Breastfeeding is an important time for mothers and their babies. It is a time when the mothers’ bodies are providing the nutrients that their babies will need to survive and thrive. When a mother has adequate nutrients in her body, so will her baby. That is why nutrition for mothers during this period is of greatest importance.
This article is written in collaboration with Dr Angelia Chua (Consultant, Family Physician, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics) and Miss Wong Yuefen (Principal Dietitian, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics).
We have compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions breastfeeding mothers have about diet and nutrition. Here is what our medical experts have to say.
A nutritious diet should include high protein and iron-rich foods, oily fish, dairy foods and wholegrain. Fruits and vegetables should also be a key part of your diet.
Water is especially important for a breastfeeding mother. With water making up 88% of breast milk, it is the most critical nutrient needed to produce ample breast milk to meet the demands of a suckling baby. Hence, do drink enough water and fluids such as milk and soup – aim to drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily.
If you are concerned about not consuming sufficient nutrient intake, do check with your healthcare provider for recommendations on the vitamin supplements that may be suitable for you. For example, vitamins that would be good supplements to take for mothers who are vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant or do not have adequate sunlight exposure would be Vitamin B12, D, Calcium or Omega-3 fatty acids. Find out more about eating right for breastfeeding
A well-nourished breastfeeding mother will need an additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal)1 per day. This means that a breastfeeding mother should consume approximately 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day*.
Try to eat an additional serving of food from each food group of
My Healthy Plate. Select whole foods, such as wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds to optimize the overall nutrient quality of your diet.
*The amount of additional calories needed for an individual breastfeeding woman is affected by age, body mass index (BMI), activity level and extent of breastfeeding. Do consult a dietitian to understand your individual intake requirements.
Breastfeeding mothers are advised to be careful of what they consume, because some substances can be passed from mother to baby through breastmilk. Foods that contain alcohol or caffeine should be avoided. Alternatively, foods must be well-cooked or boiled to allow alcohol evaporation. Find out more
Vitamins and supplements may not be necessary if you have a varied and balanced diet. Ensure that the foods you eat provide enough carbohydrates for energy, calcium for strong bones and protein to help your baby grow. Just continue to eat nutritious foods as advised for your pregnancy diet, and you’re all set! However, if you feel that your calcium intake and sun exposure had reduced post-delivery, you may wish to supplement with Vitamin D and calcium.
Myth:Mothers need to drink more milk to produce milk.
Fact:Drinking more milk does not influence the production of breast milk. However, it is a source of fluid that keeps mothers hydrated. The calcium found in milk also helps to maintain the mother’s bone mass during breastfeeding.
Myth:Mothers who are on medication(s) should not breastfeed.
Fact:Some medications are breastfeeding friendly. For mothers who are on medication(s), consult your doctors to find out if you can continue to breastfeed. Do not purchase over-the-counter drugs for self-medication during the breastfeeding period.
Myth:Skipping a day feed will produce more milk for the night feed.
Fact:The more you breastfeed, the more supply you will have. Interrupting the breastfeeding cycle will interrupt the milk production, and in turn, reduce the milk supply. So, feed regularly or express the breast milk to ensure a steady continuous supply.
Having sufficient nutrients through a varied and balanced diet is important to a breastfeeding mother and her baby. Focus on making healthy food choices — and you and your baby will reap the rewards.
If you are unsure about whether you are getting the nutrients you need or feel especially tired or drained, do not hesitate to seek advice from a healthcare professional.
Remember, you need to take care of yourself first to take care of your little one!
Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your baby a healthy start.
The article has been endorsed by the following representatives, listed in alphabetical order by institutions: A/Prof Daisy Chan (Chairperson, Chapter of Neonatologists, College of Paediatrics and Child Health Singapore), A/Prof Tan Lay Kok (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital), Dr Moira Chia Suyin (Consultant, Department of Paediatrics, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital), Ms Adeline Kooh Seok Koon (Asst Director, Nursing (Maternity), Mount Alvernia Hospital), Prof Lee Yung Seng (Group Director, Paediatrics, National University Hospital), Ms Susan Kok (Senior Asst Director, Nursing, Gleneagles Hospital, Parkway Pantai Group), Ms Helen Cruz Espina (Senior Lactation Consultant, Raffles Hospital Pte Ltd), A/Prof Yong Tze Tein (Head & Senior Consultant, O&G, Singapore General Hospital), Ms Fonnie Lo (Asst Director, ParentCraft Centre (Clinical) and Lactation Consultant, Thomson Medical Pte. Ltd).
This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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