Mums need to eat well to produce enough milk for baby and choosing the right foods can help you get back in shape. So, what is the ideal diet for breastfeeding mothers? And are there any foods to avoid?
The Breastfeeding Diet
How much you need to eat when you’re breastfeeding depends on your pre-pregnancy weight, and how much weight you gained during pregnancy, as well as how active you are.
In general, most breastfeeding women need about 500 calories more than women who are not – that is a total of 2,500 kilocalories (kcal) per day.
When breastfeeding, a healthy and well-balanced diet is as important as always. It should include a variety of foods from all the food groups in the Malaysian Food Pyramid.
In addition, an extra 2 servings of protein, for example one medium-sized fish (eg ikan kembong) and one egg, should be included to a breastfeeding mum’s existing diet.
Your calcium requirement increases by 25% during the lactation period. This means you need to eat more calcium-rich foods such as dairy products (milk, yoghurt), calcium fortified products (breakfast cereals), fish (sardines, ikan bilis), beans and bean products (taufu, tempeh), and green leafy vegetables.
Eating a variety of foods while breastfeeding will change the flavour of your breast milk. In fact, some experts believe that babies enjoy a variety of flavours in their breast milk, and this may help them accept different foods once they start eating solids.
Drink whenever you feel thirsty. Clear or pale yellow urine is a good sign that you are well hydrated.
Chart of daily food group servings and sample meal plan for breastfeeding mothers
Getting Back in Shape
Do NOT try to lose weight by dieting until at least two months after your baby is born. A low-calorie diet in the first few months could make you feel weak and lessen your milk flow.
Avoid drastic weight loss. Instead, lose weight at a slow and steady rate of ½ to 1kg a week to avoid changes in the amount and quality of your milk. It is recommended that you speak to your doctor/dietitian /nutritionist before starting on any diet or exercise plans.
Breastfeeding burns 500 calories. Breastfeed exclusively for 6 months (and continue for up to 2 years while introducing your baby to other foods), stick to a healthy and balanced diet, and add some gentle exercise (you can increase the intensity 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth). These will help you to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight healthily.
Foods to Avoid while Breastfeeding
There are NO foods you should avoid simply because you’re breastfeeding unless you notice an obvious reaction in your baby to a particular food. Moderation is the key.
However, if you suspect that something in your diet might be making your baby a little fussier than usual, avoid the food or drink for up to a week to see if it makes a difference in your baby’s behaviour. If removing a certain food or drink from your diet has no impact on your baby’s fussiness, add it back to your diet and consider other possible causes. If you’re concerned about your baby’s behaviour, consult your doctor.
Coffee and Caffeine
- If you consume excessive amounts of caffeine (more than 5 caffeinated beverages per day), your baby may be more fussy or irritable. It may even keep him awake.
- Breastfeeding mums are advised to limit their intake of coffee and caffeinated drinks, such as tea, chocolates and cola, to no more than 2 cups per day.
- Alcohol passes through your milk to your baby, so it’s best to avoid habitual use while breastfeeding.
- If you choose to have an alcoholic drink, have it after you have breastfed your baby or express your milk prior to the drink, and allow at least 2 hours to pass before you breastfeed or express milk again.
For further information on infant and child nutrition, please refer to
- MINISTRY OF HEALTH MALAYSIA (2013) Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents. Putrajaya: Technical Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines (for National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition).
- NUTRITION SOCIETY OF MALAYSIA (2011) Breastfeed with Confidence. Petaling Jaya: Mother’s Smart Choice