Some experts say that you can basically eat whatever you want and your milk will be fine—that our bodies are very forgiving. Other experts say that what you eat does matter since your diet affects your blood and this is where your body pulls its nutrients to produce milk.
The short answer is that what you eat does matter. Just ask any mom whose baby experienced diarrhea or painful pooping episodes after she ate “something.”
How is breast milk made?
Breast milk is made from what you eat, drink, and consume that ends up in your (the mom’s) blood, not what is in your stomach or digestive track. This means that gas or undigested meals don’t pass to your milk only what reaches your blood does. However, there is a likelihood that whatever makes you, or your baby’s father, gassy may also make your baby gassy, due to inherited allergies or food sensitivities.
Breast milk and your baby’s gut
Your breast milk coats your baby’s gut. This is one of the benefits of breastfeeding, since this coating then prevents microscopic food particles from “leaking” through to your baby’s bloodstream. A “leaky gut” is more common in a formula-fed baby.
When food is leaked from the gut and into the blood stream, your white blood cells detect a foreign substance and attack it. This attack can cause allergic reactions hat are sometimes painful, they range from diarrhea, sore bottoms, runny noses and eyes, rashes and eczema, or a crying, sleepless baby.
Should I avoid spicy foods?
It depends. I wouldn’t introduce spicy foods early on because of the risk of causing discomfort to a newborn. If you want to eat a spicy food, and you don’t have a history of sensitivity to it, I would do so in moderation and monitor your baby’s reaction to it.
How do I know if my baby has a food sensitivity?
Your baby may have a food sensitivity is he or she becomes fussy or uncomfortable after feedings, has trouble sleeping, and wakes up abruptly. Your baby’s cry may be sharp and sudden as if he or she is in pain. You may notice a skin reaction, wheezing, congestion, or green, mucous stools, which could indicate a food allergy.
The majority of babies grow out of most food sensitivities within several months to a year. Consider visiting a naturopath or Naet Physician to treat the allergy. Bella was a toddler when I realized she had a sensitivity to eggs and gluten that would cause frequent colds. We treated them successfully in a couple of visits using NAET.
What could be the cause of your baby’s sensitivity?
Keep a food journal to help you pinpoint a problem food. Record what you ate and any symptoms in your baby.
- Cow’s milk products, soy, wheat, corn, eggs, citrus, and peanuts in your diet are common allergens in babies.
- Any food that a family member is allergic to
- A food that mom recently ate a large amount of
- A new food (if baby’s symptoms are new)
- A food that mom doesn’t like, but is eating while breastfeeding (and/or ate while pregnant) for the benefit of her baby
- A food that mom craves, or feels she has to have after a bad day
Do I need extra calories?
According to KellyMom.com (one of my favorite resources for breastfeeding information), most healthy breastfeeding women maintain an abundant milk supply while taking in 1800-2200 (or more) calories per day. Listen to your body if you don’t want to count calories. Eating when you are hungry and drinking while your thirsty may be a good enough guide for you. I like tracking my calories with the My Plate app.
Do I need more water?
Water consumption is important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The Institute of Medicine notes that the median amount of fluids typically consumed by breastfeeding mothers is 13 cups, compared 10 cups for pregnant women, and 9 cups for non-pregnant/non-lactating women. This doesn’t mean you need to force down liquids but be intentional about keeping hydrated during the day, and choosing water over sugary drinks.
What about caffeine?
In Breastfeeding: A Guide For the Medical Profession (fifth edition), by Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D. and Robert M. Lawrence, M.D., page 369, the authors write:
“With a given dose of caffeine that is comparable to that in a cup of coffee, the level in the milk is low, (1% of level in mother) and the level in the infant’s plasma is also low. However, caffeine does accumulate in the infant.”
This means that one cup of coffee may not have a big effect on your baby in that moment but it does accumulate, since your baby doesn’t yet have the capacity to process caffeine at the newborn stage and slowly gains capacity starting at 3 months of age. I chose to skip the coffee and limit the chocolate since I wanted my baby to sleep at night. Caffree Roma and decaffeinated herbal tea lattes are great alternatives to coffee.
Chocolate contains theobromine which can act like caffeine in both the mother’s and baby’s systems. Determine what works best for you and your baby by testing small amounts. Check out the tables on BabyCenter for caffeine amounts in coffee, herbal teas, soft drinks, and desserts.
How about one occasional drink?
La Leche League’s The Breastfeeding Answer Book (pp. 597-598) says:
“Alcohol passes freely into mother’s milk and has been found to peak about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, 60 to 90 minutes when taken with food. Alcohol also freely passes out of a mother’s milk and her system. It takes a 120 pound woman about two to three hours to eliminate from her body the alcohol in one serving of beer or wine…the more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes for it to be eliminated. It takes up to 13 hours for a 120 pound woman to eliminate the alcohol from one high-alcohol drink. The effects of alcohol on the breastfeeding baby are directly related to the amount the mother consumes.”
This means if you want to have a glass of wine or beer (a low alcohol drink) you need to wait about 2 hours before breastfeeding, but you do not need to pump and dump your milk. Pumping and dumping is not effective since for as long as the alcohol is in your blood, it will continue to be in the milk that you produce.
Hope this article was helpful to you!
To your health!
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