A healthy balanced diet is recommended at all times of your life, but 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 consume whilst breastfeeding. Fluid requirements also increase for a breastfeeding woman and no doubt you will also notice how much thirstier you become.
Diet tips for breastfeeding mums
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.
- Go grains! Grains, especially wholegrains, provide dietary fibre 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;
- 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;
- Stock up on iron. 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;
- 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;
- 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.
Making breast milk uses extra fluid, so you may get thirsty more often. Water and milk are the best choice of drinks. Requirements will vary, depending on how much your food contains, your activity levels, and the weather conditions.
Don’t be tempted to fill up on foods that are high in saturated fats and refined sugars.
Sample meal plan for a breastfeeding mum
1 cup wholegrain cereal
1 serve of fruit e.g. 1 medium apple
1 cup of milk
3 wholegrain crackers topped with ¼ cup low fat ricotta cheese, sliced tomato and cucumber
1 wholegrain sandwich with lean meat and plenty of mixed salad (2 cups)
1 piece of fruit
1 tub of low-fat yoghurt
1 ½ cups of pasta
Beef and vegetable bolognaise sauce = provides 65g of lean mince and 1 cup vegetables
2 cups of side salad
Handful of almonds
Breastfeeding and alcohol
If you are breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether as it can pass through your breastmilk to your baby. If you choose to have a drink, it’s best avoided altogether in the first few months while breastfeeding is being established. After this, an occasional 1-2 standard drinks may be ok, and wait around 2-3 hours before breastfeeding again as it takes this long for the alcohol to clear from your body.
Breastfeeding and weight loss
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!).
Special diets while breastfeeding
If you follow any special type of diet, for a medical, cultural or any other reason, consult a Dietitian to check that you are eating a good balance of nutrients for both you and your baby’s needs.
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https://raisingchildren.net.au/grown-ups/looking-after-yourself/new-mums/breastfeeding-diet-lifestyle (accessed 15th July 2022)
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/breastfeeding-and-your-diet (accessed 15th July 2022)
Australian Dietary Guidelines, National Health and Medical Research Council, 2013. Accessed via: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines.pdf