Eating Well for Lactating Mothers

(Content revised 12/2019)

By choosing breastfeeding, you are already providing your baby the natural nourishment for the growth and health. Your dietary intake of iodine, folate, omega-3 fatty acids is closely related to the levels of these nutrients in your milk. Here are some nutrition tips to help you meeting the demand for nutrients during breastfeeding:

Nutrition tips for lactating mothers:

  • Have a balanced diet with variety of foods. Include meat, fish, eggs and dairy every day.
  • Ensure adequate iodine intake. This helps your baby to get adequate iodine from your milk. Take an iodine-containing prenatal multivitamin/multimineral supplement. Use iodised salt in place of table salt for cooking. Consume foods with iodine, including seafood, marine fish, eggs, milk and milk products. Choose seaweed snacks with lower sodium and fat content. If you consume kelp, limit to no more than once a week as excess iodine intake may adversely affect the thyroid gland.
  • Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Consume fish in moderation. Choose from a variety. Avoid eating large predatory fish and those with high levels of methylmercury.
  • Choose more whole-grain foods, e.g. brown rice, oats, whole-meal bread, etc.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits.
  • Limit eating foods of high fat, trans fat and sugar foods. Trim off skin and fat from foods in cooking and remove the oils in soup.
  • Avoid alcohol and alcoholic drinks. Alcohol interferes the breastmilk flow. It also passes through breastmilk and impairs your child's development.
  • Consult a registered Chinese medicine practitioner before taking traditional herbal medicine or health tonics.
  • Have at least 30 minutes of physical exercise every day and go outdoors often. Expose your skin to sunlight to boost the level of vitamin D in your body as diet alone is usually not sufficient to meet your needs for vitamin D. Your baby needs sun exposure to get adequate vitamin D too. For more information, please refer to “Parent information: Vitamin D”.

How much should a lactating mother eat in a day?

Food group Servings per day Examples of a serving*
Grains 4 to 5 1 bowl of rice or rice noodles;
1½ bowls of macaroni/ spaghetti;
1¼ bowls of noodles
Vegetables 4 to 5 ½ bowl of cooked vegetables;
1 bowl of uncooked vegetables
Fruits 3 An apple or orange of size a lady's fist;
2 kiwi fruits;
½ cup of diced fruit
Meat and alternatives 6 to 7 40 g raw meat/fish/chicken ;
1 egg;
1/4 block of firm tofu;
6 to 8 tablespoons of cooked beans
Milk and alternatives 2 1 cup of low fat or skimmed milk or calcium-fortified soy milk;
2 slices of processed cheese;
1 carton (150g) of yoghurt
Oil, fat, sugar, salt in moderation
Fluid 10 1 cup of water or 1 bowl of thin soup

*1 bowl = 250-300ml; 1 cup = 240ml

Should I avoid certain foods to reduce my baby's risk of developing allergy?

There is no need to avoid specific food during breastfeeding unless you or your baby is allergic to a particular food. If you are in doubt your baby is allergic to the foods you ingested, consult your doctor for advice.

Can I drink coffee?

Too much caffeine can affect babies'central nervous system and may keep them awake. Lactating mothers should limit caffeine containing drinks. Try the decaffeinated coffee or tea as alternatives.

Must I avoid alcohol?

You should avoid alcohol because of its adverse effect to health e.g. affect judgment. Alcohol decreases milk production. It passes through breastmilk and may impair your baby's development.