What should I be eating?
There is no great secret to eating well when you are breastfeeding. Just think of it as an additional motivation to follow the healthy diet you enjoyed during pregnancy:
- Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Starchy foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes to provide the extra energy that you'll need. If you find yourself very hungry, try to fill up on the starch foods rather than high fat /high sugar snacks which provide calories but little other nutrients.
- Protein in the form of lean meat, chicken, eggs and pulses. Fish at least twice a week including one portion of white fish and one portion of oily fish.
- Milk and milk products such as cheese and yoghurt are also useful sources of protein, providing good amounts of calcium too.
- Plenty of fibre: wholegrain starchy foods like those described above can provide good amounts of cereal fibre. Fruits, vegetables and pulses (peas, beans and lentils) can provide fibre too.
- Useful amounts of vegetable fibre. Both cereal and vegetable fibre can be helpful in overcoming constipation, which can be a particularly painful problem after childbirth.
What should I be drinking?
Everyone should be drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluid per day. Breastfeeding mums need to drink even more - around 10 to 12 glasses are recommended.
It is a good idea to have a drink by your side before you settle down to breastfeed. Water, milk or unsweetened fruit juice are all good choices. Drinking lots of fluid will also help the fibre that you are eating to be effective against constipation.
Vitamin and iron supplements?
While you are breast feeding you should take a daily vitamin D supplement. 10 microgrammes is the recommended daily dose.
If you took iron supplements during your pregnancy, you should check with a health professional if you need to continue taking them while breastfeeding. If you include foods containing iron in your diet, such as lean meat and pulses, you may no longer need iron supplements.
Foods to avoid during breastfeeding
If your baby displays discomfort after you have eaten certain foods it may be worth monitoring your diet and cutting back on anything that seem to be linked to problems.
Some possible problem foods to watch out for include broccoli, cabbage, onions and brussels sprouts, which can cause wind in adults and may cause colic in breastfed babies.
Another example: Many mums believe that hot and spicy foods can upset their babies' stomachs. Others, however, find that they can eat spicy foods with no adverse effects.
Oily fish is an excellent source of the omega 3 fatty acids. However, you should limit the amount you eat to two portions of oily fish per week. These include fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout. Canned tuna isn't classified as an oily fish so it doesn't count as one of your portions of oily fish.
If you do have alcohol or caffeine try to have them only occasionally. Drinks containing caffeine can affect your baby and may keep it awake. Caffeine occurs naturally in some foods and drinks, including, coffee, tea and chocolate. It is also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks and to some cold and flu remedies, so always check the label.
What about dieting during breastfeeding?
The good news is that the extra fat laid down in pregnancy will be used to make breast milk, so breastfeeding will help you get back into shape more quickly.
It is not advisable to actively diet while breastfeeding as you need more calories than normal to maintain your energy levels and produce sufficient breast milk. However, when you are breastfeeding, it is possible to lose weight simply by eating a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining a moderate exercise routine while cutting out refined sugar and any alcohol that you are consuming.