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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS

Home > Patients and visitors > Your health > Breastfeeding > Looking after yourself

Looking after yourself

Eating and drinking healthily

You don’t need to eat anything special while you’re breastfeeding but it is a good idea for you, just like everyone else, to eat a healthy diet.

A healthy diet includes the following:

  • At least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Starchy foods, such as wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.
  • Plenty of fibre from wholemeal bread, breakfast cereals, rice, pulses and fruit and vegetables.
  • Protein, such as lean meat, fish, eggs and pulses. At least two portions of fish a week is recommended, including some oily fish.
  • Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. These contain calcium and are a source of protein.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids. Have a drink beside you when you settle down to breastfeed. Water, milk and 100% unsweetened fruit juices are all good choices.

Vitamin D supplement

While breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you take supplements containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D each day. You can get all the other vitamins and minerals you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. Ask your GP or health visitor where to get vitamin D supplements.

Healthy snack ideas

The following snacks are quick and simple to make, and will give you energy and strength:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Sandwiches filled with salad, grated cheese, mashed salmon, cold meat
  • Yoghurts and fromage frais
  • Hummus with bread or vegetable sticks 
  • Ready-to-eat apricots, figs or prunes
  • Vegetable and bean soups
  • Fortified unsweetened breakfast cereals, muesli and other wholegrain cereals with milk
  •  Milky drinks or 100% unsweetened fruit juices
  • Baked beans on toast or in a baked potato

Healthy Start

You can get Healthy Start vouchers if you’re pregnant or have a young child under four in a family getting certain benefits or tax credits, or you’re pregnant and under 18.

The vouchers can be spent on milk, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, or they can be put towards infant formula if you’re not breastfeeding. Coupons for free vitamin supplements are also available through the scheme.

For more information or an application leaflet, visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk or call the Healthy Start helpline on 0845 607 6823.

Food and drinks to avoid

Eating fish is very good for you, but don’t have more than two portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish includes tuna (not canned tuna), mackerel, sardines and trout. There’s a limit on oily fish because it can contain low levels of pollutants, which can build up in the body and affect the development of a future baby.

Drinks containing caffeine can affect your baby and may keep them awake. While your baby is young, drink caffeinated drinks occasionally rather than every day. Caffeine occurs in coffee, tea and chocolate. It’s also added to some soft drinks, energy drinks and cold and flu remedies. Why not try decaffeinated tea and coffee or herbal tea?