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Food for women who are breastfeeding

You need more nutrition than normal when you're breastfeeding - both for yourself and for your little baby. Here are some ideas on what can be good to eat a bit more of.

In a way you're sharing your food with your child when you breastfeed, as everything you eat ends up in your breast milk. Which is why it's so important that you eat nutritious and varied meals - but that's usually easier said than done! You might not have time to spend on cooking, and lunch may well be something simple that you can eat with one hand.

Eat a balanced diet
There are some nutrients that the Swedish National Food Agency thinks women who are breastfeeding should make an extra effort to try and consume:

Iron
By eating a diet that's rich in iron, you can restock your body after your pregnancy. There's iron in meat, liver pâté, blood pudding and whole grain products. Even lentils, peas, beans, leafy greens and nuts contain iron. 
Find out more about iron and anaemia during pregnancy.

Folate/folic acid
Vegetables, beans, chickpeas, lentils, fruit, berries and whole grain products contain beneficial folic acid. Folic acid is important for your own health, but particularly important if you are considering getting pregnant again. Because folic acid reduces the risk of spina bifida in a developing foetus. You should eat 400 µg of folic acid for at least a month before you are planning on becoming pregnant, and up until you are 12 weeks pregnant.

If you normally consume large quantities of folate-rich foods, for example, if you are vegetarian and eat a lot of legumes, you may be getting enough dietary folate. Otherwise you should consider supplements.

Iodine
You also need iodine when you're breastfeeding. Use iodine-rich salt in your cooking, but no more than you usually would. Remember that a lot of mineral, herb and flake salts are not iodised. Read the list of ingredients.

Too much iodine can however be harmful. Seaweed-based foods may contain too much iodine, so be careful with them.

Vitamin D
One vitamin that is important for strong, healthy bones is vitamin D. Your body generates the vitamin when sunlight affects your skin, which is why spending a bit of time in the sun every day makes you feel good.
There's vitamin D in food, for example, fresh fatty fish, tinned fatty fish like tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel and herring, as well as eggs. And there are a lot of vitamin D enriched dairy products, for example, milk, yoghurt and most margarines.

Women who don't generate enough vitamin D via the sun should eat a lot of these foods, or vitamin D supplements. This particularly applies if you:
• have dark skin - it takes longer for your skin to generate vitamin D.
• spend a lot of time outdoors.
• keep your skin covered, for religious or cultural reasons.

Seafood provides a little bit of a lot
Seafood is rich in vitamin D, iodine and selenium, which are important when you're breastfeeding. Fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel, also contain DHA - an omega-3 fatty acid that is considered to be important for things like your brain. It's good to eat fish 2-3 times a week, but just like when you were pregnant, there are kinds that you shouldn't eat too often - find out more about choosing the right fish.

How much should you drink while you're breastfeeding?
It takes a huge amount of liquid to produce milk, so drink a lot of water. Let your thirst guide you. Aim to drink about 1 1/2 litres a day, more if it's hot, you've been exercising, if you've vomited or if you've been constipated. Try to keep a glass of water nearby every time you breastfeed.

Avoid soft drinks, squash, concentrated fruit drinks and light drinks, which contain a lot of sugar and very few nutrients. Avoid energy drinks too.
Alcohol has no positive effects on breastfeeding. Current research hasn't shown any medical risks for the baby if you drink 1-2 glasses of wine about once a week. But the advice is still that you should refrain from drinking alcohol while you're still breastfeeding.
It's fine to drink tea and coffee. The amount of caffeine that's transferred to your child via breast milk is so minimal that it won't harm them.

Your child may be sensitive or allergic to something you're eating
If you suspect that your child has reacted to something you've eaten, you can try eliminating that food from your diet for a few days to see if the problem goes away. Then, when you try eating it again after a while, you'll notice if the symptoms return.
You child can sometimes react to things you're eating due to an allergy, for example, cow's milk. If you suspect they have a food allergy, you should talk to your local GP or paediatric nurse about what you should do. If you just avoid milk, without replacing it with something else, you and your child might not be getting enough calcium.

Dietary supplements
Dietary supplements, herbal products and natural remedies are usually not that strictly regulated, and you can't be sure that they aren't harmful for your child. So don't take those kind of products without consulting your nurse or doctor at the paediatric clinic first. You should completely avoid products that contain ginseng if you're breastfeeding or pregnant.

Consultation with a dietician
If you eat a balanced diet you don't need to take supplements while you're breastfeeding. But some women may need special advice about their eating habits during their child's infancy. Ask your doctor or midwife to refer you to a dietician if:
• you are vegetarian or vegan.
• you have a condition that affects what you eat, for example, diabetes.
• you eat very little or have had an eating disorder at some point.
• you are 18 or younger.
• your child appears to be affected by certain foods you eat.
Find out more about food allergies in children.

You'll find more information about food and breastfeeding on the National Food Agency's website

Find out more about how your partner can help to ensure your daily routines and breastfeeding work.
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