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Breastfeeding FAQs: Your Eating and Drinking Habits

Breastfeeding is a natural thing to do, but it still comes with its fair share of questions. Here's what you need to know about your eating and drinking habits — and how they may affect your baby — during breastfeeding.

What Should I Eat?

As you did when you were pregnant, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and calcium-rich foods. You’ll need about 450 to 500 extra calories per day while breastfeeding. Follow the recommendations in the MyPlate food guide and you'll be well on your way to giving both you and your baby a nutritious diet.

Breastfeeding can make you thirsty, so keep a water bottle nearby so it's there when you need it.

Do I Need to Take Vitamins?

Your doctor may ask you to continue taking a prenatal vitamin or women’s supplement. 

It’s important to get enough iodine, an important mineral, while breastfeeding. To get enough:

  • Take a supplement with 150 micrograms of iodine per day.
  • Use iodized salt in your cooking.
  • Eat foods that are high in iodine, like seafood and dairy products.

If you are vegan or don't eat fish or dairy, talk to your doctor about getting checked for iodine deficiency.

Can My Baby Have a Reaction to Something I Eat?

It’s possible for your breastfed baby to have an allergic reaction or sensitivity to something you eat or drink.

Foods like beans, broccoli, cauliflower, or some dairy products can cause fussiness, gassiness, or colicky behavior in some babies. Foods like cow's milk, soy, wheat, corn, oats, eggs, nuts and peanuts, and fish or shellfish are common allergy-causing foods.

If you think your baby had a reaction to a food, call your doctor and avoid eating or drinking anything your little one can't seem to tolerate. Keep a journal of exactly what you eat and drink, along with any reactions your baby had. This can help both you and your doctor pinpoint what the problem food, or foods, might be.

Although such a reaction is extremely rare, if your child has trouble breathing or has swelling of the face, call 911 right away.

Is Alcohol Still a "No-No"?

Drinking in moderation — one or two drinks within a 24-hour period — is fine, as long as you wait to feed your baby.

When you drink alcohol, a small amount gets into your breast milk. The amount of alcohol in breast milk depends on the amount of alcohol in the blood. It takes about 2 hours after having one drink for the alcohol to no longer be a concern for your baby. So do not give your baby fresh breast milk for at least 2 hours if you've had one drink, 4 hours if you've had two drinks, and so on.

If you plan to drink more than a few, do so after breastfeeding's been established for about a month and then "pump and dump." This is when you pump your milk and throw it away.

But drinking to excess when you're nursing is not a good idea. Even if you "pump and dump," there are other risks to your baby. Drinking too much changes your ability to be alert and think clearly. It affects how you care for your baby and may prevent you from responding to your baby's needs. It's also a risk factor for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Should I Still Avoid Some Types of Fish?

As during pregnancy, nursing moms should avoid or limit eating fish that is high in mercury. High mercury levels can damage a baby’s developing nervous system.

Can I Have Caffeine?

As with alcohol, it's best to limit caffeine while breastfeeding. One or two cups of coffee a day are fine, but more than one or two servings per day may affect your baby's mood and/or sleep.

Reviewed by: Jamila H. Richardson, BSN, RN, IBCLC
Date Reviewed: 01-01-2021

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