Taking Care of You

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Healthy Eating

A nutritious, balanced diet helps you stay energetic and make plenty of milk for your baby. No foods are banned while breastfeeding. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important at all stages of life. Breastfeeding is no exception.Making milk will use about 500 extra calories a day, so you might have a bigger appetite while you are breastfeeding.

Making healthy food choices—along with regular physical activity—will keep you healthy while you breastfeed. Choose a variety of foods and beverages to build your own healthy eating style. Include foods from all food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods.

Try to:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Move to low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese.
  • Vary your proteins.

It’s important to focus on eating healthy, rather than losing baby weight, while you’re breastfeeding. Slow weight loss over several months is safest.

Babies love the flavors of foods that come through your milk. Sometimes a baby may be sensitive to something you eat, such as eggs or dairy products like milk and cheese. Watch your baby for the symptoms listed below, which could mean that your baby has an allergy or sensitivity to something you eat:

  • Diarrhea, vomiting, green stools with mucus or blood
  • Rash, eczema, dermatitis, hives, dry skin,
  • Fussing during and/or after feedings,
  • Crying for long periods,
  • Sudden waking with discomfort, or
  • Wheezing or coughing.

These signs do not mean your baby is allergic to your milk, only to something that you ate. You may need to stop eating whatever is bothering your baby or eat less of it. You may find that after a few months you can eat the food again with better results.

Talk with your baby’s doctor if your baby has any of the symptoms listed above. If your baby ever has problems breathing, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Source: USDA WIC Breastfeeding Support

Daily Food Guide Amount Needed
Food Group Food Choices Pregnant / Breastfeeding Under 18 Pregnant / Breastfeeding Over 18 Non-Pregnant Under 18 Non-Pregnant Over 18
Grains 1 slice bread, 6” tortilla, small biscuit or muffin = 1 oz. 5-8 oz. 5-8 oz. 6 oz. 5-6 oz.
1 hot dog or hamburger bun, 8″ tortilla = 2 oz.
1 cup cold cereal = 1 oz.
½ cup cooked cereal= 1 oz.
½ cup cooked noodles, pasta, or rice = 1 oz.
3 cups popcorn = 1 oz.
5 whole wheat or 7 square or round crackers = 1 oz.
Vegetables Raw leafy vegetables (2 cups = 1 serving or cup) 3 or more cups 3 or more cups 2 1/2 cups 2-2 1/2 cups
Cooked, chopped or raw vegetable
100% vegetable juice
Fruits 100% fruit juice 2 or more cups 2 or more cups 1 1/2 cups 1 1/2-2 cups
1 medium whole fruit
Cooked, chopped or canned fruit (drained)

Dried fruit (½ cup = 1 serving or cup)

Dairy (Milk, Yogurt & Cheese) Milk, yogurt (choose low-fat or fat-free dairy) Pregnant 3-4 cups

Breastfeeding 3 cups

3 cups 3 cups 3 cups
½ cup cottage cheese = ¼ cup milk
1½ oz. cheese (size of 6 dice) = 1 cup of milk
Protein (Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans and Nuts) Cooked meat, fish, or poultry 5-6 ½ oz. 5-7  oz. 5 oz. 5-5½ oz.
Cooked dried/canned beans, peas, lentils ( ¼ cup = 1 oz.)
1 egg = 1 oz.
1 tbsp. peanut butter = 1. oz .
Oils Olive oil, canola oil, other vegetable oils.
Soft vegetable oil spreads.
Salad dressing, mayonnaise without trans fats.
Other Calories Additional calories including butter, margarine, sugar, candy, These foods provide calories, with few nutrients.
jam, syrup, soft drinks, cake, cookies, pie, chips, etc.
Water/Other Liquids Water, 100% juice (no more than 8 oz/day), milk, soup 8-10 cups 8-10 cups 6-8 cups 6-8 cups

*Source: USDA MyPlate and Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Nutrition Care Manual


Drink enough fluids to satisfy your thirst. You might be thirstier than before you started breastfeeding. Water, non-far or low-fat milk, and 100% juice are good choices. You will know that you are drinking enough liquids if your urine is clear or pale yellow in color.

Source: Breastfeeding: Keep It Simple Amy Spangler, MN, RN, IBCLC

What to Avoid

Like when you were pregnant, there are things you should limit or avoid while you are breastfeeding to keep your baby happy and healthy.

Limit caffeine. Drinking a small amount of coffee (up to 2 cups a day) or other drinks with caffeine is okay while breastfeeding. Too much caffeine can make your baby fussy or keep baby awake.

Avoid alcohol. It’s best to avoid alcohol while you are breastfeeding. Alcohol can enter your breast milk, and it can cause you to make less milk. If you choose to drink, you may have a single alcoholic drink once in a while if your baby’s breastfeeding routine is well established—and your baby is at least 3 months old. Then, be sure to wait at least 4 hours before nursing. You can also express milk before you drink to feed your baby later. It’s best to talk with your doctor before drinking alcohol.

If you smoke, it is best for you and your baby if you quit as soon as possible. Smoking can cause low milk supply, colic, and milk let-down issues.

If you do continue to smoke, you should still breastfeed. Your milk can protect your baby from breathing problems, sudden infant death (SIDS), and poor weight gain. Wait as much time as possible between smoking and breastfeeding. This will lower the amount of nicotine in your milk while nursing.

Be sure to smoke away from your baby and change your clothes to keep your baby away from the chemicals smoking leaves behind. Other people smoking around your baby (secondhand smoke) can also harm your baby’s health.

Electronic cigarettes, also known as “e-cigarettes,” “e-cigs,” “vapes,” or “vape pens,” may also harm your baby’s health. These devices deliver nicotine, flavorings, and other additives through an inhaled aerosol. There is limited research about the safety and health effects of e-cigarettes.

Ask your doctor for advice on quitting smoking.

Stay drug-free while breastfeeding. Anything that gets you high can harm your baby and can pass to your baby through your breast milk. Avoid using marijuana, crack, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, meth, and other street drugs.

Misusing prescription drugs can also harm your baby. This includes taking your own prescription drugs in a way not intended by your doctor and taking a prescription drug meant for someone else. Taking drugs while breastfeeding could make your baby have seizures, vomit, and have trouble feeding.

Drug use can also impact your family in many ways. It may be linked with poor parenting, child neglect, and abuse. Parents with drug use disorders may not be able to care for their children well.

If you are taking drugs, speak with your doctor or find a treatment center right away to get help. Stopping drugs suddenly without a doctor’s help can cause serious withdrawal and health problems for you and your baby.

Source: USDA WIC Breastfeeding Support

Physical Activity

Exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing! But, once your doctor says it’s okay, regular exercise can help you feel less tired. Try to get out for a walk every day with your baby, even if it’s just around the block.

You can also fit several 10-minute mini-workouts in your day. Try doing jumping jacks, sit ups, or pushups, or you can jog in place, jump rope, or lift weights.

Source: USDA WIC Breastfeeding Support


Since babies often wake up every 2-3 hours to be fed and changed, it’s no surprise moms get tired quickly! Here are some good ways to get more rest:

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. It’s tempting to use your baby’s naps to catch up with chores, but sometimes getting rest is more important. Set an alarm if you’re worried about sleeping too long.
  • Go to bed early. Try to go to bed really early a few days a week.
  • Share the nights. Ask your partner, mom, sister, or other family members to help. For example, they can change diapers or put your baby back to sleep for you.
  • Ask friends and family for extra support. Try asking a friend or family member to come sit with your baby while you have a nap. Or see if a friend or relative could stay with you for a few days so you can get more sleep. They can also help with chores and errands.
  • Exercise.Try to get out for a walk every day with your baby, even if it’s just around the block. You can also fit several 10-minute mini-workouts in your day. Try doing jumping jacks, sit ups, or pushups, or you can jog in place, jump rope, or lift weights.
  • Try relaxation techniques. As little as 5-10 minutes of deep relaxation may help you feel refreshed. Try a bubble bath, deep breathing, meditation or massage. You can learn relaxation techniques online, download relaxation apps to your phone, or go to the library for books or DVDs.

Remember, this phase when the baby wakes several times a night won’t last forever. As your baby gets older, they will sleep for longer stretches, and you will, too!

Mental and Emotional Health

After having your baby, you may feel sad, worried, and overwhelmed for a few days. Lots of new moms have these feelings after giving birth. Changing hormones, anxiety about caring for your baby, and a lack of sleep all affect your emotions.

Go easy on yourself. These feelings are normal and usually go away in a week or two. If your feelings are extreme or interfere with your ability to care for your baby and yourself, talk to your doctor. You can also call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or find help and other resources online.

Here are other ways to take care of yourself:

  • “Me time.” Taking care of a baby 24/7 is challenging. Rest when you can, eat healthy, and squeeze in some time for yourself.
  • Talk to someone. Talking to your partner, friend, or family member lets you express your feelings and can help you feel better.
  • Connect with other moms. WIC peer counselors can give you support and talk to you about your ups and downs. They may be able to connect you with other moms who can share their similar experiences and cheer you on.
  • Accept help and do less. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. They can care for your baby, do chores around the house, or run errands. That way you can rest or spend time on yourself. If chores don’t get done, that’s okay, too. Time spent caring for yourself and your baby is more important than a perfect house.
  • Go outside. Sunshine and a change of scenery can help brighten your mood. You can walk with your baby in a stroller, so you both can enjoy some fresh air.
  • Do something you enjoy. Take a few minutes each day to do something you enjoy, whether it’s chatting with a friend, listening to music, or watching a favorite show.
  • Be realistic. Don’t worry about being perfect. Just do what you can and leave the rest for later.

This post was last updated on December 1st, 2020 at 8:29 PM

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