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Breastfeeding Diet & Food to Avoid When Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding requires approximately 2000-2100 kilojoules extra each day compared with if you were not breastfeeding. This is a lot of extra food (and fluid) to fit in! But don’t worry, no doubt you will notice your appetite and thirst will increase too.

11 mins to read Apr 30, 2024

Building your knowledge about breastfeeding and understanding the basics of breast milk, is worth your investment in time. Understanding why it’s so important will help you get off to a great start, and help you maintain breastfeeding for as long as you wish.

Healthy Breastfeeding Diet

Having a healthy balanced diet when breastfeeding is so important.  While a healthy diet is recommended at all times of your life, with an extra little person to nourish, this is probably one of those times it’s even more important. While you will likely find yourself hungrier than usual (and sushi, oysters and eggs benedict are back on the menu after a 9-month break), women should be mindful of the foods and drinks they choose to ensure they consume the best breastfeeding foods available. It’s important to know that the food choices you make during breastfeeding can affect parts of your milk quality.  While some nutrients, such as protein, won’t need special attention in your diet as your body looks after the protein content of breast milk naturally, there are other nutrients that aren’t as forgiving. For example, some key nutrients, like Omega 3 fatty acids that are super important for your baby’s brain development, and vitamin D, are directly influenced by the amount in your diet and your body’s stores.

Fluid requirements also increase for a breastfeeding woman and no doubt you will also notice how much thirstier you become. Here are some healthy liquids to drink, and recommendations on how to include them in your breastfeeding diet:

  1. Water: Staying hydrated is crucial while breastfeeding. Aim to drink at least 8-10 cups of water throughout the day, maybe even more in hot weather. Keep a water bottle handy and sip on water regularly, especially during breastfeeding sessions.


  2. Milk: Including cow’s milk or dairy alternatives like almond milk or soy milk can provide additional hydration and nutrients. Enjoy a glass of milk with meals or incorporate it into smoothies or on cereal for added nutrition.


  3. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Juices: Opt for freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals. Opt for homemade juices without added sugars or preservatives. However, be mindful that juicing fruit and vegetables should not replace the intake of whole fruits and vegetables, they are often much higher in sugar and don’t contain the other benefits of fresh foods such as fibre, so consume these in moderation.


  4. Coconut Water: Coconut water is a natural source of hydration and electrolytes. It can be a refreshing option to include in your diet. Choose natural, unsweetened coconut water without added flavours or sugars. 
Women eating a sandwich

Key nutrients to include in a breastfeeding diet

As part of your breastfeeding food plan, try to eat a little more from each of the five food groups. Eating a wide variety of foods from each of these groups will mean you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients.


  1. Go grains! Grains, especially wholegrains, provide dietary fibre, folate as well as other vitamins and minerals. Try and aim for 9 serves including foods such as oats as well as wholegrain breads and cereals;


  2. Keep your bones strong. Aim for 2.5 dairy serves a day (1 serve being 250ml of milk, 200g of yoghurt or 40g of cheese). Milk and yoghurt are not only a good source of fluid, carbohydrates and protein, they are a great source of calcium which helps build and maintain strong bones;


  3. Stock up on iron. Iron helps make red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body. Pregnancy and childbirth can deplete your levels of iron and why it’s so important to focus on while breastfeeding. Eat 2.5 serves of lean meat, fish, poultry, or eggs a day (1 serve being 65 -100g). Animal proteins are a good source of essential amino acids – which keeps all your tissues and cells in good repair. They also contain iron, which helps maintain your energy levels and can reduce tiredness and fatigue; and zinc, which is important for cell reproduction;


  4. Get a vitamin hit. Consume 2 serves of fruit per day (1 serve being 1 medium piece or 1 cup diced/canned fruit). Fruit is a great source of natural fibre to help keep your digestive system regular, high in water content and packed full of a variety of vitamins, particularly vitamin C and other antioxidants;


  5. Bulk up meals and snacks with veggies. Try and include 7.5 serves of vegetables per day (1 serve being ½ cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup salad). Vegetables have a high water and fibre content. They are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals and help bulk up meals without adding many extra kilojoules – which is extra handy if you’re worried you’re over-eating while breastfeeding


  6. Extra iodine is needed during breastfeeding, this can be achieved by eating fish, breads, seaweed, eggs and iodised salt (in moderation).  A supplement may also be recommended to meet the higher demand at this time.

Vitamin and mineral supplements may help you meet the higher demands of nutrients that you are not getting from your diet. Talk to your healthcare professional, or dietitian, for specific advice on which supplements may be best for you.


Sample meal plan which is for a breastfeeding mum

Food to avoid when breastfeeding

Once your baby is born you no longer have the same food restrictions you had while you were pregnant, bonus! But there are still a few watchouts.

Breastfeeding & Alcohol – Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is not recommended as it can pass through your breast milk to your baby and there is no safe level of alcohol for a baby to consume. If you choose to have a drink, it’s best avoided altogether in the first few months while breastfeeding is being established. After this, if you choose an occasional 1-2 standard drinks, be sure to wait around 2-3 hours before breastfeeding again as it takes this long for the alcohol to clear from your body.

Other than alcohol, it is generally recommended to avoid or limit certain foods that may cause discomfort or affect your baby.  Common culprits may include:

  • Spicy foods,
  • Gas-producing foods (like beans and cabbage), 
  • Any other foods or allergens that your baby is reacting to. Monitor your baby’s reactions after feeds as they may be linked to what you are eating.
  • Caffeine is ok in small amounts, try to limit your intake to 2-3 cups per day.

Monitor your baby's reactions after feeds as they may be linked to what you consult with a healthcare professional for personalised guidance.

Special diets when breastfeeding

Once your baby is born, a special breastfeeding diet isn’t necessary for many new mums. You will be able to resume a diet much more like the healthy diet you were on before getting pregnant, minus the alcohol. If you are considering a special diet when breastfeeding for a medical, cultural or any other reason, consult the expertise of a dietitian or healthcare professional that can plan a diet that meets the requirements to support continued breastfeeding.

Weight management

Weight gain during pregnancy is healthy and very normal. In addition to the weight, which is somewhat due to that little bundle of joy you had inside you, women tend to store extra fat as well. These extra fat stores come in very handy when trying to meet those extra kilojoule demands of breastfeeding. 
When you start your post-birth weight-loss journey, it is best to lose the extra kilos gradually using healthy eating principles and adding in some extra exercise when possible. Start by pushing the pram around the block and gradually build up to longer walks (include some hills if you’re feeling up to it!).

Vegetarian Diet

While a vegetarian breastfeeding diet can be nutritionally adequate, removing meat, poultry and seafood from your diet does mean you need to pay more attention to some key nutrients as it may lead to some nutrient deficiencies. Be mindful of potential nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to ensure adequate intake of these nutrients through fortified foods, supplements, and a well-planned vegetarian diet. Consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian is recommended for personalised guidance.

Dairy-free Diet

A breastfeeding diet that excludes all dairy products, including milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter is commonly followed by individuals with lactose intolerance or milk allergies. When eliminating dairy, it's important to ensure adequate intake of nutrients typically found in dairy products, such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Alternative sources like fortified plant-based milks, leafy greens, tofu, almonds, and sesame seeds can help meet these nutrient needs. Consulting with a registered dietitian is recommended for personalised guidance on maintaining a balanced diet while avoiding dairy. 


Staying hydrated while breastfeeding 

Making breast milk uses extra fluid, so you may get thirsty more often. Water is by far the best choice, however milk is also a great choice as it contains loads of calcium and protein, and extra energy to help meet your extra needs while breastfeeding. Requirements will vary, depending on how much your food contains, your activity levels, and the weather conditions. However, on average aim to consume 8-10 glasses of water every day, and respond to your body’s thirst as soon as you can.


Food choices while breastfeeding & baby allergies

A healthy balanced diet, including foods from all the food groups is recommended throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Excluding particular foods from your diet while breastfeeding, including foods considered to be highly allergenic, is not recommended to prevent allergies in your baby .

While every baby is different, some common food choices during breastfeeding that may potentially cause allergies in babies include cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. However, it's important to note that each baby's sensitivity can vary, and not all babies will react to these foods. If you suspect a specific food is causing an allergic reaction in your baby, consult with a healthcare professional or allergist for proper evaluation and guidance.


Breastfeeding foods to increase milk supply 

The most important way to make sure your breast milk supply is meeting the needs of your baby is to ensure you eat a variety of foods, from all food groups. Eating well will help you to provide all the energy and nutrient needs required to meet the demands of breast milk production.

  • Snack right – include a few more healthy snacks throughout your day to help meet your extra energy requirements.  For example, yoghurt, fruit, nuts & seeds, cereal with milk, toast with peanut butter or cheese and avocado, cheese and biscuits
  • Dairy daily – provides important nutrients like protein, and calcium for strong bones.
  • Protein power – protein provides important energy and is found mainly in meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy foods. Also, plant sources such as grains, lentils, nuts and seeds provide good sources of protein.
  • Vital vitamins – A range of fresh fruit and vegetables will provide a range of important vitamins and minerals.  The more colours, the better variety.  Vitamin C (citrus), vitamin A (dark green leafy vegetables), vitamin D (sunlight exposure on your skin). A multivitamin supplement may also be of benefit if you’re not getting everything from your diet, talk to your healthcare professional regarding which multivitamin might be best for your needs.

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Frequently asked questions about breastfeeding diets

What food to avoid when breastfeeding?

While breastfeeding, it is generally recommended to avoid or limit certain foods that may cause discomfort or affect your baby.  Common culprits may include spicy foods, gas-producing foods (like beans and cabbage), and any other foods or allergens that your baby is reacting to. Avoiding alcohol is safest option when breastfeeding as it can pass straight into your breastmilk. Caffeine is ok in small amounts, try to limit your intake to 2-3 cups per day. Monitor your baby's reactions after feeds as they may be linked to what you are eating and consult with a healthcare professional for personalised guidance.

Can you drink alcohol whilst breastfeeding?

The safest option is to not drink alcohol whilst breastfeeding. Alcohol can get into breastmilk and there is no safe level for babies.

What to eat when breastfeeding.

When breastfeeding, it's important to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet to support your own health and provide essential nutrients for your baby. Focus on consuming a variety of foods from all the food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Include foods rich in protein, calcium, iron, Iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Breastfeeding requires approximately 2000-2100 kilojoules extra each day compared to when not breastfeeding. Listen to your body's hunger and fullness cues and consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalised guidance on your specific nutritional needs while breastfeeding.

Which foods increase breast milk supply?

Ensuring you are eating a well-balanced diet that includes foods from all the food groups, and increase your energy intake over the day, your body will be equipped with all it needs to produce breast milk.  Breast milk supply is very much dependant on your baby, as it is produced on a supply-and-demand relationship. The more your baby drinks, the more breastmilk you will produce. If you are concerned about your milk supply talk to a lactation consultant or other healthcare professional.