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Eating while breastfeeding

Whether you are a first time mother, or a seasoned parenting pro, breastfeeding often comes with its fair share of questions. 
Below are some common questions and simple answers that will make you feel more relaxed about what you are eating and what you are feeding your new-born baby.
Question Answer additional notes
What foods should I eat?
Just like when you were pregnant, it is important to eat well while you are breastfeeding.
Include in your diet plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and calcium-rich foods.
The quantities of foods to consume while breastfeeding depends on your weight, height, age and activity level, therefore it is best to consult with your doctor to guarantee that you are consuming the right amount of calories from the foods you are eating so that your body can make milk and not gain weight.
General guide to the food servings to be consumed while breastfeeding (this is just a guide, you might need more/less than those servings depending on your size and activity level) :
Food  Servings/day
Milk/yogurt/cheese   At least 4
Meat/poultry/fish/eggs/ nuts  At least 3 
vegetables  At least 3-5
 fruits 2-4 (choose two high in vitamin C & folic acid, and one high in vitamin A 
Bread/cereal/rice/pasta   About 6-11
Fats/oils/sweets Go easy!
HEALTH TIP: It is a good idea to carry a water bottle around wherever you go and filling it up throughout the day, to make sure you are consuming enough liquids.
What foods should I avoid? Every baby is different. Some mothers might notice that their baby gets fussy or gassy after they eat certain foods like beans, cauliflower, broccoli or spicy food whereas other babies might tolerate these foods just fine. Just like during pregnancy, nursing mothers should avoid or limit the intake of fish high in mercury (since high levels of mercury could damage the nervous system).
Try to keep track of your diet whenever you notice your baby is gassy, fussy or demonstrates colicky behavior to make it easier on you to identify the foods that could cause your baby to be uncomfortable.
HEALTH TIP: Eliminate the possibly offending food from your diet for a few days to see if there is any change
Can I have caffeine? As with pregnancy, it is best to limit the amount of caffeine you consume while breastfeeding.
One or two cups of coffee a day are fine, but remember: the more caffeine you drink (tea, soda, coffee), the more it may affect your baby's mood & sleep, and the more it can dehydrate you.
HEALTH TIP: Drink decaffeinated tea/coffee and limit the intake of sodas
Will I get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding will delay the return of normal menstrual periods (called lactation amenorrhea) this helps keep iron in the body.
Although the risk of pregnancy is less while you are breastfeeding, you CAN get pregnant. Therefore, breastfeeding should NOT be used as the only method of contraception.
Discuss your birth control methods with your doctor & partner, however, barrier methods (condoms & diaphragms), progesterone-only pills/shots and IUDs have all been shown to be safe and effective.
HEALTH TIP: You are LESS likely to get pregnant while breastfeeding if:
1. It has been more than six months since your baby was born
2. You are exclusively breastfeeding (baby is not receiving formula milk)
3. You have not yet had a menstrual period

Raya M. AbuYounis
Registered Clinical Nutritionist (King's College London, UK)
MSc International Health Management (Imperial College London, UK)