Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned parenting pro, breastfeeding often comes with its fair share of questions. Here are answers to some common inquiries that mothers — new and veteran — may have.
What should my diet be like when I'm breastfeeding?
Just as when you were pregnant, it's important to eat well while you're breastfeeding, with plenty of wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and calcium-rich foods. Follow the recommendations charted in the Food Guide Pyramid and you'll be well on your way to giving both you and your baby a nutritious diet.
You'll also need to drink and eat enough so that your body can make milk. But before you start adding on more calories, talk to your doctor about how many more you should consume every day based on your weight, height, age, and activity level. Also ask your doctor if you should still take your prenatal vitamins — many doctors have women continue them during breastfeeding.
It's a good idea to carry a water bottle around wherever you go and drink up, refilling the bottle throughout the day, to make sure you consume adequate liquids.
Does my breastfed baby have an allergy?
A breastfed baby may have an allergy or sensitivity reaction after the mother consumes certain foods or drinks (such as common food allergens like cow's milk, eggs, nuts and peanuts, etc.). Some signs of such a reaction to food might include:
- consistent spitting up or vomiting
- apparent belly pain (lots of gas and/or pulling up the knees in pain)
- bloody, loose, frequent, and/or mucousy stools (poop)
- rash and swelling
- wheezing or difficulty breathing
If your child is having any trouble breathing or swelling of the face, call 911 immediately. If you think your baby has had an allergic or sensitivity reaction to food, call your doctor and avoid eating or drinking anything your little one can't seem to tolerate. It may also be a good idea to keep a journal of exactly what you eat and drink every day, along with any reactions your baby may have, which could help both you and your doctor pinpoint what the problem food, or foods, may be.
Are there certain things I shouldn't eat when I'm breastfeeding?
Every baby is different. Whereas some mothers may discover that their little ones get gassy or fussy after they eat beans, cauliflower, or broccoli, others may be able to tolerate those foods just fine. And some women can attest that their babies don't seem to like the taste of their breast milk after their mothers eat spicy foods. Again, other babies may not mind if Mom's just downed a Mexican meal chockfull of red-hot chili peppers.
Just like during pregnancy, nursing moms should avoid or limit their intake of fish high in mercury, since high mercury levels can damage the developing nervous system. Studies continue to be done to see if nursing moms should limit their intake of peanuts and peanut butter in order to avoid peanut allergies in their babies.
Also, if you're noticing a pattern (of fussiness, gassiness, colicky behavior, etc.), try to keep track of exactly what you eat and how your baby reacts to it each time, then talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest eliminating the possibly offending food (such as dairy products — a common allergen) from your diet for a few days to see if there's any change.
Can breastfeeding women drink alcohol?
When a nursing mom drinks alcohol, a small amount of it gets into her breast milk.
The amount of alcohol in breast milk depends on the amount of alcohol in the blood. It takes about 2 to 3 hours after consuming one drink for the alcohol to be metabolized and no longer be a concern for nursing.
If you do plan to drink more than a few (preferably after breastfeeding's been established for about a month), you can "pump and dump" — pump your milk and then throw it away. Do not give your baby breast milk, from your breast or a bottle, for at least 2 to 3 hours for every drink of alcohol you consumed.
Can breastfeeding women have caffeine?
As with pregnancy, it's best to limit the amount of caffeine you consume while breastfeeding. One or two cups of coffee a day are fine, but remember that the more caffeine you drink (tea, soda, coffee), the more it may affect your baby's mood and/or sleep, and the more it can dehydrate you.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: May 2008