What to Eat When Breastfeeding

Did you know that 96% of Australian Mums Don’t get enough nutrients when breastfeeding?

It’s not going to surprise many of you to hear that it is incredibly important to eat health foods while breastfeeding.

When you’re breastfeeding, your baby is 100% dependent on you to provide the nutrients they need for their healthy growth & development, and to stave off illness & disease.

But few Australian mums eat well enough to provide all the nutrients that their bubs need for their optimal development. Even “healthy” Australian diets are often surprisingly deficient in essential nutrients, mostly due to the quality of our soil and our food production methods.
If your overall diet does not provide sufficient amounts of nutrients, it can adversely affect both the quality of your breast milk and your own health.

But eating the balanced and healthy diet that we need when breastfeeding is easier said than done. Figuring out what to eat, and what not to eat, can be complicated. Especially when you’re dealing with sleep deprivation, hormone changes and all the other challenges new mums face. Our challenges often become overwhelming, and despite the best intentions, many mums stop breastfeeding earlier than they would have liked to.

Statistics from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey results indicate that 96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding. But then exclusive breastfeeding rates drop off. Only 39% of mums are still exclusively breastfeeding to 3 months and only 15% are exclusively feeding to 5 months.
The challenges that cause so many mums to fall off breastfeeding need not be as daunting as they at first seem. In this article we are going to share the information you need to make breastfeeding easier, and to enable you to give the best milk to your beautiful baby.


Both babies and mums need more nutrients when breastfeeding.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies to 6 months of age. And they recommend that mums breastfeed, alongside suitable foods, from 6 months up to 2 years and beyond.

According to the Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers & Babies, a mum’s healthy eating habits are essential from the very start as you are giving your child invaluable nutrition to fuel the early growth and development stages of their life.

The Society encourages us to eat a variety of nutritious foods and to avoid processed foods high in saturated fat and sugar.

It’s particularly important to eat a well-balanced diet to ensure your baby is receiving the right amount of vitamins and minerals that will promote his or her growth and development.

Your diet should also be rich in protein, calcium, iron and vitamins to support your milk supply and maintain your health and wellbeing.

According the Australian Breastfeeding Association, during breastfeeding the key nutrients that a lot of women are deficient in are iodine, B12, iron and calcium, because the amounts recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are hard to obtain from a normal Australian diet.


What Babies Need & What Mums Need

Breastfeeding babies both increase and change a mum’s nutritional requirements. As baby is growing and developing, it needs a different ratio of nutrients than full grown mums do. As such, breastfeeding changes both the amount of food we need to eat as well as changes the types of food we need to eat.

A mother’s body is wonderfully adapted to put the needs of your beautiful baby before your needs. This amazing adaptation allows many more babies to grow into healthy and well-developed children than would be if they had to rely exclusively on their mother’s diet for their nutrition.

But this adaptation also has a drawback. If a mother’s diet does not contain all the nutrients required for your breastmilk, your breasts will leach the nutrients from your body, leaving mothers drained and weakened from the loss of nutrients. The amount of the following nutrients in breast milk are generally unaffected by your dietary intake or body stores although you may suffer a deficiency as a result.

  • Folate: Found in Beans, lentils, leafy greens, asparagus and avocados.
  • Calcium: Found in Milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens and legumes (with calcium an issue is absorption and we need vitamin D to absorb it properly so try and get 10-15 minutes of sunshine each day to give you your daily vitamin D dose)
  • Iron: Found in Red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, green vegetables and dried fruit.
  • Copper: Found in Shellfish, whole grains, nuts, beans, organ meats and potatoes.
  • Zinc: Found in Oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts and dairy.

But this adaptation doesn’t work for all nutrients. According to Healthline, there are some nutrients that will be substantially reduced in breast milk if your body stores are deficient or if don't get adequate amounts from your diet. These include:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Found in Fish, pork, seeds, nuts and bread.
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Found in Cheese, almonds, nuts, red meat, oily fish and eggs.
  • Vitamin B6: Found in Seeds, nuts, fish, poultry, pork, bananas and dried fruit.
  • Vitamin B12: Found in Shellfish, liver, oily fish, crab and shrimp.
  • Choline: Found in Eggs, beef liver, chicken liver, fish and peanuts.
  • Vitamin A: Found in Sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, organ meats and eggs.
  • Vitamin D: Found in Cod liver oil, oily fish, some mushrooms and fortified foods.
  • Selenium: Found in Brazil nuts, seafood, fish, whole wheat and seeds.
  • Iodine: Found in Dried seaweed, cod, milk and iodized salt.

Why aren’t Mums getting enough nutrients

There’s no single answer, but we have outlined three of the most prevalent below.

First, the Australian soil is low in certain nutrients which puts us at a disadvantage at the outset.

Second, the modern process that farm produce takes in its journey from the field to our plates loses many of the nutrients en route. Whether that is simply from over-fertilised mono-crops taking days or weeks to make it to the supermarket shelves, or worse, heavily processed foods that have had many of the nutrients stripped out of them.

And thirdly, the food choices that we make often don’t help. With all the challenges mums face, it is understandable that many mums focus on feeding their babies rather than themselves. But you need to make sure you’re not just fuelling up on biscuits and sweets. It’s understandable, but it’s not going to do your body any favours.

What You should eat, and what you should avoid

Foods to include in your Diet

The key to supporting breastfeeding through a healthy diet is to try to maintain a well-balanced and varied diet based predominantly of wholefoods.

The Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers & Babies recommends the following 5 food groups:

  1. Plenty of vegetables of different types and colours, for example, spinach, red capsicum, beetroot and sweet potato. Including a wide variety should provide you with a broad spectrum of Vitamins and Minerals.
  2. Fruits such as blueberries, apples, oranges, strawberries, etc.
  3. Grain (cereal foods), mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
  4. Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans to provide good sources of protein (note the need to limit fatty seafood).
  5. Milk, yoghurt, cheese, (mostly reduced fat). Dairy products are loaded with calcium and bone strengthening Vitamin D – try including at least three cups of dairy each day

In addition, healthy fats are recommended, as found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and oily fish such as salmon or mackerel.

Oily fish is good for your health and your baby’s development, but you shouldn’t have more than two portions – around 140 g – of oily fish (or more than one portion of swordfish, shark or marlin) a week, as these may contain pollutants.1
Obviously, making breastmilk uses extra fluid. So breastfeeding mothers are often more thirsty than usual. There is no one figure for how much you need to drink, as it depends on the weather conditions, your activity level and the foods you eat. Try to increase your hydration and drink water before your body sends you thirst signals.

Healthline also stresses the importance of getting enough Omega-3 and Vitamin D when you are breastfeeding.

Omega-3 fatty acid is mainly found in seafood, including fatty fish and algae and is an important component of the central nervous system, skin and eyes. Omega-3 is vital for healthy brain development and function. If your intake is low, then the amount in your breast milk will also be low.

Early-life omega-3 deficiency has been linked to several behavioural problems, such as ADHD, learning disabilities and aggressiveness (35, 36).Vitamin D is mainly found in fatty fish, fish liver oils and fortified foods. It's very important for overall health, especially bone health and immune function.

In most parts of Australia, you can get adequate sun exposure on bare skin to give you enough Vitamin D to support your breastmilk. According to the Harvard Medical School, if you live south of 37 degrees latitude you will not be able to get adequate Vitamin D from sunlight during the least sunny weeks of the winter. (37 degrees is anywhere from Melbourne to the South).

A vitamin D deficiency can have serious consequences. You may experience muscle weakness, bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.

A vitamin D deficiency in early childhood may cause seizures, rickets and muscle weakness. It is also linked to the development of several diseases.

Mums who have recently been pregnant know are used to a restricted diet. But the relationship between the mother’s diet and the in-uterus baby is quite different from the relationship between the mother’s diet and the breastfeeding baby.

What to Avoid

According to Medical News Today, “Unlike during pregnancy, there is no list of foods that breastfeeding mothers should avoid altogether. Instead, they should eat food that is healthful and pay attention to cues from their body.” There are a few important caveats to note.

  • Heavy Metals: Limit consumption of seafood that may contain mercury.
  • Caffeine: Small amounts of caffeine should be okay. God knows it can make a mum’s life easier! Pay attention to how your caffeine consumption affects your baby’s sleep. And be aware of where your caffeine is coming from. Cola and chocolate can contain as much caffeine as coffee!
  • Alcohol: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend no more than one drink per day. They also suggest reducing the risk further by waiting at least 2 hours to breastfeed after drinking alcohol.
  • Allergens and Intolerances: Monitor how what you eat affects your baby. Babies can have allergies or intolerances to many different types of foods that pass through breastmilk. If your baby shows signs of allergies or intolerances, track what you eat and consult with a health care professional. According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy “Cow's milk and other dairy foods are a common cause of food allergy in babies. In Australia and New Zealand around 2% (1 in 50) of babies are allergic to cow's milk.” So monitor your baby’s reaction to your dairy intake and consult a health care professional if you have concerns.

Weight Loss and Breastfeeding

Most mums stack on extra unwanted weight during pregnancy. This is completely normal and is nothing to be ashamed of. Many mums want to start losing weight while breastfeeding, and that’s okay, but we need to be thoughtful in how we go about it.

Extreme calorie reduction will likely affect your milk supply, both in the quality and quantity of milk produced. If you are trying to lose weight while breastfeeding, accept that it is going to be a slow process. Aim for a modest 500g per week weight loss.

Use a diet that ensures you get enough of the broad spectrum of nutrients to support your milk supply, as discussed above. And use a diet that only has a modest calorie deficit (we recommend no more that 15% less calories than it takes to maintain your current weight). As with any diet, we recommend consulting with a health care professional before starting. Monitoring your milk supply, and if you have any reason for concern, contact your health care professional to discuss.



By now you should appreciate the need to eat a well-balanced diet when breastfeeding. Your baby is depending on you for 100% of its nutrition. If your diet doesn’t contain enough nutrients, both you and your baby could potentially suffer. But by now you should also have a good understanding of what a nutritious well-balanced diet should consists of.

A well balanced and varied diet consisting of wholefoods that provides protein, carbohydrates, fibre and healthy fats and a variety of vitamins and minerals will help keep your baby healthy and will help you to feel your best.

If all that feels a bit overwhelming, we have developed a solution to help make it easier for breastfeeding mums. We know that it can be tough to research, plan and prepare the healthy diet you need to give your baby the best. That’s why we have developed the In Shape Mummy Health Shake, to give mums a quick and easy boost to help meet their dietary needs.

A Quick & Easy Solution

If all that feels a bit overwhelming, we have developed a solution to help make it easier for breastfeeding mums. We know that it can be tough to research, plan and prepare the healthy diet you need to give your baby the best. That’s why we have developed the In Shape Mummy Health Shake, to give mums a quick and easy boost to help meet their dietary needs.

Support your Milk Supply and Boost Your Energy while you Shed Body Fat with Organic Pea Protein, 25 Vitamins & Minerals plus Superfoods.

The In Shape Mummy Health Shake gives you:

  • High quality organic pea protein – to keep you energised and feeling full for longer
  • 25 important Vitamins and Minerals to boost your energy and health
  • Plus specialty superfoods including:
  • Acai berry which is high in antioxidants, promotes clear skin, energy and weight loss
  • Chia seeds which are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and omega to help control hunger while boosting your health
  • And milk thistle to prevent free radical damage and support your milk supply if you are breastfeeding

The ISM health shake is a great boost to a breastfeeding mother’s diet, especially when you are too short on time to cook.

When you buy an In Shape Mummy Health Shake you also get access to a personalised meal plan with a broad variety of nutritionally balanced breastfeeding friendly recipes. We have done all the research, so you don’t have to! Our personalised meal plans are a simple and quick way to provide your baby with all the nutrients they need for a healthy growth and development. Our meal plans also have the option to help you gradually and safely lose the extra weight you put on during pregnancy.

Simply pick up your ISM Health Shake here and you’ll get instant access to your personalised meal plan plus a library of other resources.

Wishing you and your baby health and wellness!

The In Shape Mummy Team x



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