Healthy eating while feeding your baby
Healthy eating while feeding your baby
Having a new baby can be wonderful but it can also be very tiring. Eating well and looking after yourself will help keep you in the best shape to care for your new baby.
- Eat at least five portions of variety of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Base meals on starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or others. Choose wholegrain or higher fibre varieties where possible and leave the skins on potatoes. Including these foods in your diet will help prevent constipation.
- Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as calcium-fortified soya drinks and yogurts). Choose lower fat and lower sugar options.
- Have some beans and other pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins. Aim for at least two portions of fish every week – one of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel (also see the Fish and breastfeeding section below).
- Choose unsaturated oils such as rapeseed or olive oil, and spreads made from these, and consume in small amounts.
- If you choose to include foods or drinks high in fat, salt and sugars, such as biscuits, cakes, pastries and salty snacks, have them less often and in small amounts.
- Drink plenty of fluids – the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the expert body that advises the European Union on food and nutrition, recommends that breastfeeding women drink more fluid a day - around 10-12 glasses in total. Make sure that you have a drink beside you when you are breastfeeding. Water is a good choice, and why not have some low-fat milk, or some diluted pure fruit juice.
Fish and breastfeeding
Including fish in your diet is important for you and your baby’s health. It is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, as well as providing essential omega-3 fats. But while you are breastfeeding:
- do not eat more than one portion of shark, swordfish or marlin a week (this advice is the same for all adults)
- do not eat more than two portions of oily fish a week
You do not need to limit the amount of white fish or canned tuna you eat while you’re breastfeeding, as long as it’s part of a healthy, varied diet.
Peanuts and breastfeeding
Peanuts or foods containing peanuts, such as peanut butter, can be included as part of a healthy, varied diet while breastfeeding – unless, of course, you are allergic to them. Avoiding peanuts or other allergenic foods (for example hen's egg or wheat) while breastfeeding does not reduce your baby’s chances of developing an allergy and is not recommended.
However, if you have a family history of food allergy or other allergic conditions, then your baby may be at higher risk of developing an allergy, and you may wish to discuss this further with your GP, midwife or health visitor.
Supplements and breastfeeding
Everyone, including breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10µg (micrograms) of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months to protect bone health. We get most of our vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin, although a supplement is recommended during winter months when sunlight is not strong enough to produce vitamin D in the skin. You should get enough of all the other vitamins and minerals that you and your baby need for breastfeeding by eating a healthy, varied diet.
Ask your GP, midwife or health visitor where to get vitamin D supplements – you may be eligible to get free supplements through Healthy Start.
Healthy Start vouchers
Do not forget if you have a child under the age of 4 years and are receiving certain benefits or tax credits, you may be eligible for Healthy Start vouchers. This allows you to get free vouchers every week to spend on milk, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk (if you’re not breastfeeding). You can also get free vitamins. For more information see the Healthy Start website.
Information reviewed November 2016
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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any personal advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.