Nutrition tips for Breastfeeding mums
Updated: Aug 1
Known as the “gold standard” for infant nutrition, breast milk is a luscious, energy rich and nutrient dense natural formula. It contains over 800 strains of bacteria and 20 food components to promote optimal development. This complex number of components CHANGES during your breastfeeding journey to ensure it’s perfect for your little bub! How amazing is this?! It’s no doubt that your nutritional requirements increase while creating this liquid gold.
Breast milk supports optimal growth and development for bub and benefits the mother greatly. Our Dietitians are here to support you through your breastfeeding journey, no matter how short and long you breastfed for. Let’s answer some of the most common questions to support breastfeeding mums.
Every drop of breastmilk helps your baby
Breast milk gives your baby the best start. Breast milk contains water, energy (kilojoules/calories), protein, fat, carbohydrates, and minerals such as calcium. The first milk (2-4 days after birth) the body produces is called colostrum and is important for the baby’s immunity. Coming into the new world, they need protection. It is a formula high in protein and low in fat/sugar. This is followed by transitional milk and mature milk (10-15 days postpartum). To meet the demands of the mother, it is crucial that the mother consumes a variety of nutrients. Choosing nutrient-sense and nourishing foods is essential to support breast milk production.
Breastfeeding in the first 6 months can ensure your baby grows gradually and prevent obesity later if life. Breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of diseases later in life such as heart disease, diabetes and eating disorders. Breastfeeding can also create a bond due to skin-to-skin contact. As well as releasing oxytocin (happy hormone) and reducing stress levels for you and your baby.
Why is the mother’s nutrition so important during their breastfeeding journey?
Simply, it takes a lot of energy to make this liquid gold.
Lactation increases the mother’s nutrient needs, due to the loss of nutrients BUT also the process of making it. Some of the energy comes from the fat deposited during the third trimester of pregnancy. So, eating a balanced diet in accordance with the Australian Dietary Guidelines can ensure a healthy weight is maintained.
It is estimated that breastfeeding requires an additional 2,000-2,100 kJ/day (480-500 calories) per day. However, this calls on the addition of other nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, B12, selenium and zinc. This is why ensuring that you are eating a variety of nutrient-dense, whole foods is important for your overall health and your baby’s.
Does this mean I eat more of the five food groups?
Vegetables, Legumes & Beans: 7 ½ serves.
Are great sources of Iron such as spinach, cabbage. Eating plenty of green and yellow vegetables can ensure you are meeting your vitamin A needs.
Fruit: 2 serves
Are a rich source of fibre and contain vitamin C that assist iron absorption!
Grains & Cereals: 9 serves.
Increase significantly due to the presence of whole grains and fibre making them great sources of iron, folate, zinc, and vitamin B6.
Milk/Milk Alternatives (aka. Dairy): 2 ½ serves.
Important carrier of calcium that helps support bone strength. Your body does not contain calcium therefore your requirements are increased during pregnancy.
Meat/Meat Alternatives: 2 ½ serves.
Primary group that ensures we are getting enough protein. This is important that you support your nutrient needs, for muscle maintenance and hormone production. During pregnancy, iron stores are depleted and therefore an additional 0.5 serves is essential to replenish your levels. These are also important for Omega-3 to assist with brain development. Aim for oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, or tuna 2-3 times per week.
Let’s not forget Water…
2.3L per day, 9 glasses per day THAT’s an additional 1.5 glasses!
Top Tips from a Dietitian
It is normal to be hungrier when you are breastfeeding. An additional meal or snack is usually adequate.
Ensure to drink at least 2L of water per day.
Breastfeeding mothers may benefit from Vitamin B12, Omega-3 i.e fish oil and vitamin D supplementation. Please speak to you Dietitian, midwife or GP for specific doses.
Focus more on the quality of food you’re eating is important for breastmilk production.
Aim to eat a wide variety of foods from each of the five food groups of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, as per above.
Prepare food in accordance with food safety measures and avoid unpasteurised, unwashed, uncooked, raw foods.
What should I limit during breastfeeding?
Some types of seafood: Limit sushi and sashimi and fish with high mercury levels, such as larger fish such as sharks, board bills, marlins, swordfish, catfish and sea perch. Although they are an excellent source of omega 3 fats and protein, be mindful and consume 2-3 servings of other or canned fish.
Caffeine to 200 mg per day: 2 cups of instant coffee, 4 cups of tea OR 1 cola drink.
Alcohol, as there is no safe level. Your baby is directly affected by what you eat/drink.
Will I lose weight, when breastfeeding?
As your requirements increase, if you eat less than you expend (burn) yes. However, due to the importance and benefits around breastfeeding, it is advisable to work with a Dietitian to ensure you are meeting your dietary needs to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
How can I ensure that me and my baby are safe?
To reduce health risks for you and your baby, follow these tips when choosing and preparing food:
Always clean your hands before preparing food.
Use safe food handling practices, such as separate chopping boards for raw and cooked foods.
Store food safely (for example, store food in clean, sealed containers).
Avoid foods containing listeria bacteria or salmonella.
Wash all fresh fruit and vegetables.
Dispose of leftovers after 24 hours
Put food in the fridge as soon as possible once steaming stops.
Make sure the dates of your purchased products are up-to-date.
How do I store freshly expressed breast milk?
6-8 hours: Room temperature (26ºC or lower)
72 hours: Refrigerate (5ºC or lower), suggest putting it at the back, to avoid heat from opening the fridge.
2 weeks: Freezer (-15ºC or lower)
3 months: Freezer (-18ºC or lower)
6-12 months: chest freezer/deep freezer (-20ºC or lower)
How do you thaw Breastmilk?
In warm water. Place the bottle in sanitized warm water and allow to thaw. DO NOT re-freeze.
Previously frozen Breastmilk (thawed in the fridge but not warmed)
Can be kept at room temperature for 4 hours or less, until the next feed. It can be left in the fridge for 24 hours at the back of the fridge.
Mums, we’re here for you.
As the saying goes, breastfeeding is 10% milk, and 90% determination. Having a supportive team around during your journey can make it a little easier. Ensuring we eat enough can be one of the challenges we face. Therefore, to make postpartum easier, speak to our Dietitians to:
Help support any breastfeeding issues/challenges.
Create personalised eating plan and meal prep ideas to make life easier post-partum.
Support and facilitate postpartum recovery and future planning.
We will inform you of your nutritional needs and suggest which foods you should eat to meet them!
Provide practical nutrition tips.
We offer telehealth appointments for breastfeeding mums all around Australia or you’re welcome to see us in person within our Mulgrave clinic. To make an appointment or for further information about our Dietetics services, please call (03) 9560 1844.