Whilst you don't need to eat anything special while you're breastfeeding, it's still a good idea to try and eat a balanced diet and carry over some of the healthy habits you might have picked up throughout your pregnancy.
- Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Don't forget that dried fruit, frozen vegetables and unsweetened juices all count towards this too.
- Include starchy foods in your diet, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and potatoes.
- Get plenty of fibre from cereals, brown pasta and fruit and veg.
- Try to include protein from chicken, fish and eggs. Two portions of fish a week is recommended.
- Get calcium and protein from dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt.
You pass on lots of fluid to your baby during breastfeeding so drink plenty of water. Try to avoid drinking too much caffeine as these can affect your baby and keep them awake. Rather than regular tea, coffee. fizzy or energy drinks try herbal teas, juice or mineral water.
Occasionally drinking alcohol, such as 1-2 units once or twice a week, is not harmful to your baby while you're breastfeeding. However, drinking any more than this can cause problems, such as affecting the mother's 'let down' reflex (release of milk to the nipple area) and small amounts of alcohol pass into breast milk, making it smell different, which may affect your baby's feeding, sleeping or digestion.
One unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to half a pint of normal strength beer or a 25ml (pub) measure of spirit. A small (125ml) glass of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol. Alcohol clears from the mother's blood at a rate of about one unit every two hours. Therefore, if you do decide to have a drink, it's a good idea to wait for a couple of hours before breastfeeding. As it can be difficult to predict when your baby may want to feed, you may want to plan ahead and express milk beforehand for special occasions where you may want to have a drink.
Smoking during breastfeeding exposes your baby to nicotine through your milk. If you haven't smoked throughout your pregnancy, try not to start up again once your baby is born. If you're struggling with cravings you can use nicotine replacement therapy whilst breastfeeding. Your GP can give you information and advice in regards to this.
For more information on pregnancy health and advice go to www.nhs.uk/Start4Life