A healthy diet is especially important if you choose to breastfeed. Don’t try and lose weight. Breastfeeding is demanding and trying to diet will make you feel even more tired. Breastfeeding uses up the fat stored during pregnancy so will help you lose weight and get your shape back naturally. However, you will still need more calories to meet the demands of breastfeeding and your appetite may increase as well. The Department of
Health advises you to have an extra 450 calories a day during the first month, an extra 530 during the second month and an extra 570 calories in the third month to meet the needs of your baby. Base your diet on the healthy eating guidelines (outlined above) and eat when you feel you need to, having smaller meals and snacks throughout the day rather than one large meal in the evening.
You are likely to feel very thirsty while you are breastfeeding, particularly during the feed itself. Try to drink water rather than tea or coffee.
You can now eat the foods you were advised to avoid during your pregnancy (e.g. cheeses and pate) because your baby is no longer in direct contact with your blood supply. However, whatever you eat and drink passes into your breast milk. Be aware that some foods and drinks may upset your baby and learn to avoid these if you can.
It is a good idea not to drink too much alcohol and try not to drink before a feed. The current recommendation is no more than eight units a week and no more than two units in a day. (A unit = half pint of beer, lager or cider; one glass of wine).
Caffeine may also make your baby irritable so keep intakes of tea, coffee and cola low.
Try not to smoke as nicotine will pass into your baby’s bloodstream.
If you, your baby’s father or any previous children have a history of hayfever, asthma, eczema or any other allergies, avoid eating peanuts and foods containing peanut products.
It is important to check with your GP or pharmacist that any over-the-counter or prescribed medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding.