breastfeeding diet foods to avoid

Breastfeeding Diet: Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding offers numerous health benefits for both you and your baby. It may reduce the risk of future health conditions like heart disease and diabetes while alleviating stress and fostering a stronger connection with your infant. Breast milk, often dubbed “liquid gold,” is rich in essential nutrients and protective compounds crucial for your baby’s development.

Breast-feeding nutrition can be confusing. Questions about how much to eat, what to avoid, and the impact of your diet on your baby’s health arise. The good news is, successful breastfeeding doesn’t require major dietary changes. Once your baby masters latching on, your milk naturally provides the best nutrition. However, as your baby’s primary source of nourishment ⁰0is your breast milk, maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated is important. Follow these essential nutrition tips for a healthy breastfeeding.

Do I Need Extra Calories While Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding mothers typically need more calories to meet their nutritional requirements. A recommended additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day is advised for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers compared to their pre-pregnancy calorie intake. However, individual calorie needs vary based on factors like age, body mass index, activity level, and extent of breastfeeding.

What Foods Should I Include in my Breastfeeding Diet?

Prioritize healthy choices to support milk production. Go for protein-rich foods like lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, and low-mercury seafood. Incorporate various whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into your meals. Wash fruits and vegetables to reduce pesticide residue exposure.

Diversify your food selection to alter the flavor of your breast milk, introducing your baby to different tastes that may ease the transition to solid foods later on.

Multivitamins while Breastfeeding

Continuing with prenatal vitamins postpartum may exceed iron and folic acid needs for breastfeeding mothers. However, some individuals, especially vegetarians and vegans, might face nutritional deficiencies. The dietary needs for certain nutrients, like iodine and choline, increase during lactation. Consult your healthcare provider to determine if dietary supplements are necessary during breastfeeding.

Nutrients to Increase

Lactating mothers should focus on increased intake of iodine and choline. The recommended daily intake is 290 mcg of iodine and 550mg of choline throughout the first year postpartum. These nutrients can be sourced from foods like dairy products, eggs, seafood, beans, peas, lentils, and iodized table salt. Discuss the need for iodine and choline supplements with your healthcare provider to ensure adequate intake.

How much fluid to take while breastfeeding?

Maintaining proper fluid intake is essential while breastfeeding. Drink regularly, ideally before feeling thirsty, and pay attention to the color of your urine. If it appears dark yellow, it’s a sign to increase your fluid intake. Keep a glass of water within reach during breastfeeding sessions. Be cautious with juices and sugary drinks, as excessive sugar can contribute to post-pregnancy weight gain.

Diet and Your Baby’s Discomfort or an Allergic Reaction

Your baby may occasionally display sensitivity to your breast milk. This could result from something you ate that day or indicate a potential food intolerance. Symptoms may include post-feeding irritability, congestion, or cold-like symptoms, although these aren’t always dietary-related. Other signs encompass rashes, hives, itchy skin, digestive issues (constipation or diarrhea), abdominal discomfort, swelling of the lips or eyes, and colic . If you suspect specific foods are unsettling your baby, especially if allergies run in your family, consult your pediatrician.

It’s helpful to recognize common food triggers to monitor your diet and your baby’s reactions. Common culprits include garlic, spicy foods, cow’s milk, orange juice, soy products, wheat, corn, eggs, peanuts, tomatoes, and shellfish. If you identify a potential trigger, eliminate it from your diet for a few days to assess its impact. Keep in mind that certain substances, like cow’s milk, can persist in your body for up to two weeks. Always consult your doctor before making significant dietary changes to ensure a balanced diet.

Foods to Avoid while Breastfeeding

It’s important to remember that everything you consume passes through your breast milk to your baby in small quantities. For this reason, experts recommend being cautious about certain foods, drinks, and substances during breastfeeding.

Fish Intake: While fish is a valuable protein source with essential nutrients, it may contain mercury that can transfer to infants through breast milk, potentially harming their brain and nervous system. Limit your fish intake to two or three servings (8 to 12 ounces) a week to minimize mercury exposure.

Alcohol: While the best and safest option is to avoid alcohol, occasional consumption (1–2 units now and then) is unlikely to harm your baby. If you plan to drink on social occasions, consider expressing milk beforehand to ensure your baby is unaffected and delay breast feeding for at least two hours after taking alcohol.

Nicotine: Smoking near or around your baby is discouraged, as exposure to secondhand smoke can harm your baby’s long-term health and increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If you smoke and breastfeed, nicotine may reduce your milk production, potentially impacting your baby’s weight gain.

Medications: All medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, oral contraceptives, or dietary supplements, can pass through your breast milk in small amounts. While some may not affect your baby, it’s advisable to consult your doctor before taking any medication, including herbal supplements.

Caffeine: Caffeine is present in coffee, chocolate, tea, certain soft drinks, energy drinks, and some cold and flu remedies. Limited caffeine intake (about 300 milligrams or less per day, equivalent to 2 to 3 cups of coffee) is unlikely to affect infants negatively. Higher caffeine consumption may lead to infant irritability and sleep disturbances. Preterm and newborn infants metabolize caffeine slowly, so consider reducing caffeine if your infant appears fussy after your intake.

Vegan or Vegetarian Diets: Breastfed infants of mothers following vegan or vegetarian diets may have limited vitamin B12 levels, putting them at risk of deficiency. Vitamin B12 supplementation is recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding for these mothers. Additionally, iron intake may be a concern, and healthcare providers should evaluate the need for iron, choline, zinc, iodine, and omega-3 fats (EPA/DHA) supplements.

Eating Peanuts while Breastfeeding

You can include peanuts or peanut-containing foods like peanut butter in your balanced diet while breastfeeding, provided you are not allergic to them. There is no conclusive evidence suggesting that peanut consumption during breastfeeding impacts your baby’s risk of developing a peanut allergy.


Breastfeeding demands extra effort from your body, requiring additional calories and nutrients to ensure both you and your baby stay nourished and healthy. Insufficient calorie intake or a lack of nutrient-rich foods can negatively affect the quality of your breast milk and your personal well-being. Consume a diverse range of healthy and nutritious foods while minimizing processed food intake. Adhere to recommended caffeine and alcohol limits to support your baby’s health.


Dr Sara Rauf

Consultant Paediatrician and Certified Aesthetic Physician, MBBS, MRCPCH (UK), Level 7 Diploma in Aesthetics Injectables (UK)

Dr Sara is an experienced Paediatrician and is a member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health UK. She also has special interest in Medical Aesthetics and has Level 7 training in Aesthetics Injectables from London, UK. She has a vast experience of both non-invasive and invasive medical aesthetic procedures and is an expert in managing Aesthetic emergencies.