You don't need to eat anything special while you're breastfeeding. But it's a good idea for you, just like everyone else, to eat a healthy diet.
A healthy diet includes:
- at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day, including fresh, frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetables, and no more than one 150ml glass of 100% unsweetened juice
- starchy foods, such as wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
- plenty of fibre from wholemeal bread and pasta, breakfast cereals, rice, pulses such as beans and lentils, and fruit and vegetables – after birth, some women have bowel problems and constipation, and fibre helps with both of these
- protein, such as lean meat and chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, soya foods and pulses – at least two portions of fish a week is recommended, including some oily fish
- dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt – these contain calcium and are a source of protein
- drinking plenty of fluids – have a drink beside you when you settle down to breastfeed: water and skimmed or semi-skimmed milk are all good choices
See more detailed advice about healthy eating.
Small amounts of what you're eating and drinking can pass to your baby through your breast milk. If you think a food you're eating is affecting your baby and they're unsettled, talk to your GP or health visitor, or contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.
Vitamins and breastfeeding
Everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D.
From late March/April to the end of September, the majority of people aged five years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors. So you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months
You can get all the other vitamins and minerals you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
Ask your GP or health visitor where to get vitamin D supplements. You may be able to get free vitamin supplements without a prescription if you're eligible for Healthy Start.
You're entitled to free NHS prescriptions for 12 months after your baby is born. You will need to show a valid maternity exemption certificate to prove your entitlement.
If you did not apply for a maternity exemption certificate while you were pregnant, you can still apply at any time in the 12 months after your baby is born.
Healthy snack ideas for breastfeeding mums
The following snacks are quick and simple to make, and will give you energy and strength:
- fresh fruit
- sandwiches filled with salad, grated cheese, mashed salmon or cold meat
- yoghurts and fromage frais
- hummus with bread or vegetable sticks
- ready-to-eat dried apricots, figs or prunes
- vegetable and bean soups
- fortified unsweetened breakfast cereals, muesli and other wholegrain cereals with milk
- milky drinks or a 150ml glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice
- baked beans on toast or a baked potato
Healthy Start vouchers
You can get Healthy Start vouchers if you're pregnant or have a young child under four and are getting certain benefits or tax credits, or you're pregnant and under 18.
These can be spent on milk and fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, or they can be put towards formula milk if you're not breastfeeding.
You can't use vouchers to buy fruit and veg with added fat, sugar and salt or flavourings, such as oven chips and seasoned stir fries. You can also get Healthy Start vouchers for free vitamin supplements.
For more information or an application leaflet, visit the Healthy Start website, or call the helpline on 0845 607 6823.
If you're already receiving Healthy Start vouchers, ask your midwife or health visitor where you can exchange the vouchers for vitamins.
Eating fish while breastfeeding
Eating fish is good for your health and your baby's, but while you are breastfeeding you should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week. A portion is around 140g.
Oily fish includes fresh mackerel, sardines, trout and tuna, but not canned tuna, as the good fats are lost in the canning process.
All adults should also eat no more than one portion a week of shark, swordfish or marlin.
See more about eating fish while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Caffeine and breastfeeding
Caffeine can reach your baby through your breast milk and may keep them awake.
Caffeine occurs naturally in lots of foods and drinks, including coffee, tea and chocolate. It's also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks, as well as some cold and flu remedies.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can make your baby restless. It's a good idea for pregnant and breastfeeding women to restrict their caffeine intake to less than 300mg a day:
- one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
- one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
- one mug of tea: 75mg
- one can of energy drink: up to 80mg
- one 50g plain chocolate bar: up to 50mg
- one cola drink (354mls): 40mg
Try decaffeinated tea and coffee, herbal teas, 100% fruit juice (but no more than one 150ml glass per day) or mineral water. Avoid energy drinks, which can be very high in caffeine.
Peanuts and breastfeeding
If you'd like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts, such as peanut butter, while breastfeeding, you can do so as part of a healthy, balanced diet (unless, of course, you are allergic to them).
There's no clear evidence that eating peanuts while breastfeeding affects your baby's chances of developing a peanut allergy. If you have any questions or concerns, you can talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor.
See more about food allergies.