What should I eat?
If you’re wondering what to eat when breastfeeding, a fair guideline is anything fresh and unprocessed. The Australian Dietary guidelines recommend foods from the five food groups - plenty of vegetables and grains such as breads, cereals and rice, moderate servings of fruit, lean meats and poultry, fish and eggs, and some low fat dairy food such as yoghurt.
The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines1, published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, include recommendations for breastfeeding women as shown in the table below:
1 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines Summary found at:
Accessed September 2019.
|Food group||Minimum Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)||Serving Size|
|Vegetables||7.5 serves of different types and colours||
A standard serve is about 75 g (100–350 kJ), which equals:
- ½ cup of cooked green or orange vegetables, or
- ½ cup of cooked beans, peas or lentils, or
- 1 cup of raw salad vegetables.
A standard serve is about 150 g (350 kJ), which equals:
- 1 medium apple or banana, or
- 2 small plums or apricots, or
- 1 cup of canned fruit (no added sugar).
Grains (breads, cereals, rice, pasta, oats, etc.)
|9 serves, preferably wholegrain/ high fibre||
A standard serve is about 500 kJ, which equals:
- 1 slice (40 g) of bread, or
- 1/2 cup (75–120 g) of cooked rice, pasta or noodles, or
- 1/4 cup (30 g) of muesli, or
- 3 (35 g) crispbreads.
Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
A standard serve is 500–600 kJ, which equals:
- 65 g of cooked lean red meats like beef, lamb, veal or pork, or
- 80 g of cooked lean poultry like chicken or turkey, or
- 100 g of cooked fish fillet or one small can of fish, or
- 2 large (120 g) eggs, or
- 170 g of tofu.
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives
|2.5 serves, mostly reduced fat||
A standard serve is 500–600 kJ, which equals:
- 1 cup (250 ml) of milk, or
- 2 slices (40 g) of hard cheese, like cheddar, or
- ¾ cup (200 g) of yoghurt.
Also, remember to keep your fluids up and drink plenty of water (around eight glasses each day). Many women feel thirsty while breastfeeding, particularly during the feed time.
Think twice about anything inside a packet or anything that you wouldn’t find in nature. Alcohol and very sugary drinks are not recommended.
Creating a nutrition plan for breastfeeding
Creating your own breastfeeding diet plan is possible, but is understandably daunting for many new mums. If you need a little help, discuss with your doctor or dietician to come up with a plan that is specifically designed for your needs.
Important nutrients for breastfeeding mums
It’s often more helpful to focus on what you can and should eat for health, rather than what you’re better off avoiding. Some of the important nutrients you should be consuming include:
- Omega 3: Sources include fish such as salmon and sardines, beef, flaxseeds, and walnuts
- B group Vitamins: The body has a limited capacity to store more B-group vitamins. That’s why it’s important to eat a range of foods that contain them such as leafy greens, eggs, legumes, poultry and meat
- Protein: This can be found in meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Iron: Get your iron intake up with red meat and green leafy vegetables
- Calcium: Cheese and yoghurt are great sources of calcium, as well as green leafy vegetables
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, kiwi, cabbage, tomato, capsicum all contain vitamin C
- Vitamin D: Levels can deplete post-pregnancy. The best source of Vitamin D is spending some time in the sun, but if you can’t get outside you can also top up on fortified foods such as milk and yogurts with fortified Vitamin D
- Folic acid: Known for its benefits during pregnancy, folic acid is still important post-birth and found in beans, leafy vegetables, and grains
- Iodine: Dairy products and seafood contain iodine, as well as table salt (where specified on the label).
We understand that mums can be tired and busy and with a new baby to take care of, and there isn’t always time to keep up with your dietary requirements. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and exhausted in the first few weeks, and a breastfeeding multivitamin, in addition to your breastfeeding diet, may help.
Foods to avoid when breastfeeding
While some of the stricter rules of pregnancy nutrition are relaxed, you’ll still find some guidelines while breastfeeding. Remember that what you eat and drink can be passed on to your baby via your breast milk.
What not to eat and drink when breastfeeding
- Caffeine: A cup of coffee is not going to cause great distress, but too much caffeine can affect both your and your baby’s sleep routines
- Alcohol: Again, a small glass of wine with advice from your doctor is usually alright, but don’t go overboard. You should wait two hours before breastfeeding if you’ve had an alcoholic beverage
- Predatory fish with high mercury levels: Occasional consumption is okay, but try not to eat too frequently. These include swordfish, shark, or marlin
- Large amounts of processed foods: These are often filled with sugar and other unhealthy additives, which are best avoided while breastfeeding. Once in a while is okay, just try not to make a habit of it
Foods that your baby may not like
Many of the foods you ate when pregnant will be familiar to your baby when they breastfeed, so they shouldn’t be a problem. However, some women report that babies can be fussy about or react negatively to certain foods, including:
- Strong spices such as pepper, chilli, and garlic
- Fruits known to have a laxative effect, such as prunes, dates, or cherries
- Chocolate, mostly due to caffeine content
- Sugary soft drinks, as these can sometimes contain caffeine
- Citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, and oranges
- Broccoli, as well as other gassy vegetables, such as cabbage and cauliflower
If your baby isn’t responding negatively to these items, feel free to continue eating or drinking them, however, keep in mind that caffeine intake should be limited.
A healthy diet rich in vegetables, grain and cereals is highly recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines if you’re breastfeeding – both for your own health, and your baby’s development.However, the reality is that pregnancy can leave new mums deficient in nutrients. The second reality is that with a new baby at home it can be very difficult to always be on track with diet – being healthy can take more time and planning than we realise!
Elevit Breastfeeding can help you meet your increased nutritional requirements as a new and busy mum. With important nutrients, such as betacarotene, iodine, omega 3, B-group vitamins, Zinc, folate and Vitamin C, Elevit Breastfeeding helps support your needs as well as those of your baby for their brain and vision.