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What to eat and avoid when breastfeeding

By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

As soon as you have your baby most of the pregnancy diet restrictions are lifted. Bring on the blue cheese, home-made mayonnaise and liver pate!

In truth you can eat most things when breastfeeding. Even better news milk production burns around 500 extra calories a day, so you’re doing the equivalent of a 5k run while you’re sitting on the sofa.

Keep it healthy

Before you rush for that family size bag of crisps it’s a good idea for you to pick healthy choices when you’re breastfeeding.

The NHS advises eating your 5-a-day of fruit and veg. Starchy foods like wholemeal bread, protein such as lean meat, and pulses and dairy food like milk, cheese and yoghurt.

It’s also good to eat plenty of fibre as after childbirth some women have problems going to the loo.

Annabel Karmel is a leading expert, and best-selling author, on mother and baby nutrition.

"Breastfeeding is very demanding on your energy levels. Therefore your diet is just as important when you’re breastfeeding as it was when you were pregnant because you are the primary source of nourishment for your baby."

She says a good diet will also help you to cope with the demands of a new baby. "Keeping up a good milk supply is not only dependent on you eating and drinking well, you also need to look after yourself and take some rest, especially if your baby is keeping you up at night."

It’s good to drink plenty of liquids. Have a drink beside you when you settle down to breastfeed. Water, milk and unsweetened fruit juices are all good choices.

Restrict or keep off alcohol

If you’ve been off alcohol for nine months it can be tempting to reach for the wine or pour yourself a nice gin and tonic, but don’t go over the top.

Alcohol does pass through to breastfed babies in small amounts so it’s sensible to drink very little. The NHS advises one or two units once or twice a week is not harmful to a baby whilst breastfeeding. Some breastfeeding women avoid alcohol all together to be on the safe side.

Breast milk can smell different if you’ve had a drink, which may affect your baby’s sleeping or feeding.

Hollie Smith, author of First Time Mum: Enjoying Your Baby’s First Year says: "As alcohol does pass through into your milk and although the tempting possibility is that this might actually improve your baby’s sleep, the fact is it’s more likely to have the opposite effect and make him unsettled."

She says it may also inhibit your let-down reflex and make your milk taste strange.

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