Health and Nutrition Information for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Nutritional Needs while Breastfeeding

When you are breastfeeding, you have a higher need for some vitamins and minerals.  Following your Daily Food Plan for Moms will meet most of these increased needs. 

On the entry page for the Plan,

breastfeeding woman and baby

  • Select "Breast milk only, no formula" if you are not giving any formula. (Choose this even if you are also giving solid foods such as cereal or fruit.) 
  • Select "At least half breast milk, plus some formula" if you are sometimes giving formula in addition to breastfeeding at least half the time. 
  • Select "Some breast milk, mostly formula" if you are mostly giving formula, and breastfeeding only once or twice a day.

In each food group, choose foods that have the vitamins and minerals you need. Learn more about choices to make from each food group to provide the vitamins and minerals you and your baby need.

Also make choices that are low in "empty calories." Empty calories are the calories from added sugars and solid fats in foods like soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, cheese, whole milk, and fatty meats. Look for choices that are low-fat, fat-free, unsweetened, or with no added-sugars.  They have fewer or no "empty calories."

While you are breastfeeding, your need for fluids increases. You may notice that you are thirstier than before.  Drink enough water and other fluids to quench your thirst. 

A common suggestion is to drink a glass of water or other beverage every time you breastfeed.  Some beverages, such as soft drinks and fruit drinks, contain added sugars.  Limit your intake of these beverages. 

Use caution when drinking beverages containing caffeine or alcohol.  These substances pass from your bloodstream into your breast milk and to your baby.

Drinking a moderate amount (up to 2 to 3 cups a day) of coffee or other caffeinated beverages does not affect your baby. 

You can continue to breastfeed and have an occasional alcoholic beverage if you are cautious and follow these guidelines:

  • Wait until your baby has a routine breastfeeding pattern, at least 3 months of age. 
  • Wait at least four hours after having a single alcoholic drink before breastfeeding. 
  • Or, express breast milk before having a drink and use it to feed your infant later.

Breastfeeding provides many benefits.  Do not stop breastfeeding altogether just because you would like to have an occasional drink.

Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot replace a healthy diet.  In addition to eating a healthy diet, you may need a multivitamin and mineral supplement.  Talk with your doctor or health care provider about taking a supplement, and follow his or her advice. Be sure to tell your doctor  about any supplements you are already taking, to protect yourself against taking too much.