Breastfeeding and Nutrition

After delivery, all mothers need continued nutrition so that they can be healthy and active and able to care of their baby. Nutrient needs of the mother during breastfeeding include increased need for energy, vitamins and minerals, and water.

During the first months of your baby’s life you should eat good food and get plenty of sleep over and above anything else.  Be patient with your body, and aim to put back what your baby has taken out.

Nutrition for Breastfeeding Moms

To ensure the production of an ample, healthy milk supply, breastfeeding mothers –

  • Need an extra 500 calories a day (unless overweight to start with).  When feeding twins an extra 600-1000 calories per day should be added to your diet. Total caloric intake when lactating is 2300-2500 calories for singleton and 2600-3000 calories for twins depending on her size and activity level.
  • Should drink more (non-caffeinated) fluids and
  • Take extra calcium.  The normal recommended daily intake of calcium is 700 – 800 mg, but this rises to 1,250 mg while breastfeeding-equivalent to two pints of skimmed milk or four 200 g yoghurts, for example.
  • Make sure that your diet fulfils the recommended intake of  iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin E and folic acid. Zinc is in meats, eggs and whole grains. Magnesium is in whole grains, beans and nuts. Vitamin E is in wheat germ, nuts, many oils and whole grains. Meat, eggs, whole-grain breads, cereals and wheat germ are also iron-rich.
  • Eat five or six small meals, little more than snacks, per day, rather than three larger ones.
  • For the duration of breastfeeding, avoid or minimize your intake of tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Any over-the-counter or prescription medicines should be cleared with your baby’s healthcare provider first, before use.

Ideally, your nutrients should come from food, but unless you can be sure that your diet is nutritionally complete it is better to take a supplement than go without.  Remember to eat a good quality, balanced diet.

Most lactation experts recommend that breastfeeding mothers should eat when they are hungry. But many mothers may be so tired or busy that food gets forgotten. Plan simple and healthy meals that include choices from all of the recommended groups from the food pyramid.

If you have a meat – free diet, ensure that you get enough calories, protein, vitamins and minerals, such as iron and calcium, each day.  This means being particularly aware of your food choices and the importance of eating a variety of plant food proteins during the course of the day. 

Your milk supply

While you breastfeed you should not put on weight, but if you lose weight rapidly you may not be eating enough.  The more often you breastfeed your baby and the more vigorously she feeds, the more milk you are likely to have.  Being worn out or upset can affect how much milk you produce for your baby, and be aware that running around may impair your ability to breastfeed successfully.  Avoid vigorous exercise since it can affect the quality and quantity of your milk, and if you have an option on being busy, don’t be.

Have a drink every time you breastfeed in addition to what you normally drink.  Water is best, although fruit teas, juices, thin soup or stock, or skimmed milk are suitable.  Avoid or skimmed milk are suitable.  Avoid or limit caffeine as too much will upset a baby.  If your urine becomes very dark, you should increase your fluid intake.

Foods to avoid

If you or your family have no food allergies, then most foods that you eat won’t cause your baby problems.  If there is an allergy in the family, some foods might adversely affect your  baby, causing colic, eczema, or wheezing.  Cow’s milk is common offender, as are citrus fruits, tomatoes, eggs, wheat, and peanuts.  It take an estimated four to six hours from the time you eat food for it to affect your milk.  You can establish any relationship between certain foods that you have eaten and a reaction in your baby by keeping a written record for a few weeks or so.

Breastfeeding and  Exercising

  • Avoid vigorous exercise until at least six weeks after the birth of your baby and until you are confident of a consistent milk supply.
  • Before exercising, empty your breasts of milk since vigorous arm movements may set off the milk flow
  • Avoid gym work in the first two months after childbirth since the risk of joint injury is high when performing resistance work
  • Swimming is beneficial: the joints, breasts and pelvic floor are all supported by the buoyancy of the water
  • Avoid the leg action in the breaststroke: it can stress the joint at the front of the pelvis, which is vulnerable during the postnatal period
  • If you join an aqua aerobics class, keep your chest underwater as the breasts pull heavily when you move

Drugs That Are Not Safe While Nursing

Some drugs can be taken by a nursing mother if she stops breast-feeding for a few days or weeks. She can pump her milk and discard it during this time to keep up her supply, while the baby drinks previously frozen milk or formula.

Radioactive drugs used for some diagnostic tests like Gallium-69, Iodine-125, Iodine-131, or Technetium-99m can be taken if the woman stops nursing temporarily.
Drugs that should never be taken while breast-feeding include:

Bromocriptine (Parlodel): A drug for Parkinson’s disease, it also decreases a woman’s milk supply.

Most Chemotherapy Drugs for Cancer: Since they kill cells in the mother’s body, they may harm the baby as well.

Ergotamine (for migraine headaches): Causes vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions in infants.

Lithium (for manic-depressive illness): Excreted in human milk.

Methotrexate (for arthritis): Can suppress the baby’s immune system.

Drugs of Abuse: Some drugs, such as cocaine and PCP, can intoxicate the baby. Others, such as amphetamines, heroin and marijuana, can cause a variety of symptoms, including irritability, poor sleeping patterns, tremors, and vomiting. Babies become addicted to these drugs.

Tobacco Smoke: Nursing mothers should avoid smoking. Nicotine can cause vomiting, diarrhea and restlessness for the baby, as well as decreased milk production for the mother. Maternal smoking or passive smoke may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and may increase respiratory and ear infections.

Giving up breastfeeding

If you are returning to work, or want to give up breastfeeding, try to feed your baby for at least the first 12 – 16 weeks so that she can benefit from the protective qualities of the milk.  We know that this is the ultimate food to nourish our babies, but breastfeeding is impossible for some and difficult or impractical for others.  I don’t know any woman who feels nonchalant if breastfeeding is proving problematic.  I breastfeed my first baby for a year, but my second baby was ravenous before I had to accept that he, and I, just couldn’t do it.  In these situations we must thank our lucky stars for formula milk and start to see the funny side of  life again.

Dietary Intake for Lactating Woman

Lactation Lactation 
(0 – 6 months)  ( 6 – 12 months)
Net Calories   + 550 C 400 C
Protein   + 25 g/d + 18 g/d
Fat  45 g/d 45 g/d
Calcium 1000 mg/d 1000 mg/d
Iron 30 mg/d 30 mg/d
Vitamin A(Retinol) 950 IU 950 IU
Vitamin A(Beta-carotene) 3800 IU 3800 IU
Vitamin B1 + 0.3 mg/d + 0.2 mg/d
Vitamin B2 + 03 mg/d + 0.2 mg/d
Vitamin B5 10.0mg 10.0mg
Vitamin B6 2.5 mg/d 2.5 mg/d
Vitamin C 80 mg/d 80 mg/d
Folic acid 150 mg/d 150 mg/d
Vitamin B12 1.5 mg/d 1.5 mg/d
Vitamin D 10 mg 100 mg
Vitamin E 15 I.U. 15 I.U.
Magnesium 350 mg 350 mg
Manganese 1.0mg 1.0mg
Copper 1.0mg 1.0mg
Phosphorus 125.0mg 125.0mg
Zinc 7.5mg 7.5mg
Choline 550 mg 550 mg

If you have been abusing drugs for too long that pregnancy does not stop you from using, perhaps it’s time you consider finding long term drug abuse recovery programs that will help you solve this problem.


The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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