What to Eat When You’re Breastfeeding

Dos & don’ts from Lamaze International to help keep you and your newborn safe.

Nursing is a natural and simple way to provide nutrients to your newborn. Nature intended your baby to drink breast milk, and your body is perfectly designed to produce it. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding protects your baby from a number of diseases and health conditions, and it has postpartum benefits for you as well.

While there are certain foods and drinks you’ll want to monitor or consume in moderation, there is no set diet to follow while nursing. Make healthy choices for you and baby so you can both enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding.

With the topic of breastfeeding comes some common questions. How do you know what’s appropriate to eat and drink? How do you know what to avoid? Lamaze International offers the following tips.


1. Go easy on your calorie intake. Eating and drinking to satisfy your appetite and thirst is usually all you need to maintain a healthy diet when breastfeeding. You may take in additional calories, which for some may be about 500 calories, which is the equivalent to adding one to two healthy snacks per day. Think six meals a day — three regular meals and three healthy snack-type meals. Many women also find that breastfeeding helps them lose pregnancy weight by burning an average of 600 to 800 calories per day.

2. Try some fish — it can be good for you and baby. Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and vitamin D, which are beneficial to your baby’s growth and development. However, fish such as tilefish, shark and mackerel contain high levels of mercury and should be eaten in moderation.

Follow the same rules you did during pregnancy, and remember that you can have up to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish per week. You may also want to stick to cooked fish, not raw.

3. Consider food allergies. If you or a close relative has food allergies, be mindful of these in your diet. According to the March of Dimes, about four in every 100 children have a food allergy. Common allergies include tree nuts, wheat, soy, eggs and, in particular, cow’s milk. If your baby becomes fussy, develops a skin irritation or other negative health reactions after you’ve eaten these foods, avoid it for 7 to 14 days until they are eliminated from your system. Lamaze’s Pregnancy to Parenting app has a daily log to help you track this information quickly and easily.

4. Practice caution with alcohol. Lots of women wonder if it’s okay to drink alcohol when breastfeeding. While alcohol can affect your response time — which is critical in caring for your newborn — an occasional glass of wine (8 oz.), 2 beers or a cocktail (2 oz.) is acceptable.

The “two-hour rule” is a good one: Nurse first, have a drink, then wait to least two hours before breastfeeding. Waiting two hours per drink is required for complete metabolism of alcohol in a 132-pound female.

You and your baby were made to breastfeed. Have confidence in yourself and your baby’s ability, and treasure this natural bonding time. Consult your healthcare provider or lactation consultant with any questions or concerns you may have. For more information on simple, healthy breastfeeding, visit http://bit.ly/1W7s0NZ.

Eileen DiFrisco, MA, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, is Lamaze International President-Elect. Lamaze International promotes a natural, healthy and safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting practices. To find classes in your area or take a class online, visit www.lamaze.org.

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Written by Eileen Difrisco, MA, RN, IBCLC, LCCE

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