What are important nutritional considerations for mothers during breast feeding?

It has been demonstrated that mothers can produce adequate breast milk for their babies, even under sub-optimal conditions. However, breast feeding mothers do have a slightly increased requirement for most nutrients compared to mothers who do not breast feed as many vitamins and minerals in a breast feeding mother’s diet are transferred into the breast milk. Therefore, it is important for the mother to be encouraged to eat adequately to meet her own nutritional needs and to provide nutrition to the infant.

A breast feeding mother should eat regular nutritious meals and snacks to meet the extra energy requirement (approximately 500 calories/day or 2000–2100kJ/day). Consuming a variety of foods each day is important in meeting both the mother’s and infant’s nutritional needs.

It is important a breast feeding mother consumes a wide variety of nutritious food, such as:11

  • Vegetables, legumes and fruits.
  • Cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain.
  • Lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives. • Milks, yoghurts, cheeses and/or alternatives. Reduced fat varieties should be chosen where possible.
  • Fluids, especially water.

It is also recommended when following a healthy balanced diet to:11

  • Limit saturated fat intake, choose lean meat and unsaturated fat spreads, such as olive/safflower/ sunflower oil-based spreads.
  • Choose unsaturated fats that are found in foods such as avocado, nuts and seeds, and olive and sunflower oils.
  • Limit high salt foods, such as processed meats, potato chips and adding salt to meals.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption, particularly in the first month after the infant is born until breast feeding is well-established.
  • Limit intake of sugars and foods containing added sugars, such as high sugar breakfast cereals, lollies or sweets, cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks.