If you have 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 goat’s milk||360mg|
|300ml sweetened calcium-enriched soya drink||360mg|
|30g reduced-fat Cheddar||250mg|
|300ml unsweetened calcium-enriched soya drink||360mg|
|100g fat-free natural/flavoured yogurt||160mg|
|100g fat-free natural/flavoured fromage frais||130mg|
|100g plain quark||120mg|
|100g low-fat/virtually fat-free cottage cheese||130mg|
|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. Your intake of vitamin D is important to ensure your baby gets enough of it through your milk.
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. 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.
Caffeine in your breast milk can make your baby restless (and no one wants that!). While you can enjoy a little more caffeine than you did while pregnant, the NHS recommends breastfeeding mums restrict their caffeine intake to no more than 300mg 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.