Breastfeeding has many benefits for moms and babies. For example, breastfeeding can:
- Help protect your baby from infection and illness
- Lower your risk of some diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer
- Save your family money
Making healthy food choices while you're breastfeeding will help you and your baby get the nutrients you both need.
Most people can get all the nutrients they need by following a healthy eating pattern. If you are worried about getting enough nutrients while breastfeeding, ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin.
Follow a healthy eating pattern.
To get the nutrients you need while breastfeeding, follow a healthy eating pattern [PDF - 505 KB]. For example, include these foods in your diet:
- A variety of vegetables and fruits
- Seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, and soy products
- Fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese – or soymilk with added calcium and vitamins A and D
- Whole grains like brown rice and 100% whole-wheat bread
- Fortified cereals (cereals with added iron and folic acid)
Check the Nutrition Facts label and choose foods and drinks with less added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium (salt). Learn more about eating healthy.
Eat 8 to 12 ounces of seafood each week.
Fish and shellfish have healthy fats that are good for you and your baby. But some fish is high in mercury, a metal that can hurt your baby’s development. It’s a good idea to eat seafood that is high in healthy fats but lower in mercury.
These choices are lower in mercury, so you can eat 8 to 12 ounces a week.
- Canned light tuna
You can eat 4 ounces of these fish a week if you don’t eat any other seafood that week.
- Canned or fresh white (albacore) tuna
- Chilean sea bass or striped bass
- Yellowfin tuna
Fish to avoid
Don’t eat bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, or tilefish. They are high in mercury.
Drink plenty of fluids.
Your body needs extra fluids when you are breastfeeding to stay hydrated. Try drinking a glass of water every time you breastfeed.
Limit drinks with caffeine and added sugars.
- Talk to your doctor about how much caffeine is safe for you to drink.
- Limit drinks with added sugars like sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks.
Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers.
If you choose to drink alcohol, follow these safety tips.
- Drink only in moderation – for women, this means no more than 1 drink a day. In general, 1 drink is equal to a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of liquor. Learn more about what counts as a standard drink.
- If you are going to have a drink, do it just after breastfeeding or pumping, not before.
- Wait at least 2 to 3 hours after having a drink to breastfeed or pump. This gives your body time to break down the alcohol so there will be less alcohol in your breast milk.
If you have questions, talk to your doctor.
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on healthy eating while breastfeeding was adapted from materials from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Office on Women’s Health.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidance Review Committee