As a new mom with a newborn baby things can get very overwhelming – diet should not be one of them. There are a lot of old wives’ tales and myths going around when it comes to breastfeeding and what to eat or what not to eat for that matter. At your baby shower alone, half the guests (most of whom have probably never breastfed), will have you believing that you will only eat oats until the end of days and no bubbly will be crossing your lips until next year’s New Year’s party.
Food that makes more milk?
The golden oldies are Rooibos tea and oats, which should be eaten in copious amounts to ensure high milk production. It would be a good low GI breakfast option and keeping adequately hydrated is advisable but otherwise a well-balanced diet with enough good, clean water will do the trick. Yes, you read correctly. You see milk production works on a supply and demand basis. The more milk is removed from the breasts the more milk is made. Your breasts are never empty because, as milk is removed new milk is made.
That’s it! No need for any special diets, just feed your baby as often as possible in the beginning, do not try to schedule feeding or create a routine just yet – enjoy the baby cuddles, they do not last forever.
The quality of a breastfeeding mom’s diet also has no effect on her milk quality. A well-balanced diet is always advisable (for new dad’s as well) to aid in the recovery and wellbeing of a new mom, as sleep deprivation and raging hormones are no joke. But sometimes a brownie (or three) is the only thing that might get you through the growth spurt aka feeding marathon and that is okay – research shows that a poor diet will mostly affect the mom rather than the breastfeeding baby, as nature is very forgiving and will even protect the quality of milk in times of hardship.
The golden rule is “Eat when hungry and drink when thirsty”.
No need to force down litres of water. In the beginning you might feel like a camel stranded in a desert, but it will pass and then just drink to satisfy your thirst. It doesn’t only have to be water but use caffeinated drinks and sugary drinks in moderation. The infamous ‘’Jungle Juice’ might also be recommended by a loved one, but there is no evidence that this wonder drink will make more milk. It is high in sugar and can contribute to thrush in both mom and baby.
Excessive calorie restriction may cause a supply issue but sensible eating to shed the baby fat is normally fine.
Can mom’s diet cause gassiness in baby?
Most mom’s get warned to avoid gas-forming foods (beans, broccoli, cauliflower, eggs, onions, cabbage, etc.) as this will create more cramps for their baby’s little tummies. These foods may cause gas in moms, due to the normal digestion process of undigested carbohydrates but the good news is that milk is NOT made from the mom’s stomach content but from what passes into her blood.
If there are food allergies in the family, you can eliminate or limit the intake of these foods in your diet, as some proteins (peanut protein and cow’s milk protein) do pass into the mother’s milk. If your baby has an obvious reaction every time you eat something, it would be best advised you exclude this specific food from your diet. Please discuss this with your local lactation consultant or well-educated, breastfeeding-friendly healthcare provider.
There is no list of foods that breastfeeding moms should avoid. Honey can be eaten by breastfeeding moms (as can all adults and childrenover the age of one), as their gut flora can fight off the botulism spores that can be found in honey. The spores will be killed in mom’s gastro-intestinal tract and not make it into her milk, so it is safe for baby to feed. Spicy foods do not cause more gassiness in babies and one study showed that babies nursed better after the moms ate garlic – so indulge, in moderation!
Alcohol, caffeine and medication
Alcohol, caffeine and medication are all substances that passes into our bloodstreams and will thus enter a breastfeeding mom’s milk.
Breastfeeding moms can usually use caffeine in moderation. Two cups of coffee/ tea or caffeinated soft drinks should be fine. So yes, you can have chocolate. The younger the baby, the more sensitive they might be towards caffeine. The mom’s prenatal diet might also play a role. If she avoided caffeine for nine months while pregnant, she might have to add coffee back into her diet at a slower rate. Caffeine usage has no effect on milk supply. If your baby seems very fussy and wakeful and you are consuming a lot of caffeine, try cut back for a week or two and see if it helps or try again when baby is a bit older.
Breastfeeding is tough on first time moms, especially in social settings, as not everyone is comfortable feeding in public or can’t quite get the hang of feeding with a nursing cover just yet, It is also frowned upon to drink an occasional glass of wine. The occasional drink is fine as alcohol appears in the milk the same concentration as it does in the blood. Experts recommend no more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages per week. Less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mom actually reaches her milk, so no need to express and discard any breastmilk. As the alcohol leaves the bloodstream the levels decrease in breastmilk. The mom’s weight, whether she ate while consuming alcohol, the baby’s age and weight also plays a role. It is said that if you are honestly sober enough to drive you are sober enough to feed your baby, the handling of the baby is the concern, rather than the alcohol levels in the breastmilk.
For more information visit https://www.laleche.org.uk/alcohol-and-breastfeeding/
Medication is also seen as taboo while breastfeeding and yes, there are limited options but there is medication one can use while breastfeeding. Aspirin should be avoided at all cost but over-the-counter medication containing paracetamol is breastfeeding-friendly. When needed there are also antibiotics that one can use – ask your lactation consultant or educated pharmacist whether the active ingredient is safe to use while breastfeeding.
So leave that mom-guilt behind – enjoy everything in moderation, cuddle and feed your baby on demand.