We all have vices, cravings, convictions…call them whatever you like, but we are still just human. Moms, and particularly those who are breastfeeding, are often subjected to higher stands and are often ridiculed for every move they make. We are constantly told that we can’t do this, or we can’t do that. Or yes, it’s fine, go right and indulge yourself! Well, it’s no wonder we are so confused. With overwhelming advice from the peanut section, how can we decipher what is truth and what is myth? It can be pretty tough to make a decision with so many opposing views.
So what is the truth, the real deal about things like drinking coffee or sipping a glass wine? And how about Fenugreek and herbal teas, are those safe? Hey, let’s get really knee deep in controversy while we are at it! Is it okay to smoke weed after pregnancy, but while breastfeeding? And what about Sushi, and Diet Pills, and Cat Care? Are they still off limits, too? Since you are breastfeeding your wee one, this is no time to make guesses on the activities that are safe for his or her consumption of your milk supply. You MUST know the truth! But, we know you are a busy Mom and may not have time for all the research that goes into it. We have taken the guest work out, sifted through the mysteries, and have answered in detail your toughest questions about what is okay and what isn’t, while breastfeeding.
13 Can I Have A Glass of Wine While Breastfeeding?
Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is both controversial and confusing. Some sources claim that occasionally drinking wine or beer while nursing can actually increase your milk supply. Others say that any type of alcohol consumption is dangerous for your baby, regardless of how little or how rare the occurrences are. And yet, the third angle is that honestly, we just don’t have enough information or research to really understand the truth. Whichever your take on it, the biggest misconception is a not about the consumption at all, but instead is in relation to dumping it out.
Science tells us that it is not necessary to dump the milk at all, as long as you don’t offer it to your baby while you are still under the influence. You see, alcohol does not make your milk go “bad”, just as it does not cause your blood to rot. The toxicity of alcohol fades with time, in your brain, in your blood, and in your breast milk, too. So, as long you acknowledge an appropriate waiting period, you don’t need to dump it at all. Pumping and dumping will not allow the alcohol to leave your breast milk more quickly. The alcohol will remain until your toxicity wears off, regardless of how much you pump.
Experts do recommend nursing immediately prior to drinking, to give yourself the longest window for the alcohol to leave your system before feeding your baby again. It is always a good idea to have previously stored milk for your baby to offer him or her in the event that you haven’t reached sobriety before the next feeding.
Drinking alcohol on a regular basis or to the point of intoxication while breastfeeding is widely unstudied for obvious ethical concerns. Some sources say excessive drinking and alcohol abuse by a mother who is nursing her baby can be devastating for the infant. Mothers who drink in access are more likely to misjudge the safety windows for nursing, are at high risk for bed sharing with their baby, and may produce milk of lesser quality that lets down less often. In addition, large amounts of alcohol consumed by the mother can cause abnormal weight gain, failure to thrive, and possibly delayed motor development. In other words, the occasional drink seems to be okay, but hold back on the binge drinking and excessive weekend habits.
12 Where’s My Coffee?!
So, what about coffee? That first sip of wine in almost a year without, just might give you a headache and a shocking unearned hangover. Or you might be feeling something similar from that beautiful baby that kept you awake all night! Either way, it definitely sounds tempting to reach for that beloved cup of joe! But hold on just a second and take some time to reconsider! While coffee isn’t exactly off limits to new Moms who desperately need it, there are many cautions against high levels of caffeine intake. Don’t worry, it’s not true that coffee will decrease your milk supply, but drinking it while nursing could make you and your baby regretful.
The effects of caffeine on babies vary widely and should be considered on a case by case approach. Some babies become jittery and fussy, don’t nurse as well, and have trouble napping and staying asleep. Just one cup of coffee for Mom can stimulate her baby for as long as 14 hours, as they just can’t metabolize it quite the way we do. In a newborn without caffeine exposure in the womb, he or she can be stimulated for 3-4 days! So not worth it!
Studies say that as your baby gets older, the tolerance for caffeine increases. Drinking coffee in the first 3 months postpartum is relatively not advised, after that the occasional cup could be enjoyed with fewer repercussions. Still, start off slowly introducing the caffeine to your baby, and watch carefully for the toll it takes on your little one, before deciding to resume your pre-pregnancy habit.
11 Tea for Two
Some Mothers might opt out of wine and coffee, in lieu of nursing their little love. It sounds like a good choice to substitute for caffeine free or herbal teas. While some teas may boast some amazing benefits for both mother and child, you won’t have free reign over the tea section at the coffee shop. Just like in pregnancy, you have to be diligent about choosing the safest varieties for little tummies and your milk supply. Before choosing the best teas for both of you, do your research! There are too many varieties of tea to mention them all here. But, in general watch out for hidden caffeine and avoid the same herbs that are not recommended during pregnancy.
Among the best teas for breastfeeding are Ginger, Alfalfa, Milk Thistle, Echinacea and Red Raspberry Leaf. All of these are believed to help increase milk supply! Be careful with Chamomile teas though. Chamomile is great for the calming and sleep promoting effects it has and is also beneficial for soothing a teething infant. No need to give it to your baby straight up though as he or she will gain the benefits through your breast milk. But, be diligent with following the recommended dose as too much of it in higher than recommended strength can wreak havoc on the stomach.
Some “bad” teas for breastfeeding include: Oregano, Sage, and Menthol or Mint teas to name a few. While all of these are considered safe to consume in most dishes and for cooking purposes, high doses of them can be responsible for reducing your milk supply. The effects are so strong, that some women actually use these teas to reduce milk production when they feel engorged or when they are trying to wean their babies. Other commonly used teas to avoid are Ginseng, Star Anise, Ephedra, and Don Quai (Angelica Root). Any of these can be outright dangerous to your nursing infant, and should only be used if medically necessary, under the guidance of an informed physician.
10 The Fuss Over Fenugreek
Fenugreek is widely believed to promote milk supply, but the claims have never been proven, and in fact the herb is not recommended during pregnancy and has not been studied in infants of lactating women. Since, we don’t know for sure, we can’t suggest avoiding it or recommend consuming it. Many herbs and natural remedies do not have scientific background, but that doesn’t necessarily discount their benefits.
If you choose to go try Fenugreek anyway, carefully consider a few things, as it may be especially risky to you or your baby, particularly if there is a history with diabetes or peanut allergies. Fenugreek is not actually an herb at all but is a member of the legume family. Some studies have shown a link between Fenugreek and an increased risk for reaction in those with peanut allergies. Fenugreek is also known as an alternative medicine for insulin, as it has the natural ability to reduce blood sugar levels. This could prove to be quite dangerous if consumed by someone who is already suffering from low blood sugar or if it causes the blood sugar to drop too quickly. It can especially be a concern in all infants that are solely dependent on a mother’s milk supply. In the moments just before feeding, his or her blood sugar levels are likely at their lowest. If the already low blood sugar levels continue to decrease after exposure to the fenugreek in the milk supply, the result could be catastrophic. However, the debate is between you and your bountiful breasts, as many women and lactation consultants swear by its milk boosting benefits.
9 A Date with Mary Jane
Since we are on the topic of relaxants and stimulants for new mothers, it would be a good place to talk about the highly controversial topic of marijuana use in relation to breastfeeding. Depending on your stance, you may view this herb as a recreational drug, natural medicine, or even a prescription drug. Regardless of the legality, let us make our stance clear, that breastfeeding Moms shouldn't use marijuana under any circumstance. While, there may be very little research on the effects it has on a baby when the mother uses marijuana while nursing; we do know that the active ingredient in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is definitely passed on to the nursing baby via the mother’s milk supply. It would obviously not be a good thing to “feed” your baby.
Aside from THC intoxication; other concerns coming from experts are related to the capabilities of a caretaker while under the influence, as well as the long term affects of exposing an infant to the chemicals and toxins that are a byproduct of marijuana use. Babies exposed to the toxins released from this second hand smoke could be just as detrimental as those that pollute the air from cigarettes.
In addition to smoking, we understand that cannabis is also being consumed as an edible and through the use of oils. The rules do not change here, and we plead breastfeeding mothers to abstain from any type of ingestion. Edible products and the use of cannabis oil are not deemed any safer than smoking, and might actually increase the risks to your baby. Highly concentrated amounts of THC could be severely detrimental to your baby and are associated with impaired brain development, and poor hand eye coordination, as well as long term problems with attention, memory, and behavioral issues.
8 Inked Up
So want to get a new tattoo, maybe even one that is symbolic for your new baby. You have the perfect piece of art planned, and a Tattoo Shop in mind, too. There is just one minor hiccup: you are still breastfeeding and you have your concerns. Many Moms wonder the same thing “Is getting a tattoo dangerous to my nursing baby?” Technically no, it is not dangerous and is considered safe while breastfeeding. Scientifically, there is no possible way for the ink to absorb in your bloodstream and pass onto your baby through your milk supply. The molecular structure is simply too large to enter or contaminate the milk.
Many people advise against the procedure for several other reasons. Some say that risk of infection is too high to consider putting yourself at risk, and in turn your baby. Anytime the use of needles is up for scrutiny, we are reminded that infectious diseases can easily be spread through procedures when needles are shared. However, Tattooing has been around for a long time, and correct sanitation practices are usually utilized in reputable Tattoo Parlors. It is unlikely that you would experience sanitation issues if you use a trusted location.
Secondly, some medical experts advise against getting a new tattoo in the first year after giving birth. It is believed that because your body is still recovering and repairing from pregnancy and childbirth, there is a small chance that you will not be able to heal correctly from the added “trauma” of a tattoo. According to this theory, it is better to wait until your body is more capable of handling the change. And finally and perhaps the biggest obstacle: a high volume of Tattooist will flat our refuse to give Tattoos to women who are pregnant or nursing. It some circles it is even considered taboo, and no conversation about it will be considered. Often, the artists will say that even minor risks aren’t worth taking. Nobody wants to be responsible…or sued…if anything happened to your baby.
7 A Wrinkle in Time
Woman all around the world receive Botox injections for a wide variety of reasons. We most commonly associate them with beauty treatments, but they are also used medicinally for the treatment of migraines, muscle spasms, and even localized pain. Regardless of your reason for seeking out Botox, it might be a good idea to hold off until after you have finished breastfeeding. There is very little research on the subject, which is reason enough to back off. If you don’t know the effects it could have on milk supply and babies, don’t take the risk. One obvious reason that to hesitate is because Botox is a known neurotoxin. It has temporary but paralyzing properties should be a signal that it’s not okay for ingestion in babies. Although we don’t have much scientific backup, we do know that the toxin can potentially spread to other parts of the body. This means that it could be possible for it to enter the milk supply of a breastfeeding woman. The relatively short term benefits of receiving the injection certainly would not be worth the potential risks to a baby. Better to wait just a little while longer!
6 Hair Scares
When many of us were kids, our mother’s had to deal with the ongoing controversy about dying their hair while pregnant. At that time, many people believed that the chemicals could leak into your body through the skin or through ingestion. This myth was debunked quite some time ago when we came to realize hair color does not penetrate the skin barrier, even if you have a scratch or lesion on your scalp. However, today’s modern woman has a lot more options than simply dying her hair.
Many breastfeeding women would also like to know if it’s okay to use bleach, chemical hair removers, electrolysis, perms, or relaxers. Luckily for all of us, all of the answers are a resounding YES! Yes, it is safe to proceed with your usual beauty routines both during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It very unlikely than any chemicals used in these procedures would affect your milk supply in any way. The reason we know this, is because usually these chemicals don’t even show up in measurable amounts in your bloodstream. Go on ahead and beauty yourself to your heart’s content.
5 Dead Meat
Some women carefully watch their diet during pregnancy, while others do not. It is truly a personal choice to indulge in eating for two, or to refrain in fear of excessive weight gain. Still, we are often encouraged to maintain a well balanced diet throughout pregnancy, to ensure that our baby receives all of the proper nutrients. Truthfully, when breastfeeding your infant, the same rules apply that did during gestation. Your baby is eating exactly what you are eating.
New studies have revealed a link between the consumption of fatty animal products like meat and dairy, and exposure the toxin Dioxin. Dioxins are environmental pollutants from chemical compounds. They are found everywhere in the world and they accumulate most heavily in the fatty tissue of animals. They also have a strong presence in full fat dairy products and in diets with high consumption of fatty fish.
When present in the human body, these toxins can interfere with reproductive and developmental health. They can damage the immune response, cause alterations in hormones, and even cause cancer. Developing fetuses and newborns may be extra vulnerable to the effects. People at the highest for complication are those who consume high animal fat diets.
We are not suggesting that nursing women should avoid meat, dairy, and fish. Instead, information from the World Health Organization recommends that pregnant and nursing women practice trimming the fats off the meat they eat, and consume low fat dairy products, in combination with a well balanced diet.
4 Sweet Tooth
It is not uncommon to crave all sorts of stuff while you’re breastfeeding and to feel constant hunger, too. It’s a lot of work and energy to produce milk, and it’s no wonder you feel the need to snack all the time. Still, we can’t help but to remind one more time, that baby eats what you eat. Carefully consider what your snack choices are, especially if you are a sweets and candy lover. According to Livestrong.com, eating food in high in sugar (as well as high in fat and high in salt) can put your baby at increased risk for obesity later in life. Based on scientific information that came out about 10 years ago; eating empty calories while breastfeeding has far reaching effects on your infant. The quality of your breast milk is reflected in what you eat, and eating junk food frequently can set your baby up for problems with appetite control and cravings for the sweet stuff. High sugar diets may also over stimulate a baby, causing chemical changes in the reward center. These changes in the chemistry of a baby’s brain can lead to an alternation in the hormone that tell a baby when she is full, and to stop eating. All of these can set him or her up for a lifetime of weight issues.
In addition, babies who drink breast milk with high sugar content are much more susceptible of getting thrush infections in the mouth. Thrush is a contagious yeast infection that affects the oral cavity of the baby and the breast tissue of the mother. It can be quite uncomfortable for both, and is treated with topical medication, diligent hygiene AND reduced sugar intake for the mother.
Be careful what you eat and keep the sweet stuff as occasional treats rather than daily staples.
3 This is How We Roll
You’ve probably heard it before, that you shouldn’t eat Sushi during pregnancy. We usually hear it with cautions against mercury consumption as well as risk for bacteria and parasites. If you’ve been missing your Sushi fix for the past nine plus months, you might be dying to head out for lunch to get your favorite roll. Luckily for you, any risk for bacteria or parasites will be yours alone, as you can’t pass those nuisances onto your baby through breast milk. Keep in mind though, that mercury intake is still a prominent concern both you and you’re nursing one. While the occasional sushi indulgence is probably just fine, frequent consumption of certain types of fish may put both of you at risk for complication from mercury exposure. And honestly the raw part has nothing to do with it, mercury levels remain the same in cooked or uncooked fish. Fish to be wary of, with high mercury content are swordfish, shark, tilefish, and kind mackeral. Tuna is on this list too, just like in pregnancy, limit your intake to six ounces per week.
2 Cat Scratch Fever
Every since you found that you were pregnant, everyone obsessively steered you away from the litter box. Not that you minded, it was a pleasure to let someone take over the chore. But, now that the belly is gone, you might wonder if you should chip in on the duty. Is there any risk of contamination to human breast milk? We almost hate to tell you so, but it’s perfectly safe to resume your cat care. Toxoplasmosis is the big concern during pregnancy, because the parasite can pass through the placenta and cause life altering birth defects in the unborn baby. But now that baby is outside the womb, infection by toxoplasmosis for either of you probably wouldn’t result in anything more than something like a bad case of the flu. It can’t hurt you or your baby anymore, and it certainly won’t contaminate your breast milk. If you are a true cat lady and adore your feline fur babies as much as you’re newborn, feel free to indulge again in all things cats. If not, we won’t tell, if you want your husband to continue the chore.
1 Diet Doom
Each of is as anxious as the next, to get our body back post partum. As soon as the baby is born, you might start thinking about resuming all of your previous tricks to say thin. But, before you start considering diet pills and laxatives, you may need to hold off if you are breastfeeding. Many weight loss herbs are either not safe for breastfeeding mothers, or have not been studied thoroughly enough to deem them okay. Pediatricians urge women not to take judgments’ into their own hands, as supplemental drugs are not regulated like other medications.
Manufacturers are not monitored for providing correct information on the labels, and the products do not have to be tested for effectiveness of safety before they appear on shelves. In addition, laxatives and weight loss pills often use diuretics and stimulants. These are used to help you lose water weight, stimulate your nervous system, an even to alter your serotonin levels to help you eat less. The problem is that all of these can be counterproductive for your milk supply and can cause adverse effects in your baby. Many of the ingredients found in weight loss pills can interfere with your baby’s ability to sleep and eat, as well as problems with neurological development. Diet pills, laxatives, and herbal supplements are best avoided while you are nursing.
Sources: VeryWell.com, BreastfeedingBasics.com, TheBump.com, BabyCenter.com, KellyMom.com, LaLeche.org.uk, Healthline.com, MothersCircle.net, Livestrong.com, Breastfeeding.support, MedicalDaily.com, TheMilkMeg.com