What to Eat While Breastfeeding or Lactating

Mother breastfeeding or chestfeeding baby and smiling

Taking good care of yourself while breastfeeding or lactating is very important to feel your best. Here are some nutritious choices you can make. 

Food Choices While Breastfeeding or Lactating

You need a little more food each day to help you produce milk. Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods in Canada’s Food Guide to help you meet your needs and feel your best. Try not to diet or restrict foods while you are breastfeeding or lactating. Instead, focus on eating nutritious foods and a balanced diet.
It can be difficult to find the time to prepare nutritious meals when breastfeeding or lactating and caring for your baby. Try some of these quick and nutritious meal and snack ideas to help you meet your nutrient needs:

  • Hardboiled eggs with whole grain crackers and carrot sticks

  • Hummus with pepper slices and whole wheat roti

  • Plain Greek yogurt with pumpkin seeds and blueberries

  • Bowl of oatmeal made with milk or fortified plant-based beverage and unsweetened applesauce

  • Whole grain bread toasted with nut butter and banana

  • Rice ball with canned salmon or tuna and cucumber slices

Check out these dietitian approved recipes on Cookspiration for more ideas.
You also need more fluids when breastfeeding or lactating. Drink plenty of water to keep your body well hydrated. Keep a water bottle next to where you feed to make it convenient and help you remember. Milk and unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages are also good drink choices and will help you meet your calcium needs.
If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet while breastfeeding or lactating, make sure you are including plant-based sources of vitamin B12 or taking a multivitamin that includes B12.

Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding or Lactating

Since caffeine passes into human milk, it’s best to limit the amount of caffeine you have to no more than 300 mg a day (about 2 cups of coffee per day). That includes caffeine in coffee, tea, and soft drinks, as well as chocolate. Be aware that herbal teas may not be safe to use while breastfeeding or lactating. Learn more about safe caffeine intakes and herbal teas.
If you are worried that what you are eating is affecting your baby or have been advised to limit or avoid certain foods, a dietitian can help.

Be Active While Breastfeeding or Lactating

Being active has important benefits for both your body and mind. Try to get out for a walk with your baby as often as possible or put some music on and dance around the house with your baby. Get more tips here.

Rest Up While Breastfeeding or Lactating

Keep in mind that you will need even more rest because your body is working to make milk. Get the support of family and friends as much as possible to give yourself time to rest.

Other Wise Choices You Can Make While Breastfeeding or Lactating

  • Continue to take a multivitamin with 0.4 mg of folic acid everyday.

  • It is safest to avoid alcohol when breastfeeding. If you decide to drink alcohol once in a while breastfeeding or lactating, there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk to your baby. Learn more about alcohol and human milk here.

  • Ask about medications and supplements. Speak to your health care provider before taking prescription medications, supplements, over the counter drugs or other drugs like cannabis while breastfeeding or lactating.

Did you know that babies who are fed human milk need vitamin D every day? Starting from birth, give them a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU or 10µg per day.
At around six months, your baby is ready for solid foods. Read more about introducing solids here.

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can help you choose foods while breastfeeding or lactating to help you meet all your nutrient needs and feel your best. If you are worried that what you are eating is affecting your baby or have been advised to limit or avoid certain foods, a dietitian can help. Your dietitian will ensure you are still getting the important nutrients you need by making substitutions and by planning your meals. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom Line

When breastfeeding or lactating, eat a variety of nutritious foods and get plenty of fluids. Make sure to limit caffeine intake and avoid alcohol and smoking.

You may also be interested in:

Introducing Solid Food to Your Baby
Sample Meal Plans for Feeding Your Baby
Video: Human Milk and Other Drinks for Babies
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – February 19, 2023

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