32 Nutritional Needs & Diet For Pregnant Women And Breastfeeding Mothers

Find the best and most comprehensive tips on healthy eating for pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers

How much weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on whether you were underweight, at a normal weight, overweight or obese before you got pregnant (and whether you are carrying twins).

Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Many women are concerned about their weight during pregnancy. They fear they will gain too much weight and never get back to their pre-pregnancy size. However, some weight gain is normal during pregnancy, and it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. The extra weight gained during pregnancy provides nourishment for the baby. Some of it is also stored for breastfeeding after the birth of the baby. Women gain an average of 25 to 30 pounds during pregnancy. It’s normal to gain less weight if you start out heavier and to gain more weight if you were underweight before pregnancy. Before we discuss healthy eating for pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers, let’s explore the guideline below:

healthy eating for pregnancy and breastfeeding

Recommended Weight Gain During Pregnancy

1. If your normal range is: underweight

And your Body Mass Index is:   < 19.8

You should gain:  28 to 40 pounds

2. If your normal rangenormal weight And your Body Mass Index is

And your Body Mass Index is:  19.8 to 26.0 You should gain

You should gain: 25 to 30 pounds

3. If your normal range isoverweight And your Body Mass Index is

And your Body Mass Index is:  26.0 to 29.0

You should gain: 15 to 25 pounds

4. If your normal range isobese  And your Body Mass Index is

And your Body Mass Index is: >29.0

You should gain: 0 to 15 pounds

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Check out: Diet for breastfeeding moms

Nutritional Needs During Lactation

A nursing mother’s diet can have a profound effect on her baby. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that whatever you eat, your baby eats too. Healthy nutrients and contaminants alike pass from breast milk to baby.

The nutritional requirements for breastfeeding are similar to pregnancy and women are advised to continue eating as they were eating during their pregnancy. However, a breastfeeding mother needs 200 more calories per day than she did during pregnancy, and it is important that the calories come from nutritious foods. Breastfeeding mothers usually lose 1 to 4 pounds per month without restricting their calorie intake.

healthy eating for pregnancy and breastfeeding

Recommended Daily Allowance Chart

When you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to take a close look at your diet to make sure that you and your baby are getting all of the calories and nutrients you need. The best way to improve your diet is by eating a variety of healthy foods. Remember that “eating for two” doesn’t mean twice as much. You need just 300 calories a day, (400 while nursing).

These additional nutrient requirements can be taken in by choosing the right kind of foods. For instance, green leafy vegetables are high in folic acid and iron. Calcium can be taken in through dairy products and also through foods such as beans. Dairy products are helpful in getting nutrients such as phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamin A and vitamin D. Although pregnancy requires additional nutrients, it doesn’t require a drastic change in caloric intake. Remember, don’t skip meals and keep saturated fats to a minimum.

See Also:  The Health Benefits of Strawberry

Recommended Healthy Eating for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Mother:

Here is a list of dietary allowance for various nutrients during pregnancy and lactation (breastfeeding).

healthy eating for pregnancy and breastfeeding

Recommended Dietary Allowance and Adequate Intake of Nutrients during Pregnancy and Lactation.

Nutrients Units Pregnancy

Age: 18yrs and younger


Age: 19 to 50yrs


Age: 18yrs and younger


Age: 19 to 50yrs

Natural sources
Water Liters         3         3        3.8       3.8 Tap or boiled water, natural fruit juices, tea, carbonated beverages, milk iceberg lettuce, cucumber, pawpaw, watermelon
Carbohydrate grams       175       175        210        210 Canned condensed milk, pie crust, white rice, wheat flour, cornmeal
Protein Grams        71        71         71         71 Duck, chicken, fish, turkey, beef, soy beans
Total fiber Grams        28        28        29         29 Beans, peas, lentils, wheat fiber, oat bran, chick peas
Linoleic acid Grams        13        13        13         13 Sun flower seeds, corn oil, soy bean oil, chicken fat
Alpha-linoleic acid Grams       1.4       1.4        1.3         1.3 Walnut, fatty fish, soy bean oil
Vitamin A mcg       750


     750      1200        1300 Carrot, pumpkin (ugwu), sweet potato, beet greens, turkey and chicken giblets, turnip, greens.
Vitamin E mg        15        15        19        19 Ready-to-eat cereals, tomato, nuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, turnip greens.
Vitamin K mcg       75        90       75        90 Kale, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, turnip greens.
Vitamin C mg       80        85       115        120 Oranges, pawpaw, grape fruit, sweet red peppers, strawberries, can berries
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) mg      1.4       1.4       1.4        1.4 Ready-to-eat cereals, enriched white rice, wheat flour, oat bran, enriched cornmeal
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) mg        1.4       1.4       1.6       1.6 Turkey giblet, milk, ready-to-eat cereals, duck, yoghurt, soy beans, spinach
Vitamin B3 (niacin) mg        18       18       17       17 Chicken, fish, duck, wheat flour, ready-to-eat cereals, tomatoes, turkey, enriched white rice, peanuts, yellow corn meal, pork loin, barley
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) mg       1.9       1.9       2         2 Ready-to-eat cereals, chick peas, fish, beef, turkey, enriched white rice, potatoes, duck, bananas, plantains, chicken breast and giblet, pork loin
Vitamin B9 (folic acid) mcg       600      600      500      500 Enriched white rice, ready-to-eat cereals, cornmeal, turkey giblet, wheat flour, beans, okra, spinach, beef
Vitamin B12 (cynocobalamin) mcg       2.6       2.6       2.8       2.8 Turkey giblets, cooked oysters, cooked crab, fish, ready-to-eat cereals, beef, lamb
Iron mg       27       27       45       45 Beef, turkey, duck, chicken, soy beans, fortified cereals, tomatoes, spinach
Iodine mcg       220      220       290      290 Cheese, bread, milk, salt, cooked sea foods
Vitamin D mcg        5         5         5        5 Salmon, rock fish, tuna, milk with added vitamin D, ready-to-eat cereals, skin exposure to sunlight
Biotin mcg        30        30       35        35 Cooked egg, avocado, cooked salmon, whole wheat bread
Choline mg       450      450      550       550 Egg, salmon, turkey, beef, pork loin, lamb, soy beans, baked beans, kidney beans, chick peas
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) mg        6        6        7         7 Ready-to-eat cereals, beef, mushroom, chicken, turkey, duck, evaporated milk, rice, corn, yoghurt, peas
Calcium mg      1300      1000     1300     1000 Ready-to-eat cereals, cheese, milk, cornmeal, spinach, yoghurt, wheat flour, soy beans, sardines, turnip greens.
Phosphorus mg      1250      700     1250     700 Cornmeal, evaporated milk, fish, duck, soy beans, barley
Magnesium mg      400      360      360      320 Chocolate, fish, wheat flour, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cornmeal, soy beans, white beans.
Copper mg      1000     1000     1300      1300 Beef, cooked oysters, cooked crabs, mushrooms, chocolate, tomato product, nuts, mature soy beans, sunflower seeds
Zinc mg      12        11       13       12 Cooked oysters, ready-to-eat cereals, baked beans, turkey, beef, cooked crab, chicken, duck, lamb, kidney beans
Chromium mg       29        30       44        45 Broccoli, grape juice, orange juice, potatoes, garlic, beef, turkey breast
Manganese mg        2       2        2.6        2.6 Wheat, raw oat bran, pineapple, barley, nuts, ready-to-eat cereals, white rice, spaghetti, okra, brown rice, raspberries, spinach
Molybdenum mcg       50       50        50        50 Beans, peas, nuts, cereals, spinach, broccoli
Selenium mcg       60       60        70        70 Nuts, chicken or turkey giblets, fish, cooked oysters, turkey, duck, wheat flour, enriched white rice, oat bran
Fluoride mg         3         3         3         3 Fluoridated drinking water, cooked sea foods, teas


Note: mcg means micrograms and mg mean milligrams

Importance of Exclusive Breastfeeding

What is exclusive breastfeeding?

This full guide on healthy eating for pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers will not be complete if we do not emphasize breastfeeding in the right way.

Exclusive breastfeeding means that a newborn baby/an infant receives only breast milk with no additional liquids (water or any other liquids) or foods for complete six (6) months. Babies should begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth and this should continue for at least the first six months of life. They don’t need water or any other drinks or foods until they are six months old because the breast milk meets all their fluid requirements. After 6 months, exclusive breastfeeding is not enough for your baby to grow and develop. Complementary foods (semi-solid foods) should be introduced and also continue breastfeeding until they are at least 2 years.

As a breastfeeding mother, breastfeeding helps burn extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Medical Consideration With Breastfeeding

In a few situations, breastfeeding could cause a baby harm. You should not breastfeed if:

  • You are HIV positive because you can transfer the HIV virus to your baby through breastfeeding
  • You are taking certain prescription medications such as some drugs for a migraine headache, Parkinson’s disease or arthritis.
  • You are receiving chemotherapy for cancer
  • You are using illegal drugs such as cocaine or marijuana
  • You have active, untreated tuberculosis
  • Your baby has a rare condition called galactosemia and can not tolerate the natural sugar called galactose in breast milk.

Note: If you are taking a prescription of any kind or you fall into the above situations, please discuss with your doctor on healthy eating for pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers.

Benefits of Exclusive Breastfeeding

  • Reduces mother’s risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer.
  • Reduces mother’s risk of ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, and hip fracture later in life.
  • Provides the mother with a degree of contraceptive protection if she is exclusive breastfeeding until the first menstrual period returns after birth.
  • Promotes mother-baby bonding.
  • Offer some protection against allergies.
  • Reduces the risk of obesity and may help reduce the risk of diabetes later in life.
  • Protects baby from chronic tummy problems and some childhood cancers. They may also be less likely to get allergies, eczema or asthma.
  • Decreases the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (sudden infant death or SID).
  • Helps your baby to grow and develop physically and emotionally.
  • Protects against infection and other illnesses e.g chest infection, meningitis, ear infection and urine infection.
  • Is easily digested and efficiently used by the baby’s body.
  • It provides the best nutrition for the infant.

While this guide on healthy eating for pregnancy and breastfeeding will help have smooth ride as a woman, it doesn’t, in any way, negate the need to see a doctor for antenatal or postnatal care

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