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Breastfeeding and diet

You do not need to follow a special diet while you're breastfeeding. But it's a good idea for you, just like everyone else, to eat a healthy diet with a variety of foods every day.

A healthy diet includes:

  • at least 5 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 or smoothies
  • starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, rice or other starchy carbohydrates – choose higher fibre or wholegrain varieties where possible
  • plenty of fibre from wholemeal bread and pasta, breakfast cereals, brown rice, potatoes with the skin on, pulses such as beans and lentils, and fruit and vegetables – after having a baby, some women have bowel problems and constipation, and fibre can help with this
  • protein foods, such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs and lean meat
  • dairy or dairy alternatives, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, choosing lower-fat and lower-sugar products where possible – 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, lower fat milks, lower sugar or sugar-free drinks are all good choices

See more detailed advice about healthy eating.

For more information and advice about eating healthily while breastfeeding, you can also talk to your GP or health visitor, or contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.

Eating fish while breastfeeding

Eating fish is good for your and your baby's health.

Aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. Oily fish includes mackerel, sardines, trout and salmon. A portion is around 140g.

All girls and women, including breastfeeding women, should eat no more than 2 portions of oily fish a week.

All adults should also eat no more than 1 portion a week of shark, swordfish or marlin.

Vitamins and breastfeeding

Everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months.

From late March to the end of September, the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight when they're outdoors. So you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months. But some people may need to take a vitamin D supplement all year round.

Find out more about vitamin D

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 if you're eligible for the Healthy Start scheme.

Find out more about getting vitamins on the Healthy Start website

You're entitled to free NHS prescriptions for 12 months after your baby is born. You'll 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:

  • fresh fruit with a handful of unsalted nuts
  • lower-fat, lower-sugar yoghurts or fromage frais
  • hummus with bread or vegetable sticks
  • fortified lower sugar breakfast cereals, muesli or other wholegrain cereals with lower fat milk
  • milky drinks or a 150ml glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice

Healthy Start vouchers

You can get Healthy Start vouchers if you're pregnant or have a young child under 4 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 cannot 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 0300 330 7010.

If you're already receiving Healthy Start vouchers, ask your midwife or health visitor where you can exchange the vouchers for vitamins.

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Caffeine can reach your baby through your breast milk. Caffeine is a stimulant, so if you have a lot, it may make your baby restless and 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.

There’s not enough information to say how much caffeine is too much, and babies respond to caffeine differently. But it’s a good idea to reduce how much caffeine you drink, especially when your baby is less than 6 months old.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you have no more than 200mg a day. This may include 1 mug, 1 can or 1 bar of:

  • instant coffee (100mg)
  • filter coffee (140mg)
  • tea (including green tea, which can have the same amount of caffeine as regular tea) (75mg)
  • cola (40mg)
  • energy drink (a 250ml can is 80mg)
  • plain dark chocolate (a 50g bar is less than 25mg)
  • plain milk chocolate (a 50g bar is less than 10mg)

You could also try herbal teas, 100% fruit juice (but no more than one 150ml glass per day) or mineral water.

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're allergic to them).

If you have any questions or concerns about food allergies, you can talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor.

Read more about food allergies.

Got a breastfeeding question?

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Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025