Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for babies and provides many health benefits for you and your baby. Breast milk is tailored specifically to your baby’s individual needs and provides all the nutrients they need in the first 6 months of life. As your baby grows, your milk will change and adapt to meet their nutritional needs making sure they are getting the best possible start in life.
Breast milk is packed full of nutrients and antibodies that are essential to help build a baby’s immune system. Babies who are breastfed have a reduced chance of many common illnesses, now and in the future. For example, breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome, gastroenteritis and respiratory infections. It also reduces the possibility of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in your baby’s future.
Not only does breastfeeding benefit baby, it also provides many health benefits to mum. The longer mums breastfeed, the greater their protection against breast and ovarian cancer, as well as reduced likelihood of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis in later life.
There is no ‘special’ diet that you need to follow while breastfeeding, but remember your baby is getting all their nutrients, vitamins and minerals from you, so you should try and maintain a healthy balanced diet.
A healthy diet is balanced across all food groups so you should aim to include:
In addition to a healthy balanced diet, it is recommended that breastfeeding mothers take a 10 mcg supplement of vitamin D each day as well as restricting their caffeine and alcohol intake.2
While breastfeeding you should limit your caffeine intake to 300 mg, or less, a day – that’s about three mugs of instant coffee!
While the occasional drink is fine when you’re breastfeeding, alcohol intake should be restricted to one or two units, no more than twice a week – one small glass of wine (125 ml), or a single spirit measure (25 ml) is approximately one unit.
It can take time for both you and your baby to get used to breastfeeding. It may feel a bit awkward at first but don’t worry. Breastfeeding is a skill you and your baby learn together, it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. There are lots of different positions for breastfeeding but it’s important to remember the following when starting a feed:
For advice and guidance on different breastfeeding positions visit the NHS breastfeeding support site or ask your health visitor or midwife for advice.
Here are some top tips to remember when breastfeeding:
Many organisations provide tailored support to breastfeeding mums. See our Good to know page for a list of contact details for a range of services. If you have any concerns about feeding your baby or your baby’s health, please contact your health visitor or GP.
Date of preparation: September 2016
Date of preparation: May 2016