When it comes to breastfeeding your baby, it's important to make sure you're getting a balanced diet - for both you and your little one. If you choose to breastfeed, this will be your baby's source of nutrients for the first few months of her life. In their first year, babies will triple their birth weight and increase their length by 50% - and all that growing is thirsty work!
What should I eat when I'm breastfeeding?
In order to ensure your baby is getting everything she needs, make sure your diet is filled with the following:
- Fruit and vegetables: Aim for at least five portions of fruit and veg per day, whether that's fresh, frozen or in the form of a smoothie.
- Carbohydrates: Did you know, breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day? You'll need extra energy, not only as you feed your baby, but during the physical and emotional adjustment you go through during those first few weeks with a newborn. Aim for starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.
- Fibre: Think wholegrain bread, beans and lentils and get plenty of them in your diet. After childbirth, a lot of new-mums struggle with constipation, and eating plenty of fibre is a way to help this.
- Dairy: Milk, cheese and yoghurt are all great sources of protein, so if you can, make sure you get plenty in your diet when you are breastfeeding.
Are there any foods I should avoid when breastfeeding?
It's important to listen to your baby when you're breastfeeding - they'll be some tastes she loves (a lot of babies will feed for longer when they taste garlic for example!) and others she won't like (a lot of mums find spicy food or citrus fruits unsettle their babies and make them harder to feed). That said, according to the NHS, the following foods should be avoided whilst you're breastfeeding.
- Alcohol: According to the NHS, the occasional drink when you're breastfeeding is ok, but you should avoid alcohol as much as you can. If you do drink whilst breastfeeding, the NHS recommends waiting a few hours before feeding your baby.
- Caffeine: Try and avoid more than two cups of coffee a day when breastfeeding as this can increase the caffeine levels in your milk and be passed on to your baby, which can keep them awake (which is probably the last thing you want!)
- Fish: Although fish is good for you and your baby when breastfeeding, you should have no more than two portions of oily fish per week. Fresh mackerel, sardines, trout and tuna all count as oily fish.
The top 20 dishes to eat when breastfeeding
These tasty meals will ensure you have lots of energy to breastfeed and they’re also packed with nutrient-boosting ingredients you can pass on to your baby and help your breast milk production.
Grilled Prawns With Fennel Slaw
While shellfish is often off the menu during pregnancy, once your baby is born, you can tuck in. Grilled prawns are a healthy dish and make a quick, easy lunch. You'll need 40 minutes to get this together, and can even prepare the coleslaw and marinade the prawns the night before to save time. Check out the full recipe from The Contented Calf Cookbook here.
Vegetable And Barley Soup
Barley is a great source of fibre, so this soup will provide plenty of energy for breastfeeding and ensure your digestion stays healthy. Add in whatever vegetables are in season for a warming, healthy lunch. Asparagus, peas, broad beans, sliced runner or French beans, broccoli florets, chard and spinach would all be tasty. Take a look at the full recipe here.
Salmon With Pesto
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids which your baby needs for healthy brain development, salmon is great for breastfeeding. Pesto lovers - this is one for you! Healthy and easy to make, whether you want to have a go at making your own pesto, or just want to get a jar from the supermarket, this is bound to be a hit with the entire family. Take a look at this quick and easy Salmon with Pesto recipe here.
Wholemeal Spinach Feta Potato Pies
There’s a compound in spinach called oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and iron but you can solve this problem by pairing spinach with a food high in vitamin C, such as broccoli or a glass of orange juice. These potato pies make a great snack or light lunch, that you can make in advance for that lunch with the in-laws, or your next mummy morning. Check out the full Wholemeal Spinach Feta Potato Pies recipe here.
Greek Lamb Moussaka
Go back to summer holidays past – and get a pick-me-up. Lamb is rich in iron, and pairing it in a moussaka means you’ll get energy from the potato. Unlike the traditional version, the creamy sauce is made from low-fat yoghurt making it a healthy dish for the whole family. Have a read of the Greek Lamb Moussaka recipe here.
Couscous With Seven Vegetables
Boost your veggie intake and you’ll boost your vitamin and mineral intake too, which is needed to ensure you maintain a healthy immune system and prevent you feeling run down during this important time.
From the Leon: Fast Vegetables cookbook, Leon are known for their healthy fast food and you won't be disappointed with this DIY option. This is also a good one to bookmark for when your baby is eating more than breastmilk. Read the full Cousous with Seven Vegetables recipe here.
Beetroot Carrot Fritters
Beetroot contains the mineral silica. This helps the body to utilise calcium, which is important for a healthy skeleton. Plus, these beetroot fritters are served with yogurt, also a good source of calcium.
Ready in 25 minutes, these eye-catching fritters will be a hit with all the family. If you've got a fussy toddler - the brightness of the beetroot is bound to catch his eye. Containing potato, carrot and beetroot, you're also well on your way to getting your five a day. Have a look at the full Beetroot Carrot Fritters recipe here.
Warm Chicken Bulgar Wheat Salad
Chicken combined with bulgar wheat will ensure you’re getting plenty of protein, which will keep you full until lunch and ensure you’re not snacking on empty calories while you breastfeed.
As yummy as it is healthy, this quick and easy Chicken Bulgar Wheat Salad definitely has more of a punch than others you might have tried. Ready in 20 minutes, keep this saved for a mummy lunch date or quick mid-week dinner.
Sicilian Style Sardines With Pasta & Green Beans
As well as being an oily fish, sardines also give you 325 mg of calcium per 3oz to help keep you and your baby’s bones strong.
A great one to make whilst breastfeeding, even if sardines aren't your favourite type of fish, you'll find it hard to say no to this dish. Ready in 15 minutes, this is a great recipe to have filed away for a quick evening meal. Print off the Sicilian Style Sardines recipe here.
Containing lentils, dahl is a hearty low-cost dish that’s great for lunch and contains fibre-boosting ingredients.
If there's one kitchen apparatus you need with a baby in the house, it's a slow cooker. Simply chuck everything in and wait for three to four hours and you'll have a dahl to be proud of. Top mum tip - make a big batch and freeze it in defrostable portions for those evenings where you just can't face cooking.
Find the full Tarka Dahl recipe here.
Hot Chocolate 5 Ways
Make your hot chocolate with milk and you’ll boost your calcium intake.
This recipe, from the genius' at Leon, is the perfect warm drink if you're feeding a winter baby. If you're looking for more alcohol and caffine free drinks now you're breastfeeding, take a look at our handpicked favourites. Check out the five different ways to make your hot chocolate recipe here.
Fish Pie With Cheesy Mash Topping
Fish is rich in protein, which is an important component of breast milk, so consuming plenty of protein-rich foods such as this fish pie can help maximise your milk supply. Add in a cheesy mash topping and white sauce, both of which contain calcium, and you’ve got a great breastfeeding-friendly dinner.
Who doesn't love Mary Berry? This fish pie from her cookbook is packed with protein and is just as comforting as it sounds. Ready in 50 minutes, this recipe serves six, so you'll have enough for tomorrow's lunch too. Take a look at the Fish Pie With Cheesy Mash Topping recipe here.
Pear And Raspberry Crumble
As well as being ultra-comforting, this pear and raspberry crumble is rich in vitamin C to help with the absorption of iron, which you and your baby needs to prevent anaemia. Add a good dollop of custard for a calcium hit, too.
From the genius' behind those baby pouches you'll soon know and love, this recipe from Ella's Kitchen will be a hit with all the family. Made from pears, sugar and raspberries, this is a quick dessert that can be put together in no time. Read the full Pear and Raspberry Crumble Recipe here.
Spinach Mushroom Crepes
Rich in vitamin B6, spinach pancakes are great for boosting your energy while breastfeeding. Have a bag of frozen spinach to hand for a great last-minute brunch, you'll be able to knock this up in half an hour.
Great for those Gluten Free mummies, these pancakes from Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch and Beyond are the perfect pick-me-up after those sleepless nights with a newborn. Use any kind of mushroom and pick your favourite cheese for the filling - feta works just as well as cheddar. Yum.
Read the full Spinach Mushroom Crepes recipe here.
Hibiscus Flower Water
It’s important that you stay hydrated during pregnancy as breastfeeding can be quite dehydrating. This hibiscus flower drink is refreshing – perfect if you're breastfeeding a summer baby.
All you'll need for this simple recipe is hibiscus flower tea, natural syrup, cinnamon, water, ice and edible flowers. Ready in five minutes (who needs Starbucks?) this is a great one to make for your next mummy morning. Whilst we're on the subject, we've rounded up a few of our favourite alcohol and caffine free drinks suitable for breastfeeding. Take a look at the full Hibiscus Flower Water recipe here. Drink up!
Steak Teriyaki in Lettuce Cups
Boost your iron intake with this flavourful steak teriyaki dish. It will ensure your energy levels stay constant.
From the Itsu Cookbook, you might have missed sushi throughout your pregnancy, but now you can start adding your favourite cuisine back into your diet. The steak teriyaki salad is served in lettuce cups (no need for knives and forks!) so you can roll these into bitesized portions the whole family will love. In this recipe, you make your own teriyaki sauce, but if you're in a rush, shop bought will also do the job. Read the full Steak Teriyaki in Lettuce Cups recipe here.
Lentil Stuffed Peppers
Rich in protein from the lentils and vitamin C from the peppers, this lentil peppers dish will ensure you get the right nutrients to aid your baby’s growth and keep you healthy.
The recipe, from The Secret Ingredient by Sally Bee, is packed with fibre and protein. A great choice for veggie mums (and mums-to-be), simply cook the lentils, fry the veg and stuff into halved peppers before baking for 25-35 minutes. Add this one to your cookbook for a quick week night meal. Read the full Lentil Stuffed Peppers recipe here.
The cheese in this cauliflower cheese dish is a source of dairy, so it will boost your calcium and vitamin D intake, needed for strong bones and teeth. Plus – ultimate comfort!
Fans of Leon will love this recipe - also a great one to bookmark if you are vegetarian or gluten free. This version doesn't require béchamel sauce, but uses crème fraîche and two different types of cheese. A good one if you're looking for a quick dinner, it's ready in 40 minutes. Read the full Cauliflower Cheese recipe here. Yum.
Not all tomato sauce is bad. Making this version with turkey meatballs boosts your vitamin C intake, which will ensure your immune system stays strong, plus iron is absorbed from the turkey. The baked beans in the dish help the meat go further, and making 20 meatballs, this should be enough for tonight and tomorrow's lunch. Have a read of the full Turkey Meatball recipe by Jack Monroe here.
Beef Stew And Dumplings
This beef stew recipe is rich in iron, which you need to make sure you have plenty of energy. While breastfeeding doesn’t deplete iron stores, getting your daily does will ensure you don’t feel quite so tired.
Perfect if you're feeding a winter baby, this stew is hearty, filling and tasty. Not one for a quick dinner, you'll need to leave this simmering in the oven for three hours! This Beef Stew and Dumplings recipe serves four, so they'll be enough for lunch the next day - always a bonus!
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