Healthy eating while breastfeeding/chestfeeding

Eating healthy is just as important when you are breastfeeding as it was when you were pregnant. Your body needs extra energy and nutrients to produce breastmilk for your baby and healthy eating will help you recover from labour and to support your through sleepless nights.

Healthy Eating
Health Canada recommends exclusive breastfeeding/chestfeeding for the first 6 months, and continued for up to 2 years and beyond. Breastfeeding is beneficial for both the nursing parent and baby. Healthy Eating can support your health and well as milk production.  You need to eat a bit more food while breastfeeding, but you can get the extra energy and nutrients you need by eating slightly more of the healthy foods you would normally eat, or by adding an extra healthy snack to your day. For example:
  • Add an extra healthy snack (e.g. fruit and yogurt or whole grain crackers with peanut butter) and/or
  • Add more to your meal (e.g. glass or milk or soy beverage at lunch and more grains or vegetables at dinner)

See Canada's Food Guide page on healthy eating when pregnant and breastfeeding for examples of a variety of different healthy foods and recipes to choose from. This will help you build healthy habits for you and your growing family. The only foods you should avoid while nursing are fish high in mercury since it can pass through milk.

Nursing and healthy weight loss

You should not try to lose weight while nursing by limiting your calories since this could hinder milk production. Instead focus on choosing healthy foods, eating regularly, listening to your body and being mindful of your eating habits. Visit Canada’s Food Guide on Healthy Eating When Pregnant and Breastfeeding for more information.

Drink lots of water

Your body needs a lot of water to make milk. Stay hydrated by always having a water bottle or glass easily accessible and taking sips throughout the day.  

Sugary drinks are not necessary to stay hydrated and should not be part of your regular diet since they provide little to no nutritional value. Visit Canada’s Food Guide for more tips on how you can make water your drink of choice.

Be mindful of your caffeine intake

Limit the amount of caffeine you have to no more than 500 mL (2 cups) of coffee or other caffeine drinks per day. This also means no more than 300 mg of caffeine a day. 

Visit, UnlockFood.ca for more information on Facts on Caffeine.

Continue taking a multi-vitamin

Your nutrient needs are higher when you are nursing than pre-pregnancy. It is recommended to continue taking a multivitamin with 0.4 mg of folic acid every day.  You can continue taking your pre-natal vitamin or ask your healthcare professional to recommend one.
Your diet and your milk supply 

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that eating certain foods can help you make more milk, but there is limited scientific evidence to support this. Milk production is determined by the amount of milk removed from the breast.

If you are concerned that you are not making enough milk for your baby, help is available. Visit the “Get Help with Breastfeeding” section of our website for a list of free nursing supports. Breastfeeding experts can help you to review the latch, nursing position, frequency, technique, and help you look at other lactation supports.

What you eat will probably not make your baby gassy

There is limited evidence to support the claim that the foods you eat will make your baby gassy. There is no list of foods that you should avoid when nursing.

Most babies are gassy from time to time, and this can be worse at night. This is due to baby’s immature digestive system and has nothing to do with what you ate. Swallowing air can sometimes make babies gassy. Here are some things you can try to reduce the amount of air your baby swallows:

  • Respond promptly  to their feeding cues. Babies can swallow air when they cry.
  • If you have a forceful let down:
    • Hand-express before latching baby;
    • Remove baby from the breast for a few seconds once your milk starts flowing to catch the let down in a cloth or breast pad.
    • Nurse baby while laying back to slow the flow of milk.
  • If bottle feeding, use a slow flow nipple and practice paced bottle feeding.

You can always get help with breastfeeding for free with an OPH nurse and other services are available too. Check out our webpage to learn more.

Reduce baby’s risk of developing food allergies

You do not need to avoid common allergenic foods while breastfeeding, even if your child is at high risk (unless of course you have food allergies yourself). High risk children are those that have a parent or sibling with a food allergy. 

In fact, research shows that early exposure to common food allergens to high-risk babies can reduce the risk of developing food allergies. So, even some exposure through breastmilk can help. Also, when you begin solids at around 6 months, you can give your baby foods like eggs, fish, and wheat as part of their diet. Waiting to give these foods will not prevent allergies, even in babies with a family history of food allergy. 

If you are not sure about your decision to avoid certain allergenic foods during breastfeeding, you should talk to your doctor or registered dietitian. Restricting certain foods could lead to inadequate amounts of vitamins and minerals necessary for you and your baby's health. 

Visit, UnlockFood.ca for more information on Food Allergies and Babies.

Avoid alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco while nursing

For more information, visit our page on Alcohol, Cannabis, Tobacco, and NRT while Breastfeeding. 

Want to speak with a Registered Dietitian? 

Call Health Connect Ontario and ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm by calling 811 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007) or starting a chat  

Contact Us