Despite it being one of the most natural things in the world, breastfeeding can be a little confusing at first -- particularly when it comes to the foods and drinks mothers "should" or "shouldn't" consume when nursing their little ones.
Some say to eschew alcohol altogether, while others say it's fine in moderation. Others say spicy foods make babies fussy, while some mamas eat curry with no problem. What's a nursing mother to do?
Here are 5 "controversial" foods and drinks nursing mothers should be careful with -- and expert tips on how to approach them.
Alcohol. Do breastfeeding moms need to give up alcohol? It depends who you ask. The March of Dimes says yes and advises nursing mothers to forgo alcohol completely when nursing their babies as a precautionary measure. Many doctors, however, say that a little wine or beer here and there is okay as long as you're careful about it (no more beer pong for you). "It's probably not a bad idea to delay nursing for a few hours after consuming alcohol," says Susan Crowe, MD, an obstetrician and director of outpatient breastfeeding medicine services at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, California. Moms should use their best judgment. "People need to be in tune with their body," says Maria Parlapiano, RN, a lactation consultant who runs Postpartum Place, a parenting center for new moms. "If a mother had a glass of wine or two and is completely capable of taking care of her child, breastfeeding is fine." Skip the breast milk alcohol test strips, she adds -- they're not accurate and a waste of money.
Coffee. As with alcohol, many doctors advise moms to ditch the caffeine entirely while breastfeeding. Great, just when you need that daily latte most. But here's the thing, caffeine in breast milk can make your baby jittery and less likely to sleep. "Caffeine does pass into breast milk but wouldn’t necessarily be dangerous to baby," explains Dr. Crowe. "The caffeine could keep baby awake, though, so it's something moms should be aware of if they're trying to get baby to sleep." Does that mean you shouldn't drink coffee at all? The consensus among experts is to be smart. One to two cups of coffee per day should be fine. "You'd have to drink over 20 ounces of caffeinated beverages in order to really affect the baby," says Parlapiano.
Fish. Figuring out what fish is okay to eat during pregnancy can be like trying to crack the Da Vinci code -- and it isn't much different when you're nursing. Still, breastfeeding moms should incorporate fish into their diets as it's important to a baby's neurological development. Just keep these things in mind: Avoid shark and other fish with high mercury levels; don't eat fish more than once or twice a month; and skip fish that comes from Asia.
Citrus. Nursing mothers have been hearing for ages that they should avoid citrus fruits, as it can aggravate baby's tummy and result in bad diaper rash. Parlapiano agrees. "A good tip is not to overdo it with strawberries or citrus when nursing."
Spicy foods. When it comes to spicy foods, it really depends on the individual mom and baby. If you're a spice lover, a little experimentation may be in order. "Don’t avoid them preemptively, says Dr. Crowe. "If baby seems to have a problem, avoid eating and then evaluate things."
Did your baby have trouble with any of the foods you ate while nursing?
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