Breastfeeding Diet Guidelines

Breastmilk is the best choice for babies because it provides all the nutrients in the right quantities to allow them to grow and develop normally.  In addition, breastfeeding allows wonderful opportunities for bonding as well as being convenient and relatively inexpensive too. Decreased risks of developing breast and ovarian cancers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are further benefits.

Paying extra attention to your breastfeeding diet will ensure you get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy too. In addition to the above mentioned benefits of breastfeeding, many women plan to breastfeed to assist the return to their pre-pregnancy weight.

A simple equation will show how this weight loss is possible.

The average woman will burn approx. 470 kcals or 2000 kJ per day making the milk to breastfeed her baby.  Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life (26 weeks) with expected weight loss of approx.  ½ kg per week will result in approx. 13 kg weight loss, and ideally lead you back to your pre-pregnancy weight.

In reality issues arise e.g. increased appetite and this can work to slow the weight loss down.

Tips to assist manage increased appetite:

  1. Keep treat foods out of the house. Instead keep a good supply of low kcal snacks available to nibble on through the day, vegetables are perfect for this as they are high in fibre and full of vitamins, minerals and anti oxidants and will help keep hunger at bay between meals.
  2. Avoid night snacking.  Your sleep routine and body clock will be disturbed due to night feeds etc but try to keep your eating times to the regular routine and focus on the needs of the baby instead.  Feed the baby and go back to bed, eating at night as well as during the day can double your kcal intake.If you have to have something at night try a small glass of skim milk with milo.  Milk contains tryptophan which can help you get back to sleep.
  3. Drink plenty of water.  Breastfeeding requires a lot of fluid.  Hunger is often confused with thirst, if feeling hungry have a glass of water first and then re evaluate your hunger levels.
  4. Keep healthy snacks in your fridge.  When breastfeeding  it is easy to become tired and prone to infections (run down) if you do not eat properly.  Packing a lunch box of nutritious snacks for the day will mean there is something easy ready to grab if you are too tired to think about preparing something to eat .Suggestions are; button mushrooms, vegie sticks and hummus/dips, boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, pot of yoghurt, raw fruit, nuts.

How much should women eat while breastfeeding?

In Australia, the Guide to Healthy Eating on outlines recommended servings per day from each of the food groups to ensure nutrient requirements are met.

Serve sizes


Breastfeeding requires more serves per day from all of the food groups than pregnancy does! = Myth busted

While breastfeeding, the recommendations are to increase number of serves from the vegetable group (from 5 serves per day to 5.5 to 7.5 serves per day), grains (from 8 – 8.5 to 9 serves per day) and Dairy group (from 3.5 to 4 serves daily), however an increased intake is recommended only for mums aged less than 18.

Dairy is especially important in assisting the maintaining the mum’s bone health.  An adequate intake of vitamin D  fatty fish eg salmon, milk, fortified soy milk, supplements is recommended as well due to it assisting  the absorption of the calcium.

Daily fruit requirements are the same in breastfeeding as they were in pregnancy (2 serves per day).

A reduced intake of lean protein is recommended during breastfeeding compared with during pregnancy, (from 3.5 serves per day to 2.5 serves per day).

Avoid fish or any other potential allergen ( e.g egg) during breastfeeding as  these foods will lead to the development of allergies! = Myth busted

Unless your baby has diagnosed allergies/intolerance keep your diet as wide and varied as you possibly can. This helps to develop the baby’s palate.  Eat wisely.  Exposing the baby to a range of flavours through foods you include in your diet, will make introducing solids much easier.

If you want your toddler to enjoy Brussel sprouts, be sure to include them in your diet on a regular basis while breastfeeding.

In fact it is especially important to include fish especially fatty fish at least twice a week.

This fish is a valuable source of omega 3 fatty acids which now are being shown to contribute to the healthy development of the eyes and brain. Research also shows improved psychomotor development eg eye- hand co-ordination and attention skills.

Fatty fish is not the only source of Omega 3 fatty acids – eggs, yoghurt and milk fortified with Omega 3 , sea vegetables eg algae and omega 3 fish oil capsules (300mg of combined EPA and DHA per day) are also available.

It is more important to eat well than get adequate fluids! = Myth busted

Drink plenty of water.  Breastfeeding requires a lot of fluid.  Hunger is often confused with thirst, if feeling hungry , have a glass of water first and then re evaluate your hunger levels. Fluids include  juice, tea, coffee, soup jelly etc..

Foods not recommended during breastfeeding:

  • Alcohol

The baby’s brain is still developing after birth and there is no safe level of alcohol in breast milk for babies.  Alcohol while breastfeeding can affect the developmental process.

If you do choose to drink, feed baby or express milk before you drink, store it in the fridge until required.  After drinking, allow 2 – 3 hours for the alcohol from one standard alcoholic drink to leave the breastmilk naturally.

  • Limit your intake of caffeine containing beverages

Aim for less than 300mg caffeine per day, in real terms this equates to 1 – 2 cups of coffee and approx. 6 cups of tea. Caffeine can also pass into the breast milk and high levels of caffeine may disrupt the babies sleep routine.


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