Once you have given birth, your baby’s body is not as intricately linked to yours as it was during the nine months of your pregnancy, although if you choose to breastfeed, you continue to nurture that physical bond between you and your child. Just like when you were pregnant, with this bond comes the understanding that what you put into your body finds its way to your baby through your breast milk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that your baby consume breast milk exclusively for the first six months after birth and combined with appropriate foods until at least their first birthday. During this time, it’s important to know which foods you should avoid in order to maximize the benefits of breastfeeding.
For healthy women, there is nothing wrong with having a single drink a day – except when you are pregnant or nursing. Your breast milk may contain alcohol if you drink; the exact amount is dependent on how much alcohol you ingest. While the AAP does provide guidelines if you choose to drink, these experts also recommend that you abstain from alcohol completely while nursing., Drinking may decrease breast milk production, but even more importantly have health consequences for your baby if they ingest it, though some babies dislike the taste of alcohol in breast milk and may refuse to nurse.
As with alcohol, consuming caffeine can also have negative consequences on breastfeeding. If caffeine is present in your breast milk, it can make your child restless and fussy and for babies who need large amounts of sleep, breastfeeding and consuming caffeine can be counterproductive.
To limit the risk of disrupting your baby’s sleep, I recommend limiting yourself to one caffeinated beverage per day. A single cup of coffee, caffeinated soda, or low-caffeine energy drink should be harmless. However, if you notice that caffeine seems to irritate your baby, discontinue these beverages completely and consult your child’s pediatrician.
#3: Certain Fish
While most seafood is safe for breastfeeding mothers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that some fish may contain high levels of mercury, such as marlin, swordfish and bigeye tuna. This element is neurotoxic and is particularly dangerous to the developing nervous systems of children. You may pass on any mercury you ingest to your baby through your breast milk, so be sure to follow the CDC guidelines and avoid any fish listed in the “Choices to Avoid” section of this chart.
#4: Vegetables That Upset Your Baby
Every child is different, and yours may be fine with whatever food choices you make. However, some babies may become gassy or irritable if you eat certain vegetables. Broccoli, beans, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are frequent culprits. If your baby seems to be fussy after nursing when you eat these vegetables, try eliminating the offending foods from your diet. Just remember to substitute other healthy vegetables for these items to keep your diet healthy.
Again, this piece of advice may not apply to your child. Some babies will happily drink breast milk after their mothers eat the fieriest of meals, but your baby may object. If your infant seems out of sorts when you consume spicy peppers, hot sauce, etc., consider giving up the extra spice. Remember, piquant foods can also cause or aggravate reflux (heartburn) in your nursing child. Talk with your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns.
Other Important Items to Consider
Remember that medications, vitamins, and supplements also pass through your breast milk. Consult your pediatrician about any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, supplements, etc. that you may take to ensure they are safe for your baby. Even something as seemingly innocuous as pain relievers for a headache may pose a threat to your child. Make sure your pediatrician knows everything you plan to take so they can accurately evaluate its safety.
Also, keep in mind that even though your pregnancy is over, you are still eating for two. It is premature to return to your pre-pregnancy caloric intake. The CDC advises that breastfeeding women should consume about 500 extra calories per day for a total of 2,300-2,500 calories. Of course, it is still important to maintain a healthy weight while nursing.
Finally, ask your pediatrician about the vitamins you should take for your developing baby. Many mothers may need to continue prenatal vitamins when postpartum for their child’s health. Iodine, B vitamins, and vitamin D supplements may also be appropriate in your case, especially if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Your pediatrician can help you make the right decision.
About the Connecticut OBGYN Practice
Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is a CT OBGYN based in Fairfield County, providing care for Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Weston, Rowayton and the surrounding areas. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.
Laury Berkwitt, APRN, is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Women undergoing signs and symptoms of menopause can make an appointment with Laury for Hormone Replacement Therapy. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s health care in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for more than 10 years, caring for women of all ages.