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 queries
that mothers — new and veteran — may have.
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 in the MyPlate
food guide and you'll be well on your way to giving both you and your baby a nutritious
Your diet doesn't have to be perfect. You need an estimated 300-500 extra calories
per day as a breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding might make you thirsty, so consider
keeping a water bottle nearby so it's 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. To prevent problems associated
with iodine deficiency, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that
all lactating women take a supplement that contains 150 micrograms of iodine per day,
use iodized salt in their cooking, and eat foods high in iodine, like seafood and
dairy products. If you are vegan or don't eat dairy or fish, talk to your doctor about
getting checked for iodine deficiency.
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).
Signs of a baby having such a reaction to food can include:
frequent spitting up or vomiting
apparent belly pain (lots of gas and/or pulling up the knees in pain)
bloody, mucousy stools (poop)
rash and swelling
If you think your baby has had a reaction to food, call your doctor and avoid eating
or drinking anything your little one can't seem to tolerate. If your baby has difficulty
with feeding, try to keep a journal of exactly what you eat and drink, along
with any reactions your baby had, which could help both you and your doctor pinpoint
what the problem food, or foods, might be.
Although such a reaction is extremely rare, if your child has trouble breathing
or has swelling of the face, call 911.
Should I avoid certain foods?
Every baby is different. Some moms may find that if they eat beans, cauliflower,
or broccoli, their little ones get gassy or fussy while other babies can tolerate
these 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 just enjoyed a bunch of 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
Also, if you notice 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 not eating the food (such as dairy
products, a common allergen) for a few days to see if there's any change.
Is alcohol still a "no-no"?
Drinking in moderation — one or two drinks within a 24-hour period —
is fine, as long as you wait before feeding your baby.
When you drink alcohol, a small amount of it gets into your breast milk. The amount
of alcohol in breast milk depends on the amount of alcohol in the blood. It takes
about 2 hours after having 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 pumped for 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 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
But drinking to excess when you're nursing is not recommended. Even if you "pump
and dump," there are other risks to your baby. Drinking too much affects how you care
for your baby and may prevent you from responding to your baby's needs appropriately,
since it alters your ability to be alert and think clearly. It's also a
risk factor for SIDS (sudden
infant death syndrome).
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.