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What to Eat

When you are lactating, good nutrition optimizes breast milk quality and quantity while helping to maintain your health. The information that follows will help you meet the specific nutrient requirements of the lactation period.


Your energy needs are even greater during lactation than they are during pregnancy. In general, breastfeeding women need to consume an additional 500 calories per day. (If you are nursing twins, you will have even greater dietary needs).

Although your body stored extra fat while you were pregnant, fat storage alone will not meet all of your caloric needs. The remainder of this energy has to come from your diet.

If you breastfeed for more than 3 months, or if your weight falls below your ideal weight for height, you may need to further increase your caloric intake.

Ref: *Dewey, KG; Energy & protein requirement during lactation; Annu Rev Nutr 1997 17:19-36


Lactating women have higher protein requirements than normal.

To get the protein you require, you need to consume additional 20 g of protein daily* during  lactation period.

If you do not consume enough protein, your milk production may decrease or you may deplete your own protein stores.

Some excellent sources of high-quality protein are fish and seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, liver, and eggs. Other sources of protein include peas, beans, nuts, and cereals. Milk and other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, are also excellent sources of protein.

Ref: *Dewey, KG; Energy & protein requirement during lactation; Annu Rev Nutr 1997 17:19-36


The fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important for the visual and mental development of your little one. Your intake of DHA directly affects the DHA content of your breast milk. Additionally, researchers have found a significant association between the DHA content of breast milk and the visual acuity of infants.*

Ref: *Lauritzen L et al, Maternal fish oil supplementation in lactation: effect on visual acuity and n-3 fatty acid content of infant erythrocytes; Lipids. 2004 Mar;39(3):195-206

Experts recommend that breastfeeding women ensure a DHA intake of 300 mg per day.*

Ref: *http://www.issfal.org/statements/adequate-intakes-recommendation-table, accessed on 20 Feb 2012

Vitamins and minerals

The vitamin content of human milk typically reflects the amounts of vitamins in the mother's diet. Breastfeeding women have higher-than-usual requirements for most vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, and zinc are especially important during lactation.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for healthy skin, mucuos membrane, and eye function*.

Ref: *MOH Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims; Dec 2010

Liver, eggs, and cheese are good sources of vitamin A. Vitamin A is also found in beta-carotene and other carotenoids.

Because of these benefits, you may want to choose a nutritional supplement that includes natural carotenoids (also known as Carotene Extract) as a source of vitamin A.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 aids proper protein absorption, helps form red blood cells, and promotes nerve functioning. Because of your increased protein intake during lactation, you require more vitamin B6.

An intake of 2.0 mg of vitamin B6 per day is recommended for lactating women.*

Ref: *http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/vitamin-b6-000337.htm, accessed on 21 Feb 2012

Meat, liver, whole grains, legumes, and potatoes are good sources of vitamin B6.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps build and maintain bones, and is needed for calcium absorption.*

Ref: *MOH Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims; Dec 2010

Although vitamin D requirements are not higher than usual during lactation, it is important to ensure adequate intake – at least 5 mcg per day. If you are deficient in vitamin D, your little one may absorb less calcium from your breast milk. This can put your little one at risk for developing rickets, a disease that can cause deformed bones.

Vitamin D is found in fish, liver, and egg yolks.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is necessary for normal cell growth and division.*

Ref: *MOH Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims; Dec 2010

Breastfeeding women should consume 500 mcg of folic acid daily.*

Ref: *http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/folic-acid.cfm#c, accessed on 21 Feb 2012

Folic acid is found in liver, leafy green vegetables, oranges, and cantaloupe. However, because it is not certain how much folic acid in foods is readily absorbed, you may want to consume a vitamin supplement or a fortified milk to ensure adequate intake.


Calcium helps in development of strong  bones and teeth

Ref: *MOH Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims; Dec 2010

Although calcium requirements are not higher than usual during lactation, it is important to ensure adequate intake—1,000 mg for women 19 years and older. Nature will make sure that your breast milk contains enough calcium, drawing it from your bones if your dietary intake is inadequate. This can put you at greater risk for fractures.

Milk and dairy foods, salmon or sardines with bones, and spinach are good sources of calcium. However, even if you eat enough food to meet your increased calorie requirements, you may not consume sufficient calcium, and a supplement may be necessary.


Zinc is essential for growth.*

Seafood, liver, and meat are good sources of zinc.

Ref: *MOH Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims; Dec 2010

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