BF myth: Health and Wellness for Mom

[deleted account] ( 8 moms have responded )

Breastfeeding myths are not limited to milk and the baby. There are tons of myths about mom. Some moms are told that they have to be very careful about what they eat, they must consume the perfect diet, they must drown themselves in water to be able to produce milk, they must wean if they smoke at all, they cannot exercise while breastfeeding or that they cannot breastfeed while sick.

In general you do not need to alter your diet in order to breastfeed. You should eat when you're hungry and drink you're thirsty. You may see or hear different lists of foods to avoid. Don't worry! You can still eat the same foods you've always enjoyed. The only reason to limit or cut out a food is if baby has a reaction or if you have a family history of allergies to certain foods. Dairy is the most common problem food. If you suspect a dairy allergy see the following links, but remember that it can take up to two weeks for dairy protein to be out of your system and for symptoms to improve.

Two things that should be limited during breastfeeding are alcohol and caffeine. If you have an alcoholic drink or two then you just need to judge how you feel. The rule of thumb is if you're safe to drive then you're safe to nurse. You do not need to pump and dump because the alcohol leaves your breast milk as it leaves your blood stream. Some moms do pump in order to prevent engorgement.

You don't need to maintain the "perfect" diet in order for your milk to have everything your baby needs. Some mothers feel they must wean because they don't always eat their veggies. Rest assured that your milk will still have what your baby needs. Of course, you should eat healthy because it can impact *you*.

"1. A breastfeeding mother has to be obsessive about what she eats. Not true! A breastfeeding mother should try to eat a balanced diet, but neither needs to eat any special foods nor avoid certain foods. A breastfeeding mother does not need to drink milk in order to make milk. A breastfeeding mother does not need to avoid spicy foods, garlic, cabbage or alcohol. A breastfeeding mother should eat a normal healthful diet. Although there are situations when something the mother eats may affect the baby, this is unusual. Most commonly, "colic", "gassiness" and crying can be improved by changing breastfeeding techniques, rather than changing the mother's diet. (Information Sheet Colic in the Breastfed Baby"

Some women are told that breastfeeding, especially long term, can cause osteoporosis. Breastfeeding has actually been shown to help preduce osteoporosis after menopause.


"Another important element used in producing milk is calcium. Because women lose calcium while lactating, some health professionals have mistakenly assumed an increased risk of osteoporosis for women who breastfeed. However, current studies show that after weaning their children, breastfeeding mothers' bone density returns to prepregnancy or even higher levels (Sowers 1995). In the longterm, lactation may actually result in stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis. In fact, recent studies have confirmed that women who did not breastfeed have a higher risk of hip fractures after menopause (Cummings 1993)."

Many people believe that if mom smokes at all she should not breastfeed. It's actually beneficial for her to breastfeed because her milk can counteract some of the harmful effects of nicotine. According to La Leche League smoking fewer than 20 cigarettes a day the risks to the baby are small. Smoking more than that increases the risk. Obviously, it's best to quit or cut back if you can. Breastfeed your baby just before you smoke. Smoke away from the baby (preferably outside) change your clothes, wash your hands and your face before touching the baby again.

Many moms are concerned about how exercising will affect their milk. Once you've been cleared for exercise you should take it slow. La Leche League recommends waiting until 2 months postpartum to try to loose weight in order to allow your body to recover and your milk supply to become well established. Moderate exercise has been shown to be safe for mom to do while nursing. Moderate exercise does not seem to cause too much lactic acid build up in milk and can help mom feel good.

"Exercise may help a mother feel more energetic, preserve her health and well-being, and help to contribute to her child’s health. Many Australian Breastfeeding Association members find exercise an important part of their life that with some planning can be made to fit the demands of a young family (NMAA members 2000, NMAA 1998).

It is uncommon for women to exercise to maximal level. Moderate exercise will not increase milk lactic acid levels.
Moderate exercise that produces a significant improvement in a mothers’ cardiovascular fitness will not affect volume or composition of breastmilk or affect infant growth.
Exercise is beneficial to a mothers’ mental health and can be recommended as part of a postnatal care plan.
Infant refusal to breastfeed after exercise is rare."

Last, but not least, it is perfectly safe and even helpful to breastfeed while sick. When you're sick your body makes antibodies. These antibodies pass through your breast milk to your baby. This can prevent your baby from catching what you have or reduce the duration and severity of the illness. If your doctor prescribes medicine make sure that he/she knows that you're breastfeeding. You can contact the InfantRisk center to check to see if a medication is safe while breastfeeding:
If it's not safe, ask your doctor for an alternative. In many cases they should be able to find one for you.

Check out this link for more info on breastfeeding while sick and the very few severe illnesses that you may not be able to breastfeed through (such as a blood infection in which case you would probably be hospitalized):

-No need to avoid certain foods unless your baby reacts to it or you have a family history of allergies
-Eat when you're hungry, drink when you're thirsty
-Breastfeeding does not cause osteoporosis and in fact can help reduce your risk
-It's best to quit smoking, but if you can't you don't have to stop breastfeeding. You should take certain precautions (see above)
-Moderate exercise is safe while breastfeeding
-No need to stop breastfeeding when you're sick


Victoria - posted on 02/16/2011




Both my OB/GYN and lactation consultant recommended continuing taking the prenatal vitamins while nursing. It helps to fill in any gaps you might have in your diet.
I found that drinking the recommended daily amount of water helped me to feel better.I know a lot of mommies who would get headaches from breastfeeding because they hadn't had enough water.
This was a fantastic article. Thanks!

Brenda K. Lay - posted on 02/13/2011




Great advice! Though i would like to add that in order to know that you are drinking enough just look at the color of your urine. It should be a light yellow...if its dark yellow then you are not drinking enough. That's more for general health but a great guideline taught to me by a great lactation consultant coworker of mine.


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Patricia - posted on 02/14/2011




Lovely article, thanks. I remember being told to avoid curries and to always bf in a nice quiet environment. Logic over-ruled and I realised bf mums in India ate curries and war torn countries don't stop bf just because there are missiles over head.

[deleted account]

Yep, all pointed out in the above post:
"You don't need to maintain the "perfect" diet in order for your milk to have everything your baby needs. Some mothers feel they must wean because they don't always eat their veggies. Rest assured that your milk will still have what your baby needs. Of course, you should eat healthy because it can impact *you*."


Lynn - posted on 02/13/2011




While it is true you do not need a perfect diet to breastfeed and that a woman with an imperfect diet still produces better breast-milk than formula. It is also true that you are what you eat and eating better is healthier for you and your baby's health.

[deleted account]

It's worth pointing out that your diet is quite independent of your breastmik. If the mum's diet is inadequate, it's not the baby who will miss out, but the mother! A balanced diet is to ensure that mum can cope with the demands of looking after a little baby!

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