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Nutrition and breastfeeding: 5 things to know

Diet is an important issue to monitor during pregnancy, with restrictions to avoid certain diseases (toxoplasmosis and listeriosis); it is therefore normal to wonder what you can eat when you are breastfeeding. Do you have to change your diet while breastfeeding? Are there any foods to avoid? Discover 5 things you should know about food and breastfeeding.

1. What to eat when breastfeeding?

Contrary to what one might think, breastfeeding does not impose a particular diet. The main thing is to have a healthy, varied and balanced diet: the diet recommended for any person. It is therefore no more complicated than before your pregnancy (or even simpler since the forbidden foods are no longer forbidden). 


A healthy diet requires foods that are as unprocessed as possible and that are closer to their natural state. Indeed, fresh products bring more vitamins and avoid potential additives or preservatives that could be added.


Concerning milk production, normally, the mother does not need to consume any particular food to increase it. It is only the baby's sucking and breastfeeding on demand that will help her produce the quantity of milk needed for your child. However, if you feel that you are not producing enough milk or that you are producing too much milk, we recommend that you meet with an IBCLC lactation consultant or a breastfeeding expert. She will be able to give you appropriate advice and may suggest taking homeopathy, or drinking specific herbal teas to boost or slow down lactation. 


In fact, in case of a drop in lactation or during a rise in milk production, so-called "galactogenic" foods can stimulate lactation, particularly breastfeeding teas (often based on fennel, aniseed or fenugreek, but remember that fenugreek is not recommended during pregnancy). Before consuming galactogenic foods, it is essential to drain the breasts and increase the frequency of feedings, which are often the solutions to increase lactation.

2. Should you eat and drink more when breastfeeding?

A breastfeeding woman needs extra calories to produce breast milk, which can vary from 300 to 1000 extra calories daily. This number of calories will depend on your morphology, your activity etc. 

As nature intended, during pregnancy you stored a certain number of calories that you will use during breastfeeding. But you will also need to bring some with your diet.

However, before anything else, it is important to listen to your body and eat to your hunger. Don't hesitate to add healthy snacks to your 3 daily meals if you feel the need.


As for water, it is important to stay hydrated if you are breastfeeding because some of the water you drink goes directly into the milk (about 30%). You can recognize dehydration if you have dark urine and a small amount of water, headaches or a loss of strength.

3. Are there any forbidden foods when breastfeeding?

For all those who were frustrated at not being able to eat sushi, foie gras or unpasteurized cheese during their pregnancy, we reassure you that you will not be as limited during breastfeeding, if at all. However, it is important to pay attention to what you eat to adopt a balanced diet.

Be careful with your fish consumption and limit fatty fish: white tuna, fresh or frozen tuna, swordfish, shark, carp... Indeed, the bigger they are, the more the fish can be contaminated by mercury which could be harmful for your baby.


Also limit tea, coffee or cola because caffeine passes into breast milk. Drinking these beverages is not prohibited, but do not exceed two to three cups per day.

Energy drinks are not recommended as they may contain substances that are harmful to your child.


Except for these foods or drinks, you are free to eat whatever you like. Did you know that the flavor of your milk changes depending on what you eat? This way, you can introduce your child to the flavors you like.

4. Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

Although it is not recommended to drink alcohol while breastfeeding, it is not prohibited if it is done in a sensible and occasional way. It is important to be careful when drinking alcohol and not to breastfeed immediately after drinking. Indeed, alcohol passes into the milk and it takes about 2 or 3 hours for the alcohol contained in a glass of wine to be eliminated from the breast milk. We have written a complete article on alcohol and breastfeeding. You can find it here.

5. Should I take vitamins when breastfeeding?

It is important for a breastfeeding woman to have adequate vitamin D levels as it plays a major role in the baby's growth, bones and immune system. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough, consult a professional and have your blood tested. If so, your practitioner will prescribe vitamin D supplements.

If you eat a varied diet you should not be short of it. Vitamin D is naturally present in the following foods: oily fish, eggs, cheese, butter, meat, and for people who do not eat meat, it is also found in mushrooms, vegetable fats and dark chocolate. 


For vegetarian or vegan mothers, it is also necessary to check that you have enough vitamin B12, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids or vitamin D. But rest assured, this does not prevent you from breastfeeding at all, you will just have to take supplements on the advice of a professional or adapt your diet.

6. Bonus: quick and easy recipe idea to boost your lactation

For breakfast, choose cottage cheese mixed with fruit, cereal and dried fruit. Almonds or cashews are known to stimulate lactation. Make yourself a little homemade tea with fennel, cumin and star anise for a little milk boost!

Dates are also recommended for nursing mothers. We have a simple recipe for a raw date brownie (gluten-free, lactose-free, egg-free and no sugar added) to enjoy for breakfast or as a snack. (recipe credit : ptitchef.com)

Nutrition and breastfeeding: 5 things to know
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