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Nutrition While Breast-Feeding

Topic Overview

If you are breast-feeding, you should eat 500 calories more each day than otherwise recommended for a person of your height and weight. You may need even more calories if you:

  • Are very active.
  • Begin to lose weight rapidly.
  • Are breast-feeding more than one infant.

Good nutrition for you and your baby

Eating a variety of foods can help you get all the nutrients you need. Your body needs protein, carbohydrate, and fats for energy. Good sources of nutrients are:

  • Unsaturated fats like olive and canola oil, nuts, and fish.
  • Carbohydrate from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and low-fat milk products.
  • Lean protein such as all types of fish, poultry without skin, low-fat milk products, and legumes.

Eating healthy foods when you are breast-feeding is good for your overall health and for the health of your baby. You may already have a healthy diet, or you may need to make some changes to eat healthier.

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It's also important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These not only give you necessary nutrients but also help you get fiber. Planning your meals can help you add healthy foods to your diet.

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It's also important to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet, such as:

Some health professionals recommend a prenatal vitamin supplement to breast-feeding women, especially for those who:

  • Don't eat dairy products but need extra calcium.
  • Don't eat animal products. These women may need calcium, vitamins B12 and D, zinc, and iron.
  • Are at risk of a poor diet, such as teenagers, low-income women, and women who are consuming less than 1,800 calories a day. These women may benefit from nutritional counseling and taking a vitamin and mineral supplement.

Talk to a nutritional counselor or registered dietitian or to your doctor about a safe and healthy diet. For more information, see the topic Healthy Eating.

How foods you eat affect breast milk and your baby

Most foods you eat probably won't affect your milk or cause colicky symptoms in your baby. But some infants develop a sensitivity to the protein in cow's milk. If this occurs, you may need to stop eating milk and dairy products.

If you drink a lot of caffeine, it can pass to your baby through breast milk. Caffeine can cause irritability and sleep problems in babies. Limiting your caffeine intake, such as having no more than 2 or 3 caffeinated beverages a day, will help. Caffeine is found not only in coffee but also in tea, cola, and chocolate.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised July 19, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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