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:

  • At least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – having a variety and range of fruit and vegetables will help you to get all the essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Starchy foods such as wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and potatoes – breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day so it is important to keep your energy levels up!
  • High fibre sources such as whole grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables.
  • Protein, such as lean meat and chicken, fish, eggs, beans and pulses – try to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including oily fish to get your essential fatty acid, omega 3.
  • Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt.
  • Plenty of fluids.

For more detail about health eating, have a read of the NHS Eatwell Guide or download their Eatwell Plate.1

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

Caffeine2

While breastfeeding you should limit your caffeine intake to 300 mg, or less, a day – that’s about three mugs of instant coffee!

Alcohol3

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.

References:

  1. Source: Public Health England in association with the Welsh government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland
  2. NHS, 2016: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/breastfeeding-diet.aspx Accessed: September 2016
  3. NHS, 2016: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/breastfeeding-alcohol.aspx Accessed: September 2016

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:

  • Get comfortable – relax your shoulders and arms. Make sure you have everything you might need nearby so you don’t have to disturb your baby during the feed.
  • Staying hydrated is essential when you are breastfeeding. During a feed, have a glass of water with you to sip throughout.
  • Ensure your baby’s head and body are in a straight line to make swallowing easier.
  • Support their neck, shoulder and back – your baby should be able to tilt their head back and swallow easily, they shouldn’t have to reach out to feed.
  • Hold your baby close to you with their nose in line with your nipple, this will encourage them to attach well.
  • Wait until your baby opens their mouth wide with their tongue down - you can encourage them to do this by gently stroking their top lip. Once attached your nipple should go towards the roof of their mouth and their head will tilt back.

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:

  • Check your baby has latched properly to your breast – this will mean your breasts do not get sore and your baby is feeding properly.
  • Make sure you’re in a comfortable position before you start breastfeeding – this will help make the experience more enjoyable for both you and your baby.
  • When you are breastfeeding, make sure you eat a healthy diet. It is also recommended that you take a vitamin D supplement (10 mcg) every day,1 however please discuss with your health visitor or GP before starting any supplements.
  • Keep hydrated. It is important to stay hydrated when breastfeeding so make sure to drink plenty of fluids.

References:

  1. NHS, 2016: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/breastfeeding-diet.aspx Accessed 16th September 2016.

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.

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