Do’s and Don’ts of Breastfeeding: Medications, Alcohol & Diet

Posted in , , on 10-10-12

Do’s and Don’ts of Breastfeeding: Medications, Alcohol & Diet

In my work with babies, I see mothers nursing longer and with more enjoyment. The list of do’s and don’ts keeps growing and changing all the time. My rule of thumb? Common sense and moderation backed up by my favorite thing, research to make your own informed choices. Hope this answers some of your questions.

There are so many do’s and don’ts in breastfeeding. I want to keep my baby safe. Can I take medication? What if I have a drink? Should I change my diet while I’m nursing?

Some medications and herbs (and illegal drugs) can be passed on to your baby through your milk while others are harmless. With medications or herbal supplements, refer to this online guide to help make your determination. If in doubt ask a certified lactation consultant.

In regards to alcohol, the answer is not as straightforward as a yes or no. Be smart about your consumption and take your baby’s situation into consideration. For example, if you have a preemie in NICU, you wouldn’t want to have a trace of alcohol in your milk. Keep in mind your baby’s age and health when considering ingesting alcohol before breastfeeding. A newborn has a very immature liver, so minute amounts of alcohol are hard for him to metabolize . Up until about 3 months of age, infants detoxify alcohol at around half the rate of an adult. The rule is if you feel tipsy, wait until you feel “normal” again, then breastfeeding is OK. No reason to pump and dump. Your milk is continually being filtered by your body, so once you feel normal, you should be fine to nurse. If you feel uncomfortable about ingesting alcohol at all while you are still breastfeeding, let your conscience be your guide.

Ideally you want to eat a clean, healthy diet throughout your pregnancy and nursing. If you are nursing and not meeting all or your caloric, vitamin, and mineral needs, your body will suffer before your milk will be affected.

If you want to diet, pick the food and fluids you put in your body wisely. Make every bite count! You can restrict your calories for weight loss. Dieting may result in a decrease in your milk supply, but it is to you and your baby’s benefit for you to continue nursing. Did you know producing milk actually burns around 300-400 calories a day?  The answer most health care providers would  give is do not diet while breast feeding. In my practice I have had moms that will say if she can’t diet she will discontinue nursing so I feel it is better for her to know the ramification she may experience while dieting and to know she can continue to breastfeed.

Don’t restrict any particular food in your diet unless you suspect the baby is having a reaction to something you are ingesting. The most common things I see nursing babies reacting negatively to are milk and milk products. If you notice that your baby is fussy or gassy on a regular basis after you ingest milk or a milk product, try and eliminate dairy from your diet and see if it makes a difference.

Interesting fact: breast milk tastes different to your baby depending on what you ingested. This is a good thing for your baby. If you eat a varied diet, this continually exposes your baby to new tastes.

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