If you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, this will have huge benefits for you both.
As well as helping protect your baby from infections while they’re small, it will also reduce their chance of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life.
Benefits for mum and baby
It’s also great for you too. Breastfeeding reduces your chances of developing certain cancers in later life, it’s free and it’s a lovely, natural way to burn energy when fully established – so it can be great to help towards losing any excess baby weight.
While you’re breastfeeding
Producing milk for breastfeeding takes up a lot of energy, so it’s recommended that mums consume a healthy, balanced diet to supply all the extra nutrients needed. Most mums will feel hungrier due to the energy being used. Opting for healthier foods will help to prevent weight gain.
If you’re breastfeeding, you will need more calcium (an extra 550mg a day, taking a woman’s requirements to 1250mg per day), so include some calcium-rich foods each day. Here are some examples along with the amount of calcium they provide:
|300ml skimmed milk||375mg|
|300ml semi-skimmed milk||365mg|
|300ml whole milk||360mg|
|300ml semi-skimmed goat’s milk||370mg|
|300ml sweetened calcium-enriched soya drink||360mg|
|30g reduced-fat Cheddar||245mg|
|300ml unsweetened calcium-enriched soya drink||360mg|
|100g fat-free natural yogurt||160mg|
|100g fat-free natural fromage frais||125mg|
|100g plain quark||120mg|
|100g low-fat/virtually fat-free cottage cheese||125mg|
|100g sardines, canned in tomato sauce||430mg|
|100g pilchards, canned in tomato sauce||250mg|
|100g purple sprouting broccoli||200mg|
|100g curly kale||130mg|
Dietary sources of vitamin D include dairy foods, eggs, margarine, liver and oily fish – and, of course, sunshine is a great vitamin D provider.
As sunlight is the main source of vitamin D and there are few dietary sources, all adults and children over five years old, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, are advised to consider taking a 10 microgram vitamin D supplement daily.
It’s recommended that babies from birth to the age of one who are breastfed are given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D, whether or not mum is taking a supplement herself. This is to make sure your baby gets enough. Talk to your health visitor for advice on appropriate supplements for your baby. For more information on vitamin D, visit the NHS website.
Eating fish is great for both your and your baby’s health while you’re breastfeeding. It’s recommended that you continue to limit the amount of oily fish you eat to no more than two 140g portions per week, to prevent the build up of pollutants. Shark, swordfish and marlin are also particularly high in mercury, so should be enjoyed no more than once a week.
Staying hydrated is important for good health, particularly during breastfeeding. The recommendation for the general population is to drink around six to eight glasses of fluid per day; though the amount we need to drink varies between individuals.
There are currently no UK guidelines on how much you should aim to drink while breastfeeding. However, you’re likely to feel thirstier during breastfeeding, so aim to stay comfortably hydrated and keep a drink next to you while feeding.
It’s important to respond to thirst, as this is an indicator that you’re already a little dehydrated. To monitor how hydrated you are, you can keep an eye on the colour of your urine – a pale straw colour lets you know you’re adequately hydrated, whereas if it’s a darker colour you may need to drink a bit more.
Water is the best option to choose to keep you hydrated, though all non-alcoholic drinks count towards fluid intake, including hot drinks, milk, fruit juices and squashes. Just remember to keep track of your caffeine and alcohol intake while breastfeeding and limit the amount of fruit juice and sugar-sweetened drinks you choose, to protect your teeth and help you manage your weight.
Caffeine in your breast milk can make your baby restless (and no one wants that!). The NHS recommends breastfeeding mums limit their caffeine intake to less than 200mg a day.
- 1 mug instant coffee = 100mg
- 1 mug filter coffee = 140mg
- 1 mug tea = 75mg
- 1 can cola (diet or regular) = 40mg
- 50g bar plain chocolate = most UK brands contain less than 25mg
- 50g bar milk chocolate = most UK brands contain less than 10mg
Small amounts of what you’re eating and drinking can pass to your baby through your breast milk, and there’s some evidence that regularly drinking more than two units of alcohol a day while breastfeeding may affect your baby’s development. Breastfeeding women are advised to have no more than one or two units of alcohol, once or twice a week. Here’s a reminder of some drinks and their average units.
- Half a pint of lager (4.6% vol.) = 1.4 units
- 35ml gin and slimline tonic = 1.4 units
- 125ml (small) glass white wine (10.5-12.5% vol.) = 1.5 units
- 125ml (small) glass red wine (12.5-13.5% vol.) = 1.7 units
Please visit drinkaware.co.uk for more information.
Peanuts and allergy
It’s fine to enjoy peanuts and products containing peanuts, such as peanut butter, as part of a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding if you like them (unless of course you are allergic to them). There is no clear evidence that eating peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding affects your baby’s chance of developing a peanut allergy.
Iodine is an essential nutrient for mum and baby during breastfeeding. More information can be found here.