Breastfeeding FAQs: Your Eating and Drinking Habits

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Parents

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.

Your Questions Answered
Getting Started
How Much and How Often
Sleep - Yours and Your Baby's
Your Eating and Drinking Habits
Pain and Discomfort
Out and About
Pumping
Safely Storing Breast Milk
Supply and Demand
Solids and Supplementing
Some Common Concerns

What should I eat?

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 MyPlate food guide and you'll be well on your way to giving both you and your baby a nutritious diet.

Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect. It is estimated that you need an additional 500 calories per day as a breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding may make you thirsty, so you may find it convenient to have a water bottle near by so that it is there when you need it.

Also ask your doctor if you should still take your prenatal vitamins — many doctors have women continue them during breastfeeding.

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, soy foods, wheat, corn, oats, eggs, nuts and peanuts, and fish or shellfish). 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, mucousy stools (poop)
  • hard stools
  • rash and swelling

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. If your baby is having difficulty with feeding, it may be a good idea to keep a journal of exactly what you eat and drink, 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.

Although extremely rare, if your child is having trouble breathing or has swelling of the face, call 911.

Should I avoid certain foods?

Every baby is different. Whereas some mothers may discover 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 mothers can confirm that after they eat spicy foods, their babies don't seem to like the taste of their breast milk. Again, other babies may not mind if Mom's just downed a bunch 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.

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.

Is alcohol still a "no-no"?

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 hours after consuming one drink for the alcohol to be metabolized and no longer be a concern for nursing. So do not give your baby fresh breast milk, from your breast or a bottle, for at least 2 hours if you've had one drink, 4 hours if you've had two drinks, and so on.

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.

Can I have caffeine?

As with alcohol, it's best to limit the amount of caffeine you consume while breastfeeding. One or two cups of coffee a day are fine, but more than one or two servings of caffeine per day may affect your baby's mood and/or sleep.

Reviewed by: Joseph DiSanto, MD, and Karin Y. DiSanto, IBCLC
Date reviewed: January 2012



Related Resources

Web SiteAmerican Dietetic Association The American Dietetic Association offers nutrition news, tips, resources for consumers and dietitians, and a find-a-nutritionist search tool.
Web SiteWomen, Infants, and Children (WIC) The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children - better known as the WIC Program - serves to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, & children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.
OrganizationLa Leche League This international organization offers support, encouragement, information, and education on breastfeeding.
Web SiteMyPlate for Moms MyPlate for Moms tailors the USDA's food guide to suit the individual needs of pregnant and nursing women.
Web SiteWomensHealth.gov Developed by the U.S. Office on Women's Health, 4woman offers reliable women's health information.


Related Articles

Food Allergies Food allergies can cause serious and even deadly reactions in kids, so it's important to know how to feed a child with food allergies and to prevent reactions.
Nursing Positions If you're a first-time parent, breastfeeding your newborn may seem complicated. Check out this article for information on common nursing positions, proper latching-on techniques, and how to know if your baby is getting enough to eat.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding Making a decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. There are some points to consider to help you decide which option is best for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding FAQs: Getting Started Here are answers to some common questions about beginning to breastfeed - everything from latch-on to let-down.
Breastfeeding FAQs: How Much and How Often Here are answers to some common questions about beginning to breastfeed - everything from how often to nurse your baby each day to how to tell if your little one is eating enough.
Breastfeeding FAQs: Safely Storing Breast Milk Here are answers to some common questions about how to keep breast milk and how to clean and sterilize supplies, from bottles to nipples to breast pump parts.
Breastfeeding FAQs: Pumping Here are answers to some common questions about pumping your breast milk - from buying a pump to making the process a little easier.
Breastfeeding FAQs: Pain and Discomfort Here are answers to some common questions about preventing and reducing breastfeeding discomfort, such as nipple and breast pain.
Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and Demand Here are answers to some common questions about your milk supply - from having too much to having too little.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

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