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Breast-Feeding Advice

You may have questions about how you will need to change your lifestyle while nursing. You don't need to follow a lot of rules, but your health, your diet, and how much rest you get can affect your milk supply. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Follow the same kind of healthy diet that you followed when you were pregnant.

    You need an extra 500 to 800 calories a day while breast-feeding. Eat a variety of foods at regular mealtimes and have healthy snacks if you are hungry between meals. Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and nonfat dairy products. Be sure to get enough protein from meat, fish, poultry, and beans.

    If you are a vegetarian, you may need to increase the amount of vitamin B12 in your diet to make sure your baby gets enough. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.

  • In general, you can eat any foods.

    Babies are not allergic to breast milk, but things that you eat pass into your breast milk. If your baby reacts to something you ate, she may cry, cough, have a stuffy or runny nose, vomit, have diarrhea, or get a rash on her cheeks or bottom.

    If a certain food or drink seems to upset your baby, avoid that food or drink for a couple of weeks before you try it again. The most common foods that can cause allergic symptoms in a nursing baby are cow's milk and other dairy products, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish, and soy.

    If you think your baby is having a reaction to certain foods, talk to your healthcare provider. Do not completely eliminate a major food group (such as dairy or wheat products) from your diet unless your provider or dietitian agrees. They can suggest foods that will give you the same nutrients as the foods that bother your baby.

  • Keep taking your daily prenatal vitamins.

    Just as when you were pregnant, you need enough vitamins and minerals for both yourself your baby. Prenatal vitamins are helpful, but you also need to eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Drink plenty of liquids each day.

    Your body needs plenty of liquid to produce breast milk. While breast-feeding, drink an extra 2 to 4 cups of water each day. Have a glass of water or herbal tea each time you sit down to nurse. If you feel thirsty, make sure you drink more.

  • Don't drink more than 2 cups a day of coffee, tea, cola, or other drinks that contain caffeine.

    Caffeine passes into your breast milk and can make your baby fussy.

  • It’s best to avoid alcohol while you are breast-feeding, just as you did during your pregnancy.
  • Alcohol passes into breast milk and can hurt your baby. It can also interfere with the release of milk from your breasts and slow the growth of your baby.
  • Do not smoke.

    The breakdown products from nicotine can pass to your baby in your milk. Smoking also may decrease your milk supply, increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), make your baby fussier, and decrease the time your baby sleeps.

    If you cannot stop smoking, try to cut down. If you must smoke, do it after nursing your baby. Above all, do not smoke in the car with your baby, in the same room as your baby, or even in the house.

  • If you need to take any medicine, including nonprescription drugs, check with your healthcare provider, lactation consultant, or pharmacist.

    You need to make sure that the medicine is safe for nursing babies.

  • Never use illegal or street drugs.

    Drug abuse by nursing mothers is very dangerous to breast-fed babies. Even medical marijuana should not be used while you are nursing.

  • Check with your healthcare provider before you start a program to lose weight.

    Your body uses the fat stored during pregnancy to make breast milk. This is why most breast-feeding mothers can lose several pounds each month. However, a strict weight-loss diet can decrease your milk supply. Talk with your healthcare provider about losing weight while you are breast-feeding.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-01-14
Last reviewed: 2013-12-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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