The nutrition requirements for breastfeeding are similar to pregnancy, and women are recommended to continue eating similarly to how they were eating during their pregnancy. However, a breastfeeding woman needs 200 more calories per day than she did during pregnancy, and it is important that the calories come from nutritious foods. Breastfeeding women usually lose 1 to 4 pounds per month without restricting their calorie intake.
While breastfeeding you should eat two to three servings of protein each day. A serving is equal to 3 to 4 ounces of meat, fish or poultry. Good sources of protein include:
- Milk and yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Dried beans
A note about seafood: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that nursing mothers not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish because of their high mercury content.
The suggested daily intake of calcium for breastfeeding mothers is 1,300 milligrams per day. Reading nutrition labels can help ensure that you are getting enough calcium. For example, one cup of milk or yogurt contains 300 milligrams of calcium. The best sources of calcium are:
- Hard cheeses
- Calcium fortified orange juice
- Calcium fortified tofu
Iron also is important for breastfeeding mothers. If you are 18 years of age or younger, you should get 10 milligrams of iron per day. For those over 19, the suggested daily intake is 9 milligrams. Good sources of iron include:
- Dried beans
- Dried fruit
- Egg yolks
As mentioned above, it is important not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish because of their high mercury content.
Vitamin C Needs
Nursing mothers need slightly more vitamin C than they did during pregnancy. If you are 18 years of age or younger, you should get 115 milligrams of vitamin C per day. If you are 19 or older, you should get 120 milligrams per day. Good sources of vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell pepper
Breastfeeding mothers need to take some sort of daily multivitamin that contains 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). If you wish, you can continue to take your prenatal vitamin or mineral supplement – however, it contains much more iron than needed for breastfeeding. If you have problems with constipation or stomach upset, switch to a general multivitamin that contains 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).
While breastfeeding you should drink at least 8 cups of water each day. Have a glass of water each time you nurse your baby. In addition to water, other good liquids are juice, milk, broths, herb teas and soups.
Exercise and high temperatures will increase your need for liquids. Therefore if you are active or it is warm, make sure you keep hydrated and drink even more water.
Limit high-caffeine foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea and some sodas. It is a good idea to limit your intake of highly caffeinated foods and drinks to 8 ounces a day.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and street drugs. Also, it is important that you do not use any medications that are not approved by your health care provider, even those available over the counter.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
The dietary reference intake for folate, or folic acid, is 400 micrograms (mcg) per day. Nevertheless, many people fall short of this goal. Learn more here.
Calcium Content of Foods
Check out this list of calcium rich foods. You will find a breakdown of calcium content in various vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, grains, fish and more.
Getting Enough Calcium
Calcium is important for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Calcium needs are highest during times of growth and after menopause in women. Learn more.
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