Like everyone else, breastfeeding women should have two portions of fish each week, one of which should be an oil-rich fish. Because breastfeeding mums need a diet that provides all the nutrients needed for themselves and their baby (in the form of breast milk), they have higher requirements for protein and many vitamins and minerals. That’s where fish can have an important role. In particular, seafood is a natural source of long-chain omega-3 fats, including DHA, with the greatest amounts being found in oil-rich fish. It’s especially important to eat the recommended weekly serving of oil-rich fish when breastfeeding because DHA contributes to normal brain development in babies. All varieties of fish are also packed with protein, a nutrient that supports the growth of muscle. Breastfeeding mums also have increased needs for a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B12 and D, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and selenium – and different varieties of fish can make significant contributions to these nutrients. In particular, the Department of Health recommends all breastfeeding mums take a 10mcg supplement of vitamin D, but eating the recommended one serving of oil-rich fish each week can help to boost intakes. Herring, pilchards, salmon, mackerel, kippers, trout, sardines, fresh tuna and anchovies are all packed with this vitamin, which is needed for the normal development of bones and teeth in babies and young children. Meanwhile, it’s also important that breastfeeding mums get enough iodine in their diet as this nutrient contributes to normal cognitive development. There are specific guidelines on the types and amounts of fish breastfeeding (and pregnant) women should have.
For more information, go to our Becoming a mum section.
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