Breastfeeding Diet: Best Foods & Vitamins for Breastfeeding

Published October 12, 2022

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Pregnant woman

Eating a balanced diet is important while you’re breastfeeding. Not only for your baby’s healthy growth and development but also important for you, to help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional requirements are higher in breastfeeding women. Breastfeeding women require an additional 300 calories and a total of 71 g of protein per day.

Ensuring you get enough calories, protein and fluids will help you have the energy to breastfeed and look after yourself and your new baby.

But did you know that the amount of several nutrients in breast milk is dependent on your diet? This is also why eating a healthy balanced diet while you breastfeed is important.

The key nutrients dependent on your diet, include vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, and D, fatty acids, and iodine.

Learn why these key nutrients are important for your baby’s development and what foods to eat to make sure you’re getting them in your diet.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is the name of a group of fat-soluble compounds involved in healthy immune system function, eye health and vision.  Vitamin A is needed for both pregnant women (especially in the 3rd trimester) and babies to support the immune system and vision. The amount of vitamin A in breast milk depends on your body’s stores of vitamin A.  Eating a diet rich in vitamin A will help boost maternal stores and keep your vitamin A levels high for when they’re needed most.

Foods rich in vitamin A:

  • Lean meats, liver or liver pate, poultry, oily fish and egg yolks
  • Leafy green vegetables, as well as orange, yellow and other coloured vegetables
  • Legumes and beans
  • Fruit, including tomatoes,
  • Wholegrains, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, polenta, couscous, oats and barley
  • Tofu, nuts and seeds
  • Butter, whole milk, yoghurt, cheese

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in your baby’s bone growth, immune system function, and teeth development, but is present in low amounts in breast milk.

Eating foods high in vitamin D and safe exposure to sunlight can help support vitamin D levels in breast milk.

Supplementation may be required if your exposure to sunlight is low or your dietary intake is inadequate. Speak to your healthcare practitioner to see if supplementation is needed.

Foods rich in Vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel, and eggs.
  • In Australia, some foods including margarine, some dairy, soy drinks, bread & cereals may be fortified with vitamin D.

Omega-3 fatty acids

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that we get from our food, commonly known as ALA, EPA & DHA.

DHA is especially important for infant eye, brain and central nervous system development.

Helping your body get DHA

Your body can convert foods rich in ALA to EPA and DHA, although this does not happen very efficiently. Studies show that less than 10% of ALA is converted to DHA. It’s better to get DHA & EPA directly from your food. Supplements may also be beneficial if dietary intake is inadequate. Speak to your healthcare practitioner to see if supplementation is required.

Foods rich in essential fatty acids

Foods high in ALA include:

  • Flaxseed oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, canola oil, soybean oil, edamame, navy beans, avocados, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal.

Foods high in DHA & EPA include:

  • Salmon, tuna, trout, mussels, oysters, cod, fish eggs, pickled herring, and clams.

B Vitamins

B Vitamins are not stored in the body so need to be obtained through the diet. B vitamins include B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, Folate and B12.

Foods rich in B vitamins:

  • Animal-based foods, including fish, meat, eggs and dairy products are rich sources of B vitamins especially B12.
  • Dark leafy green vegetables, beans and peas are great sources of B vitamins including folate.
  • Wholegrains including cereals and bread fortified with B vitamins.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C supports the baby’s immune system function. The levels of vitamin C in your breast milk are dependent on the amount of vitamin C you get in your diet. So it’s important to enjoy delicious vitamin C foods regularly.

Foods rich in Vitamin C:

  • Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamin C, including citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, broccoli and capsicum.
  • Canned and frozen vegetables still retain their vitamin C


Adequate iodine is needed for your baby’s growth and cognitive development. The iodine content of food depends on the environment and soil in which they are grown. Iodine levels in Australian soils will differ depending on where you live, so breastfeeding women may require iodine supplementation. Speak to your healthcare practitioner to see if iodine supplementation is recommended in your State.

Foods rich in Iodine:

  • Seafood such as oysters and tinned salmon.
  • Meat, eggs and dairy.
  • Seaweed such as nori sheets.

Eating a balanced diet while you breastfeed is important for you and your baby and a varied diet will make sure you get all the nutrients you and your baby needs.

Speak to your healthcare practitioner if you have further questions about healthy eating during breastfeeding.


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