and breastfeeding
- eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt
- wholegrain breads and cereals
- fruit and vegetables.
A vegan diet needs careful planning and specific supplements to provide all the nutrients you and your baby need. Check with a dietitian to make sure your diet contains all the nutrients you need.
Don’t go on a strict diet while breastfeeding
Strict diets and skipping meals are not recommended because you could miss out on vital nutrients.