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.
Eating a healthy variety of food will:
- make sure you get all the nutrients you need
- pass on a variety of tastes to your baby through your breast milk
- stop you eating too much of any one food group
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 such as a sandwich on wholegrain bread or two pieces of fruit.
Exclusively breastfeeding means that your baby's diet is breast milk only with no other food or liquids.
It's important to stay well hydrated while breastfeeding. Don't force fluids but make sure to drink plenty of water whenever you feel thirsty.
Leave a water bottle beside your usual breastfeeding spot as a reminder to stay hydrated.
If you are finding it difficult to find the time to prepare food, ask a partner or family member to help. They can prepare handy bite-size snacks for you to eat while breastfeeding.
Other food and drink advice
Make sure that your food is properly cooked and stored correctly. This will help reduce the risk of food poisoning. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has more information on safe food storage.
The recommended limit for breastfeeding mothers is 6 cups of tea or 2 cups of coffee a day. For filtered coffee, you should only have one 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. This is best done slowly as suddenly cutting out caffeine may cause headaches.
Breastfeeding women should avoid eating shark, swordfish and marlin.
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 impact the human nervous system and the developing brain. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has more detail on the consumption of shark, swordfish, marlin and tuna.
Take care when eating scallops as 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 and try to reintroduce it at a later stage.
If your baby is reacting to something you have eaten, they'll usually show signs of this within 2 to 4 hours.
Most babies can handle problem foods when they get a little older. Try to re-introduce certain foods 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.