What can I eat when breastfeeding?

Pregnancy |

Congratulations! You’re reading this, which means you’ve reached – or are on your way to reaching - a new milestone with your baby: the rewarding journey of breastfeeding.

Among learning how to get your baby to latch and wondering whether they’re getting enough milk, it is equally important to know what foods are good to eat when breastfeeding.

And the reason for this is simple: breast milk provides all the nutrients your baby needs in those early months*. What you eat therefore contributes to what ends up in your breast milk – in fact, some believe that eating a varied diet when breastfeeding can expose your baby to different tastes making them more susceptible to trying new foods in later life.

To learn which are considered some of the best foods for breastfeeding, read on.

What foods and drinks should I avoid when breastfeeding?

Good news! There are no foods to avoid when breastfeeding – although there are some you should limit.

Breastfeeding women should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week, and should also eat no more than one portion a week of shark, swordfish or marlin.

Caffeine should also be limited while breastfeeding, to less than 200mg per day. It occurs naturally in lots of foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, and chocolate. It is also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks, as well as some cold and flu remedies.

What should I eat when breastfeeding?

The advice, in fact, is as simple as it ever was: follow a healthy balanced diet as much as you can. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water before and after feeds, too.

Not sure what a healthy balanced diet when breastfeeding looks like? The NHS recommends a diverse mix of the main food groups in their Eatwell Guide for breastfeeding. That includes fruit and veg, starchy foods, protein, and dairy & alternatives.

Fruit and veg

As with during pregnancy, it is recommended that breastfeeding women try to get at least five portions of fruit and veg into their diet.

Consuming a wide variety will ensure you and your baby receive a diverse portfolio of essential vitamins and minerals, along with fibre. The fruits and veg you choose needn’t be fresh, either. Frozen, juiced, dried or tinned fruit and veg are all just as good – just watch out for any added salts or sugars.

Some good fruits and vegetables to eat when breastfeeding include:

• Dried fruits, like figs and apricots

• 150ml fruit juice or smoothie (as they are high in sugar only 150ml and no more is recommended per day)

• Tinned pineapple rings (in fruit juice rather than syrup)

• Frozen berries

• Fresh banana

• Leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, and kale

•Beans and pulses like chickpeas and kidney beans (an 80g portion of these only counts once as part of your five a day, no matter how much you eat)

Starchy foods

Starchy foods are a good source of energy. By eating a range of starchy foods when breastfeeding like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes, you can up your energy levels, as well your fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins intake.

To make sure you’re eating as healthy and balanced as possible, aim for wholegrains rather than refined varieties where possible. The Eatwell Guide also recommends that starch should make up one-third of a healthy diet, so try to get a good range and aim to consume some in your main meals.

Some good starchy foods to include in your breastfeeding diet are:

• Jacket potatoes (keeping the skin on potatoes provides more fibre)

• Wholegrain rice and bread

• Wholegrain cereals like porridge oats and sugar-free muesli

• Wholewheat pasta

Protein

Protein is a broad category that comprises meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, beans, and pulses, providing a diverse range of vitamins and minerals for breastfeeding women.

But not all protein sits at the top of the nutrition tree – some meats, like beef, lamb, pork, and chicken, can be high in fat. To reduce your fat intake, opt for skinless poultry and leaner cuts of meat and mince instead in order to follow a healthy balanced diet when breastfeeding.

It is also advisable to limit or avoid processed meat like bacon, ham, and sausages, as well as canned or smoked fish, as they can contain high amounts of salt. The same goes for choosing unsalted nuts versus their high-salt varieties.

Some protein-rich foods that are good during breastfeeding include:

• Lean steak, turkey mince, and chicken breast

• Oily fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel (oily fish are high in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids which can help your baby’s nervous system develop. However, breastfeeding women should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week)

• Omelettes and boiled eggs (those with a red lion stamp are safe to eat raw or partially cooked)

• Hummus with wholemeal bread or vegetable sticks

Dairy & alternatives

Dairy and dairy alternatives provide some protein and calcium, both of which contribute towards a healthy balanced breastfeeding diet. It should be noted, however, that many dairy products also exhibit a high fat content.

As such, it is advised that breastfeeding women check the label on dairy products for saturated fat, salt, and sugar. Where possible, opt for low-fat varieties like skimmed milk rather than full fat milk, and low-fat, low-sugar yogurts rather than fruit-flavoured types (you can always throw in some fresh berries to satisfy that sweet tooth anyway).

Some dairy foods that are beneficial when breastfeeding include:

• Fat-free Greek yogurt

• Reduced fat cheddar, or low-fat varieties like mozzarella

• Unsweetened soya yogurt/milk

• Skimmed milk

Breastfeeding women, along with everyone else, should also consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D. You can get all the other vitamins and minerals you need by eating a healthy balanced diet.

Want more help and support during your pregnancy? There is no better space than our HiPP BabyClub. Along with a monthly newsletter to help you grow your knowledge along with your baby, we also offer exclusive giveaways and discounts on HiPP baby products. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Join BabyClub today to become a member!

* The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. HiPP fully supports continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.


Categories: Pregnancy