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Diet and Breast Milk

Is there an optimum breastfeeding diet? We took a look at recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • You still are what you eat -- and so is baby. Following the food pyramid ensures that you'll get the right amount of nutritious foods. Each day you should aim for 6 or more servings of bread and cereal; 3 or more servings of vegetables; 2 or more servings of fruit; 2 to 3 servings of milk, yogurt, and other dairy; and 2 to 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and/or beans. You should use sweets and oils sparingly.
  • Take a daily multivitamin. You may have started this routine in pregnancy -- keep it up. Your body needs calcium, iron, and other nutrients to make a healthy milk supply, and multivitamins help.
  • Some foods may make your baby fussy. It differs from baby to baby, but some infants fuss or cry if their mom has had something spicy (like a curry), or "gassy" such as cabbage, onions, or broccoli. Typically fussiness only lasts a few hours. You may need to play around with your diet, however, to avoid foods your baby reacts badly to.
  • You can eat soft cheeses, cold cuts, rare beef, and other potential sources of food poisoning that you avoided during pregnancy. Even if you get sick, you won't pass it on to your baby via breast milk.
  • About two out of every hundred babies will have a reaction to the cow's milk in their mother's diet. If your baby has severe colic, abdominal discomfort, or a skin rash or hives, vomits or has diarrhea, or has difficulty breathing after breastfeeding, contact the pediatrician right away. You may have to temporarily eliminate cow's milk from your diet. The same can happen with eggs, peanuts, and other nuts.
  • Caffeine is okay in moderation. Your baby may get fussy if you drink more than five caffeinated beverages a day, but in general a few cups of coffee, tea, or soda won't have an effect.
  • You can drink alcohol, but not habitually, and one drink is the max. Alcohol does get passed to your baby via breast milk. And there's no benefit -- tales about beer increasing your milk supply are false, and alcohol won't necessarily help your baby sleep. One drink (a 12-ounce beer, 4-ounce wine, or ounce of hard liquor) two hours or more before your next breastfeeding session is your best bet for reducing how much baby will receive.
  • Cigarettes are always dangerous. Not only does addictive nicotine get passed to baby in your breast milk, smoking increases your baby's risk of SIDS, asthma, coughs, and ear infections.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; La Leche League

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.