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What to eat while breastfeeding

Unlike during pregnancy, breastfeeding mothers do not need a special diet. There is no need to exclude any particular foods from your diet.

What to eat

Follow the daily serving suggestions on the food pyramid to maintain a healthy diet.

food pyramid
Food pyramid - to enlarge this image, right-click and select 'open image in a new tab'


If you have a family history of food allergies, you may want to discuss this with a dietitian or your GP.

How much to eat

An exclusively breastfeeding mother needs to take an extra 300 to 500 calories per day on average.

Eat 1 to 2 extra snacks a day. For example, a sandwich on wholegrain bread or 2 pieces of fruit.

Exclusively breastfeeding means that your baby only feeds on breast milk and no other food or liquids.

Staying hydrated

It's important to stay well hydrated while breastfeeding. Drink plenty of water whenever you feel thirsty.

Leave a water bottle beside your usual breastfeeding spot as a reminder to stay hydrated.

Getting help to prepare food

If you're finding it difficult to find the time to prepare food, ask your partner or family member to help. They can prepare bite size snacks for you to eat while breastfeeding.

If you have been feeding late at night, having a healthy snack will restore your energy.

It is important to increase food intake when your activity levels increase after the first 3 to 4 weeks.

Other food and drink advice

Avoiding food poisoning

Make sure that your food is properly cooked and stored correctly. This will help reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Find out about safe food storage on the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) website


The recommended limit for breastfeeding mothers is 6 cups of tea or 2 cups of instant coffee a day. For filtered coffee, you should only have 1 cup a day.

Drinking more than this will not be harmful but may lead to a fussy baby who has difficulty settling. If you're having this problem, consider slowly switching to decaffeinated coffee or tea. Reduce caffeine gradually to avoid getting headaches.


Avoid drinking alcohol until breastfeeding is established. Later on, always feed your baby first before you have a drink. Breastfeeding while there is alcohol in your breast milk can affect your baby’s sleep. Drinking alcohol can also lead to reduced milk supply.

If your baby was born sick or premature, ask your GP, public health nurse (PHN) or midwife for advice about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.

Alcohol and breastfeeding


Avoid eating shark, swordfish and marlin if you are breastfeeding.

You should also limit your consumption of tuna to 1 fresh tuna steak or 2 medium cans (8 oz) of canned tuna per week.

This is due to mercury levels, which can affect the human nervous system and the developing brain.

Find out more about eating shark, swordfish, marlin and tuna on the FSAI website

You can eat most other low-mercury seafood while you are breastfeeding. But make sure to buy it from a supplier who follows food safety standards.

Take care when eating scallops. This type of shellfish can contain biotoxins.

Keep a food diary

Keeping a food diary may be helpful if you suspect something in your diet is causing a problem for your baby.

If you’re not sure about a particular food, start by introducing it in small amounts. If your baby has any problems such as extra gas or wind, cut out this food for now. You can try it again at a later stage.

If your baby is reacting to something you have eaten, they'll usually show signs within 2 to 4 hours.

Most babies can handle problem foods in your diet when they get a little older. Try to reintroduce certain foods into your diet every 2 to 3 months.


Speak with your public health nurse or GP if you suspect your baby is reacting to something in your diet.

Page last reviewed: 13 April 2022
Next review due: 13 April 2025