Breastfeeding and diet

If you are a mother looking after your new baby, it’s great if you can eat a variety of nutritious foods. It will keep up your energy levels and will be good for your general health – but be assured you that as a breastfeeding mother, your body is highly efficient at providing good quality milk for your baby.

A common myth is that breastfeeding mothers need to eat special foods or a perfect diet to provide good quality milk for their baby. Some mothers have even given up breastfeeding because they thought they couldn’t sustain that type of perfection!

Foods to avoid while breastfeeding

However, there are NO special foods that you need to eat – and even the dietary restrictions given in pregnancy don’t apply when you’re breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding diet. A basket of colourful vegetables

It’s worth repeating this again – there are no
off-limits foods.

The good news is that your body is amazing at using nutrients and energy from not only the foods that you eat in your diet but also from stores that your body lays down during pregnancy.

Across cultures, there are so many myths around this topic which vary from country to country.


Some countries believe you shouldn’t eat particular foods while breastfeeding, yet, in another country, breastfeeding mothers there will eat that specific food unreservedly, and it is not considered a problem. 

For example, in Italy, there is a myth perpetuated that a breastfeeding woman should avoid eating garlic and cauliflower. Yet in India, both of those foods will be eaten without reserve.

Best foods for breastfeeding

Generally, anything that you’re happy eating is okay to eat when you’re breastfeeding your baby. 

Nevertheless, it seems sensible that if you find that every time you eat a PARTICULAR food, your baby appears ‘windy’ or uncomfortable, or develops a rash, it might be best to omit that food for a time. Doing this enables you to see if there is a cause and effect. However, it can be challenging to know for sure.

You may find it reassuring to know that you don’t have to eat a certain amount of food to make good quality milk for your baby unless you’re on a very restricted diet of 1800 calories or less.

Losing weight while breastfeeding

If you do want to go on a diet, it can be useful to contact organizations that can help you to slim healthily and take your needs as a breastfeeding mother into consideration. 

So the general rule is to eat to hunger, with no need to count calories.

Another positive point is that your body uses up an extra 300-500 calories per day to make the milk.

A plate of fish and vegetables

However, that doesn’t mean you should buy a couple of extra chocolate bars every single day to compensate. Still, it stands to reason if you’re eating normally, as you would, just to hunger, then you’re likely to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight faster than you would if you weren’t breastfeeding, which is very positive.

To conclude – yes, it’s a great idea to eat a variety of nutritious foods, and as a breastfeeding mother you need all of the energy that you can get for general health. Irrespective of that, your body is extremely efficient at being able to make good quality and nutritious food for your baby.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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