The quality and quantity of breast milk that you produce is primarily dependent on your calorie and fluid intake. Even if your diet is not perfect, you should still be able to produce good quality milk for your baby. Your body adapts to the nutritional demands of your child by drawing on nutrients already in your system. For example, you may actually lose bone mass during breastfeeding because your body will acquire calcium by pulling it out of your bones into your bloodstream. Fortunately, this is a temporary condition and, once you stop breastfeeding or begin to menstruate, your bone mass will start to gradually return to normal.

In order to stay healthy while caring for your baby, you should always eat a balanced diet. To replace the calories lost through breastfeeding, it is necessary to add an extra 500 calories to your daily intake. This should include an extra 20 grams of protein and 100 micrograms of additional folate. The chart below outlines your extra nutrient requirements for breastfeeding and how to meet these needs from your diet.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Key Nutrients during Breastfeeding (Adults and Teens)


Calories 2200 calories/day 2700 calories/day Do not eat less than 1800 calories/day You may need extra calories if you are • a breastfeeding teenager • a woman breastfeeding more than one infant • underweight or did not gain inadequate weight during your pregnancy • a woman breastfeeding while pregnant

Protein 42-45 grams/day 65 grams/day during first 6 months 62 grams/day during second 6 months If you are breastfeeding more than one baby, you may need extra protein.

Calcium 1000 milligrams/day Adults: 1000 milligrams/day Teens: 1300 milligrams/day

Vitamin D 200 IU (5 mcg)/day 200 IU (5 mcg)/day

Iron 18 milligrams/day Adults: 9 milligrams/day Teens: 10 milligrams/day

Zinc 8 milligrams/day Adults: 12 milligrams/day Teens: 14 milligrams/day

Folate 400 micrograms/day 500 micrograms/day


Here’s how your nutrient requirements translate into food choices. Both breastfeeding women and breastfeeding teens can use this guide.

Foods to Avoid Spicy Foods

You may find that certain foods in your diet make your newborn irritable. Foods with a strong or spicy flavor (such as garlic or curry) may alter the flavor of your breast milk, and a sudden change in the taste of your milk may annoy your baby. Some of my clients report that gassy vegetables such as onions, broccoli and cauliflower cause their babies to be fussy during breastfeeding. If you suspect a certain food is causing your infant discomfort, try a dietary challenge: eliminate the food from your diet for three days to see if your baby’s reaction subsides, then return the food to your diet and again monitor your infant’s reaction. You may have to eliminate certain foods for a period of time. Depending on how long you decide to breastfeed, you may be able to reintroduce this food in your diet without causing upset to your baby.


I recommend that you avoid consuming large amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding. Most women can have one or two cups of coffee (up to 350 milligrams of caffeine) without affecting their babies. Amounts greater than this can stimulate your baby, causing irritability and wakefulness. Large doses of caffeine may also interfere with the availability of iron from breast milk and impair your infant’s iron stores. Take a moment to review all sources of caffeine in your diet—coffee, tea, iced tea, soft drinks, chocolate and some over-the-counter medications. You’ll find a comprehensive list of foods and their caffeine content on page 38 in chapter 1.


Alcohol easily enters breast milk. One study found that the alcohol concentration of breast milk peaks within one hour after having a drink. What’s more, even small amounts of alcohol—for example, one bottle of beer—may reduce your baby’s intake of breast milk. Alcohol may change the flavor of your milk, making it unacceptable to the infant. Because infants metabolize alcohol differently, it may suppress their feeding behavior. And drinking alcohol may even reduce the amount of breast milk you produce.

Despite the claim that a little alcohol facilitates the let-down reflex and allows women to breastfeed more easily, there is no scientific evidence to support this. If you don’t want to give up the occasional glass of wine or cocktail, there’s no need to worry. A drink once in a while does not appear to affect your ability to produce breast milk, nor does it impair your baby’s development. If you have several drinks, however, you should postpone breastfeeding for at least an hour for every drink you consume.


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