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Nutrition while breastfeeding – what you should be mindful of

A balanced, varied diet is important while breastfeeding. This is based on the food pyramid for healthy adults. For breastfeeding mothers, there are also a few further points to follow so that mother and child are well supplied: in this article, find out what you can and cannot eat and drink while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding requires a great deal of energy

A bowl of muesli, yoghurt and finely chopped fruit
The mother’s body produces an average of almost 0.8 litres of breast milk a day so that the newborn has an adequate supply of energy and nutrients. That takes a great deal of energy. The body obtains some of this energy from the reserves that it built up during the pregnancy. But this is not quite enough. So breastfeeding mothers should consume about 500 extra calories a day through their diet.
500 kilocalories are contained, for example, in:
  • muesli containing oats, fruit, seeds and milk (or a calcium-rich soya drink),
  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread with cheese,
  • a wholemeal roll containing cream cheese, a green salad and a glass of juice.

The right diet while breastfeeding: there should be more of these nutrients

The need for the following nutrients increases during breastfeeding. This is because they are passed on to the child through the breast milk. Although a balanced diet usually meets the increased need, it makes sense in some cases to take dietary supplements. Clarify with your gynaecologist whether it makes sense for you to do so.
Protein
Breastfeeding mothers need 15 grams more protein a day. These are contained, for example, in:
  • 150 grams of low-fat quark,
  • 60 grams of hard cheese,
  • 120 grams of cottage cheese,
  • 150 grams of a vegan yoghurt alternative made of soya,
  • 60 grams of almonds,
  • 2 eggs or
  • 450 millilitres of milk.
You can find more information on this in our guide entitled “Protein requirements while pregnant and breastfeeding”.
Omega-3 fatty acids
While breastfeeding, you should eat a sufficient amount of omega-3-rich foods so that your breast milk contains enough omega-3 fatty acids. So primarily use rapeseed or walnut oil in the kitchen.
One to two portions of oily sea fish per week ensure that the body is supplied with the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This is required for the healthy development of the brain and nervous system. If you do not like fish or generally do not eat fish, you can also resort to capsules made of fish or algae oil.
Calcium
While breastfeeding, always eat and drink enough milk and dairy products (with the exception of raw milk and products made from it). Preferably drink calcium-rich mineral water. Green vegetables (broccoli, spinach or curly kale), soya, calcium-enriched soya drinks and almonds are also sources of calcium.
Iron
The mineral iron is contained in meat, fish, pulses, nuts, seeds and wholegrain products. It is more difficult to absorb iron from plant foods. Combining these with foods containing vitamin C (e.g. peppers or strawberries) can improve iron uptake in the gut.
Vitamin D
While breastfeeding, take 15 micrograms of a vitamin D supplement in the form of drops or tablets.

Nutritional tip for breastfeeding mothers: it is important to drink!

A blonde woman drinks a glass of water so as to get the fluids she needs while breastfeeding
To produce breast milk, a mother needs considerably more fluids. So you should drink at least two to at most three litres of water a day. Alternatively, you can also drink unsweetened herbal or fruit teas.
Caffeine-containing drinks such as coffee, black and green tea should be consumed in small amounts, as caffeine passes into the breast milk. You should avoid energy drinks completely.
It is not forbidden to have a small glass of wine or beer on a special occasion. However, it is important that you do not breastfeed for at least two hours after consuming alcohol, as alcohol can pass into the breast milk. Alcohol should not be consumed on a regular basis or in large amounts.

These foods affect the taste of breast milk

Strong tasting fennel can affect the taste of breast milk
The diet consumed while breastfeeding has a significant impact on the taste of the breast milk. This is because a great deal of what breastfeeding mothers eat passes into their breast milk. Spices (e.g. cinnamon, vanilla or aniseed) and other strong tasting foods such as fennel affect the intrinsic taste of breast milk. Although this means that the infant gets to know a variety of different tastes, it may also be that your baby simply does not like a particular flavour.
Not until you notice your baby refusing to drink several times after you consume certain foods should you avoid those foods. Your baby will gradually get used to unknown tastes.

Dieting while breastfeeding?

You should not diet while breastfeeding. When the body breaks down fat, fat-soluble toxins are released and can pass into the breast milk. Dieting also puts the mother’s and child’s supply of nutrients at risk. So you should not start to diet until after you stop breastfeeding.
As well as tips on nutrition while breastfeeding, you can also find further articles on “Healthy eating at every stage of life” in our range of guides – learn more about nutrition during pregnancy or healthy eating for children, for example.