The diet of a breastfeeding mother

The diet of a breastfeeding mother

To ensure an optimal lactation performance, a smooth recovery after delivery and the well-being of both the mother and the infant, a well-balanced diet is recommended for the breastfeeding mother, as well as a good level of physical activity.(1)

A well-balanced diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, calcium-rich dairy products, and protein-rich foods such as meats, fish, and legumes.(3)

An additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day is recommended for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers, compared with the amount they were consuming before pregnancy.(1)

As for nutrients, the WHO recommends a daily intake of 250 mg of iodine for lactating mothers. Iodine can be found in dairy products, eggs, seafood, or in iodized table salt. In countries where salt iodization programs are standard, supplementation may not be necessary.(2)
Choline can be found in dairy and protein food groups, such as eggs, meats, some seafood, beans, peas, and lentils.(6)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is incorporated into the phospholipid membranes of the retina and brain during the third trimester of pregnancy and the first two years of life and is important for neurological, cognitive, and visual development in infants. An infant’s nervous system grows and develops rapidly post-partum and DHA is considered a necessary structural component for such development. Supplementation of the maternal diet with 300 mg of DHA during lactation ensures, that the infant receives levels of DHA optimal for development, and also protects maternal body stores from becoming depleted.(1)

Two components should be restricted in the breastfeeding mother’s diet: avoid eating or restrict the consumption of fish that contain a lot of mercury (like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish) because mercury can pass from mother to infant through breast milk and be harmful to the brain and the nervous system over time; and avoid consuming large quantities of caffeine (about 10 cups of coffee or more per day) because it can cause irritability, poor sleeping patterns, fussiness, and jitteriness.(1)
Peppermint, Parsley, and Sage can have a negative effect on the milk supply; they must be consumed with a lot of moderation.(5)
Smoking (all kind) is strictly forbidden during lactation; alcohol should be avoided, but if any consumption, wait 3 hours before breastfeeding again.(1)

A special concern for lactating mothers who eat vegan or vegetarian diets: they should be supplemented in vitamin B12 and should consult their health care providers to determine if they also need supplementation of iron and zinc.(4)

Dr Julien Lteif

2. WHO (2016). Iodine Supplementation in Pregnant and Lactating Women. eLibrary for Evidence of Nutrition Actions.
3. WHO (2009). Infant and young child feeding: model chapter for textbooks for medical students and allied health professionals.

Aptamil is not the author of this article, as it has been written by Dr Julien Lteif who is the owner of the content.