Healthy breastfeeding diet
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From staying well hydrated to eating a healthy balanced diet while breastfeeding, the nutritional choices you make enable your baby to get the vitamins and minerals they need to support their future health. With our knowledge on the importance of a healthy diet Aptaclub has created this useful guide on what you could include in your breastfeeding diet.
As they taste what you taste, breastfed babies may be more adventurous when it comes to weaning1.
Eating more LCP-rich foods like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, can encourage better visual and brain development2.
The NHS advises taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day to reduce the risk of your baby developing bone problems3.
All of your baby’s nutrition comes directly from your breast milk4. That means every crunchy salad, curry or tuna steak you eat provides them with vital vitamins. And as they taste what you taste, breastfed babies may be more adventurous when it comes to weaning1.
But it’s not just your baby who will benefit from the nutritional choices you make. Eating well can help you get the energy and nutrients you need to keep going. And eating the right amount – not too much or too little – could help maintain your milk supply5.
Now is a great time to health-check your diet to make sure you’re getting the key nutrients your baby needs for optimal growth and development4.
What to eat when breastfeeding?
You might find that you don’t need to make any changes to your existing diet, but as a guide, try to include the following in your breastfeeding diet plan6:
- A variety of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, whether fresh, frozen, dried or tinned
- Starchy foods like wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
- Plenty of fibre from wholegrains (cereal or bread), pulses, fruit and vegetables
- Protein from lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and pulses
- Calcium from dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt
- At least two portions of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish
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Research shows that the essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6, which are found naturally in breast milk, are really important for the development of your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system2. Eating foods that are rich in Omega 6 and Omega 3, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, will support your baby’s visual, sensory and cognitive development.
Research shows that two LCPs in particular – AA (Omega 6) and DHA (Omega 3), found naturally in breast milk – are important for the development of a baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system2. Eating more LCP-rich foods like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, can encourage better visual and brain development.
While Danish pastries, biscuits and chocolate might satisfy a sweet craving, foods high in sugar and calories often lack nutritional value. For a longer-lasting energy boost, try a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds with raisins, cranberries or goji berries.
Or, for something more substantial, choose a wholemeal pitta filled with salad and either lean meat, salmon, sardine or grated cheese; a bowl of high-fibre, fortified cereal with milk; or fresh fruit and yogurt.
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How many litres of water should you drink while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can be thirsty work. Keep a large glass of water next to you while you feed. Drinking fluids is extremely important for maintaining your breast milk production7. For this reason you should aim to drink 2 litres a day – or eight glasses. Water is the very best for hydration, but you can include milk and fruit juice too.
Vitamins and breastfeeding
Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is essential for normal bone development. Due to a lack of sunlight in the UK, the NHS advises taking 10 micrograms a day to reduce the risk of your baby developing bone problems such as rickets. You can get these vitamins using healthy start vouchers (ask your GP if you are eligible for these) or ask your GP for a prescription as you can get these for free for 1 year after having your baby3.
Losing weight when breastfeeding
Breastfeeding burns approximately 500 calories a day8, and therefore will help you to lose any weight gained during pregnancy9. As your breast milk is providing all the nutrients for your baby, you need to ensure you are getting all the correct nutrition in your diet to ensure your baby’s best growth and development, so it is not advised to try and restrict your diet too much during breastfeeding. However, maintaining a normal diet with all the correct nutrients should help to increase the loss of your baby weight9.
- Beauchamp G and Mennella J. Digestion. 2011;83(Suppl 1):1– 6.
- European Food Safety Authority Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies. Scientific opinion: DHA and ARA and visual development. EFSA Journal 2009;941:1-14.
- NHS– Breastfeeding and diet -Your pregnancy and baby guide [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/breastfeeding-diet/ [Accessed December 2019]
- Aaltonen, J., et al. Eur J Clin Nutr, 2010;65(1):10-19.
- Amir, L., & Donath, S. Early Hum. Dev., 2012;88(7):467-471.
- Marangoni, F. et al. Nutrients, 2016;8(10) :629
- Morse, J., et al. Can J Public Health., 1992;83(3):213-6.
- Guidelines for perinatal care. 7th American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Washington, DC: 2012.
- Jarlenski, M. et al. Preventive medicine, 2014;69:146–150
Last reviewed: 13th July 2020
Reviewed by Nutricia’s Medical and Scientific Affairs Team
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
Our midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.