6 Key Nutrients for Breastfeeding

By author photo Melanie McGrice


While breastfeeding can be a beautiful time of bonding with your baby, there is no denying how difficult it can be.

Breastfeeding uses up a lot of energy, and it is important to ensure your overall food intake increases slightly from what you would usually eat. Boosting your nutritional adequacy with grains and veggies will provide vitamins and minerals and fibre and keep both your energy AND nutrient levels in tip top shape!

Let’s look at some of the common nutrients you need to pay particular interest to while breastfeeding:

1. Calcium

Your little one is growing at an enormous rate and need plenty of calcium for healthy growth. An easy way to get enough is have at least 2.5 servings of dairy per day. If you are having a dairy alternative, ensure that it contains at least 100mg calcium per 100ml.

2. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for your baby, as it encourages the healthy development of bones, vision and immunity. It also supports cell and tissue growth, especially hair, skin and nails – so it is important that breastmilk is rich in Vitamin A. Foods you can include to get enough Vitamin A include carrots, orange fruits and dark leafy greens.

3. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays a role in red blood cell production, DNA synthesis and promoting a healthy nervous system. This is especially relevant for vegetarian mothers, as meat, eggs and dairy products are the richest dietary sources of Vitamin B12. If you are not meeting the recommended servings of meat and dairy products, you can use fortified foods to help meet requirements such as fortified grains, or other food sources such as legumes or mushrooms. Otherwise Vitamin B12 supplementation may be required.

4. Vitamin D

15-30 minutes outside on a sunny day is usually enough to reach Vitamin D needs. This is manageable for most of the population; however it can be hard to get out and about with a newborn when you are exhausted most of the time. Although it’s hard to get adequate Vitamin D through food, if you’re low in Vitamin D, supplements are easy and convenient to take.

5. Zinc

Zinc plays a crucial role in healthy digestion and metabolism. Zinc is found in fish, meat, fortified cereals, oatmeal, green beans, dairy products, corn, peas, avocado, pomegranate and nuts and seeds. Zinc from animal sources are more readily absorbed than plant sources, so vegetarians really need to focus on zinc rich plant-based or fortified foods.

6. Fluid

Breastmilk is mostly water, so if you were someone who struggled to meet the regular 8 glasses of water/day previously, you may find that you’re becoming dehydrated quickly now that you’re breastfeeding. Not only will it affect how you’re feeling (headaches, fogginess, etc) but will also affect your milk flow and may make for a grumpy bub.

A good tip is always have a glass or bottle of water with you , so you can constantly sip throughout the day. Add some lemon, lime or a few berries to enhance the flavour if you don’t enjoy plain water.


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