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Feeding Baby

Food & drink when breastfeeding

Tania North

Childbirth Educator

“What can’t we eat or drink while breastfeeding?” This is the question I get asked at every antenatal class I facilitate.

On getting the news that they are pregnant, mums get all the information on dos and don’ts during pregnancy. One of those is a brochure and information on Safe eating / food preparation. Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t smoke. Don’t eat undercooked or raw fish, raw eggs, unpasteurised milk, cheese, etc. We do know that some things we ingest during pregnancy can affect the development of baby.

However, what about once baby is in our arms and we start our breastfeeding journey – what are the dos and don’ts then?Good news! Once your baby is born, everything is back on the menu (excluding drugs, smoking and some medication). Let’s be honest, either you or someone you know has had their partner bring that food they have been missing for the last nine months into the birthing centre – sushi – cold shaved ham sandwiches etc.

Let’s start with food

What have you heard? Some of my new mums shared with me some of the things they had been told about what to eat or not to eat during breastfeeding.

  • “Your baby can have green poop because you eat too many greens.”
  • “My Mum told me not to eat onion, cabbage or lemonade.”
  • “My osteo told me to stay away from bananas and tomatoes.”
  • “If you have a fussy baby at about 3pm, Mum said you should have half a Guinness.”

So, I asked them what they had then eliminated from their diet while breastfeeding.

  • “I eat everything. I eat whatever I want, whenever I want, including coffee and wine.”
  • “I can eat anything except peas – peas make my baby gassy.”
  • “I cut out dairy as I found it affected my baby’s reflux.”
  • “I thought chocolate might make my baby gassy – but luckily not!”

Babies are all individuals. Some babies can get gassy or windy when their mum eats certain foods, yet the same food doesn’t affect other babies. You won’t know this until you eat that food. It’s all about getting to know your baby.

As I have already mentioned, smoking, drugs and some medication shouldn’t be ingested while breastfeeding. If you do need medication, remember to advise your GP that you are breastfeeding to find out if it is safe.

What can I safely drink?

Alcohol and caffeine are much talked about topics within breastfeeding circles. Can I have a glass of wine while feeding? Can I drink coffee? The answer is YES. You can do both safely. Some mums can drink coffee a couple of times a day and there is no effect on baby. Some mums have a coffee only in the morning, others won’t have any as they feel their babies are “wired” from it. Again, wait and see what works for your baby.

Being a new mum is hard work. Tiring. Life changing. We all have our ways to relax. It might be having a massage, reading a book, going for a walk, taking a hot bubble bath, doing a workout at the gym – or even relaxing with a nice glass of wine or cold beer with your partner at the end of a day. Mums shouldn’t deprive themselves of any of those.

If your baby is giving you a good two to three hours between feeds, a standard glass of wine or half pint of beer after your last feed will have minimal, if any traces, in your milk two to three hours later. If you have two glasses, wait before feeding for approximately six or more hours. So, a couple of nights a week having a standard glass of wine will not do your baby any harm. It may be a month or so after baby is born before you get a good two to three hours between feeds, so it is recommended to wait until that point before having any alcohol.

If you have a special function to attend like a wedding or girls’ night out, again don’t deprive yourself. Express enough milk for baby for approximately 24 hours. Head out – have a good time. Based on the amount you drink, you will need to pump and dump the next day.

Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different. Some have challenges at the start. But once you’ve found your groove, enjoy it.

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