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Pregnancy and Infants

Nutrition When Breastfeeding

Simone Austin
Written by Simone Austin | Swisse Accredited Practising Dietitian
Mother hugging baby child

Did you know breastfeeding mothers need more energy (kilojoules) than they do during pregnancy? In fact, the weight gained during pregnancy is partly for fuelling times of breastfeeding.(1) When we think about it creating milk is a demand on the body, so it’s very important to nourish yourself when breastfeeding and concentrate on meeting adequate dietary nutritional needs (2) which are increased at this time, including vitamins and minerals.

Energy – every new mother’s wish!

Due to the physical demands of breastfeeding, as well as the demands of caring for a baby, it can also be a time of fatigue, so fuelling yourself is crucial. The lack of sleep can have you craving sweets for a quick pick-me-up, try choosing foods that will satisfy this whilst also boosting your nutrient intake. Fresh fruit instead of fruit juice (juice has lots of sugar without the fibre of fresh fruit), fresh or dried fruit and natural yoghurt, fruit toast with ricotta cheese and fresh banana. Reach for a few squares of dark chocolate and some nuts over a bag of lollies. Savoury foods such as cheese and biscuits, which also add to your calcium intake, or some cut up carrots, cucumber and capsicum with a hummus dip could work well too.

At meal times to help with sustained energy, turn to long lasting, lower-glycemic index (3) carbohydrate varieties such as wholegrain bread and cereals, and legumes and lentils (for example, in soups or in salads).

Drink up - stay hydrated

Although you have a million other things to think about, keep your fluid intake up, as a lack of fluid can make us feel tired. It’s easy to forget about drinking when we’re busy, so keep a water bottle on hand, particularly while breastfeeding, grab a glass of milk for a quick snack, enjoy a cup of herbal tea when you have a chance to sit and relax, and leave the sugary drinks behind.

During pregnancy and lactation, it is important to have enough calcium from the diet. Dairy foods will help provide the most, well absorbed calcium, however you can also reach for plant sources of calcium such as soy, fortified soy drinks, green leafy vegetables, almonds and broccoli. Try having a glass of milk by your side while feeding.

Yoghurt for gut health

Key nutrients for you and bub

Zinc (meat and tofu), iodine (seafood), vitamins A (carrots, dark leafy greens) and B12 (meat and dairy) are necessary during breastfeeding, as these particular nutrients (4) are important for your baby, so try eating foods rich in these vitamins and minerals.

Dietary restrictions?

Dietetic counselling is generally needed for breastfeeding mothers with any dietary restrictions, to prevent nutrient deficiencies that may impact their infants and themselves. Also, mothers following a vegan diet need to be aware that because of their usually high fibre diets, there may be a reduced appetite that can limit the amount of food eaten, and energy intakes may not be met. An Accredited Practising Dietitian or other healthcare professional can provide you with more information to determine what the best option is for you and your baby.

It’s recommended to exclusively breastfeed your infant for the first six (5) months and this can be hard work. Reach out for help if you need it. Remember to speak to a healthcare professional for more advice during breastfeeding.

References

(1) https://www.nrv.gov.au/dietary-energy

(2) https://daa.asn.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/pregnancy/nutrition-for-pregnancy/

(3) https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/carbohydrates-and-the-glycaemic-index

(4) https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/common-concerns%E2%80%93mum/diet

(5) https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/up-to-what-age-can-a-baby-stay-well-nourished-by-just-being-breastfed