Healthy eating tips for breastfeeding mums

Your body is an awesome milk making machine, constantly adjusting your breastmilk to meet your baby’s changing needs. Because your body’s so efficient at producing milk, you don’t need to follow a particular diet or eat extra or different food while you’re breastfeeding. Just focus on nutritious choices that will keep your energy levels high.

Our favourite refuelling tips for new mums

  • Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry, not just for the sake of it. During pregnancy, your body prepares for breastfeeding by creating fat stores. When you start breastfeeding, these are naturally used to make milk, so breastfeeding can actually help you lose weight and keep it off.
  • You’ve got enough to do looking after your baby, so meals and snacks need to be easy to prepare. Choose things like a homemade sandwich or jacket potato served with a portion of protein-rich food (for example egg, cheese, meat, fish) alongside some salad. Soup, beans on toast or scrambled eggs are also quick, filling and good for you. Try making meals in batches and freezing portions for later.
  • Stock up on healthy snacks like carrot or cucumber sticks, breadsticks and hummus, fresh or dried fruit or yoghurt to keep you from raiding the biscuit tin for a quick but short-lived sugar fix.
  • Breastfeeding can be thirsty work so keep a big glass of water within easy reach!
  • You may have heard that caffeine can affect your baby’s behaviour. Breastfeeding mothers can usually drink the odd cup of tea or coffee without noticing any ill effects, but very young babies may be more sensitive to it. If you feel your baby becomes unsettled after drinking tea or coffee, switch to decaf.  You can drink as much of this as you like. As your child gets older, drinks with caffeine are likely to have less of an affect on your baby.
  • Alcohol passes through to breastfed babies in very small amounts. As alcohol leaves your blood, it leaves your breastmilk too. It’s unlikely that having an occasional drink will harm your baby, but it might affect how your baby feeds. Some research suggests babies will reduce their suckling time when exposed to alcohol in breastmilk and the mother’s let down reflex may be affected. If you intend to have more than a couple of drinks, you might want to think about expressing milk in advance. Drinking alcohol may impact on your ability to care for your baby, however they are fed. When you have been drinking, it’s very important to never share a bed, sofa or chair with your baby as this increases the risk of SIDS (cot death).
  • Vitamin D is very important for bone health for both mothers and babies. Our skin makes vitamin D from UBV radiation in sunlight, however, during the winter months, the sun doesn’t produce enough of this for our skin to make vitamin D. In the UK, all pregnant and breastfeeding women are recommended to take a daily vitamin D supplement. A Vitamin D supplement is also recommended for all breastfed babies from birth until 4 years.
  • Check out the Healthy Start website to see if you qualify for free weekly vouchers which can be spent on milk, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and formula milk, as well as vitamins. You can also call the helpline on 0845 607 6823 or talk to your public health nurse (health visitor). Take a closer at our article on Healthy Start vouchers too.
  • If you’ve completely lost your appetite and are finding it a struggle to eat, talk to your public health nurse (health visitor) or GP as it could be a sign of postnatal depression. They’ll ensure you get the support you need.

If you’re worried that you’re not producing enough milk for your baby, talk to your public health nurse (health visitor) or peer supporter.

Useful links

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Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

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