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Maternal Nutrition During Breastfeeding

Maternal Nutrition During Breastfeeding

Table of Contents

While breastfeeding, it’s crucial to maintain a well-balanced diet to meet the increased nutritional demands. Ensure an additional 400-500 calories daily, focusing on diverse nutrients from lean meats, dairy, fruits, and vegetables, including protein, calcium, iron, vitamin C, and folate. Avoid high-mercury fish and prioritize nutrient-dense foods. Listen to your body’s hunger cues, and consider supplements as recommended by your healthcare provider. A balanced diet not only supports your well-being but also contributes to the healthy development of your baby.

 Breastfeeding and diet

A healthy diet is always important, but it’s especially important if you’re breastfeeding. Breastfeeding consumes a lot of energy and nutrients. Your diet must provide the nutrients you need while breastfeeding, including:

  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Vitamin D and other vitamins

Eating well while breastfeeding will help you meet your extra nutritional needs and the needs of caring for your new baby. Make time in your busy schedule to eat regular meals, including foods from all food groups.



It helps build strong bones and teeth and plays an important role in helping the circulatory, nervous systems, and muscular function properly. Pregnant and lactating women should get 1000 mg of calcium per day. Healthy sources of calcium include calcium-fortified orange juice, low-fat dairy products, milk alternatives, kale, and cereals.


Eating carbohydrates helps provide energy to support the development and growth of the baby. The best sources of carbohydrates are fruits, whole grains, and vegetables, which are also good sources of fiber. Limit refined carbohydrates such as white flour, rice, and added sugars.


Fiber is a nutrient that can help relieve common constipation during pregnancy. Vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes are good sources of fiber.

Folic acid

Folic acid helps the development of the brain and spinal cord of the child. It is also needed to make red and white blood cells. Women who get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily before conception and in early pregnancy can reduce the risk of their baby being born with a neural tube defect.

Lactating women need 500 micrograms. Good sources of folic acid include cereals and fortified breads. Folate is the natural form of this vitamin and is found in green leafy vegetables, avocados, citrus fruits, beans, and lentils.

Healthy fats

Fat is an important part of any healthy diet. During pregnancy, fat is needed to support your baby’s growth and development. Choose healthy (unsaturated fats) and limit unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Healthy fats are found in canola, olive oil and other vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish such as salmon.


Iodine helps the body’s thyroid gland to make hormones that help the brain grow and develop. Not getting enough iodine during pregnancy can put the baby at risk for thyroid problems, developmental delays, and learning problems. Pregnant and lactating women should use iodized salt in their cooking and eat iodine-containing foods such as seafood and dairy products.


Eating an iron-rich diet and taking a daily iron supplement during pregnancy or breastfeeding can help prevent iron deficiency anemia. Women who do not get enough iron may feel tired and have other problems. Good food sources of iron include lean meats, poultry and fish, fortified cereals, legumes, and green leafy vegetables.



Protein helps build your baby’s muscles, bones, and other tissues and helps with growth, especially in the second and third trimesters. Pregnant women need more protein than non-pregnant women.

Vitamin B12

It plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells in the baby, as well as the growth and functioning of the brain. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as fish, milk, meat, and eggs and fortified products such as cereals and non-dairy milk substitutes.

Vitamin D

It helps the body absorb calcium for healthy bones and teeth. It is made when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Good food sources of vitamin D include low-fat or fat-free fortified milk, fortified orange juice, egg yolks, and salmon.

Foods to avoid when breastfeeding

While breastfeeding, avoiding or limiting certain foods and substances is advisable to ensure your and your baby’s health and well-being. Key considerations include:

  • Caffeine: Limit your intake of caffeinated beverages, as excessive caffeine can affect your baby’s sleep patterns and irritability. Aim for no more than 200-300 mg of caffeine per day.
  • Alcohol: It’s safest to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding. If you choose to drink, wait at least 2 hours per drink before nursing to reduce alcohol concentration in your breast milk.
  • High-Mercury Fish: Limit consumption of high-mercury fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, as mercury can harm a developing baby’s nervous system.
  • Certain Medications: Consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medications, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, as some substances can pass into breast milk.
  • Strongly Allergenic Foods: If your baby shows signs of allergies, you might need to avoid common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, wheat, fish, and eggs. However, consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial before eliminating entire food groups from your diet.
  • Gas-Inducing Foods: Some babies may be sensitive to certain foods that can cause gas or discomfort. Common culprits include cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cabbage), beans, and certain spicy foods. Pay attention to your baby’s reactions and adjust your diet accordingly.



Although a healthy diet is the most important factor in breastfeeding nutrition, no doubt taking supplements can help replenish the stores of certain vitamins and minerals.

There are reasons why you may be low on nutrients during the postpartum period. You may not be eating enough foods containing these nutrients or not meeting the increased energy needs of breast milk production. Your diet may have changed since you’ve cared for your baby.

Taking supplements can help increase your intake of essential nutrients. However, it’s important to be careful when choosing supplements because many supplements contain herbs and other additives that aren’t safe for breastfeeding parents.


Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common after childbirth, so taking a daily multivitamin may be a good idea, especially if you don’t think you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals through your diet alone.

Vitamin B12

It is a water-soluble vitamin essential for baby and breastfeeding health. Additionally, many people, especially those who follow primarily plant-based diets, have had gastric bypass surgery, or take certain medications (such as acid reflux medications), are already at risk of developing low B12 levels.

If you fall into one of these categories or feel like you’re not eating enough B12-rich foods (such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and fortified foods), taking a B-complex or B12 supplement is essential.

Omega 3 DHA

Today, omega-3 fatty acids are common. These fats found naturally in fatty fish and algae, play an essential role in your baby’s health.

For example, the DHA is vital for developing your baby’s nervous system, skin, and eyes. And the concentration of this important fat in breast milk largely depends on your intake. Since the concentration of omega-3 in breast milk reflects the intake of these important fats, you must get enough. We recommend breastfeeding parents consume 250 to 375 mg of DHA and eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA), another important omega-3 fat, daily.

Although eating 8 to 12 ounces of fish, especially fatty fish like sardines and salmon, can help you reach the recommended intake, taking a fish oil or krill oil supplement is a good way to meet your daily needs.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is only found in a few foods, such as cod liver oil, fatty fish, and fortified foods. The body can also produce it through exposure to sunlight, although vitamin D production depends on many factors, such as your skin color and where you live.

This vitamin plays important roles in your body and is essential for the functioning of the immune system and bone health. Vitamin D is usually only present in small amounts in breast milk, especially when exposure to sunlight is limited.

Supplementation of 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day for breastfed infants and infants consuming less than 1 liter of formula per day, starting in the first few days of birth and continuing until 12 months. Vitamin D deficiency is very common among people who are breastfeeding. A deficiency can lead to negative health outcomes, including an increased risk of postpartum depression.

Drink plenty of water

Drink plenty of water

When your baby latches onto your breast, your oxytocin levels rise and cause your milk to start flowing. It also stimulates thirst and helps you stay hydrated while feeding your baby.

Generally, you should always drink when thirsty until you have quenched your thirst. But if you feel tired or weak or think your milk production is decreasing, you may need to drink more water. The best way to tell if you are drinking enough water is to pay attention to the color and smell of your urine. If it is dark yellow and has a pungent smell, it is a sign that you are dehydrated and need more water.

The bottom line

Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the most challenging times in a woman’s life. Many of us think about what to eat before pregnancy and even after giving birth so that our baby can go through the growth and development process well.

To get in shape and lose weight after giving birth, mothers should not follow a strict diet or reduce the number and amount of their meals without consulting a nutritionist and obstetrician because this is dangerous for the growth and health of the baby.

Eating too few calories or too few nutrient-dense foods can negatively affect the quality of breast milk and be harmful to your health.

During breastfeeding, eating various healthy and nutritious foods and limiting the consumption of highly processed foods is more important than ever. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption and stick to the recommended intake to keep your child healthy.