Many new moms fear that eating the wrong foods while breast-feeding will make their baby fussy. However, no sound scientific evidence exists to support claims that certain foods or beverages lead to fussiness in infants, according to Gina Neill, a Loyola University Health System registered dietitian.
"One of the many reasons women stop breast-feeding is because they believe they have to follow restrictive dietary guidelines," Neill said. "However, a nursing mom's food and beverage intake does not have to be as regimented as you might think."
Here are the rules women need to know while breast-feeding their little one:
Monitor your alcohol intake
Your breast milk is comparable to your blood level in terms of alcohol content. If you plan to drink moderately while nursing, breast-feed shortly before you consume alcohol. Having a couple of drinks is not a good reason to resort to formula. And supplementing with formula can cause your milk supply to decrease.
Fish may be the perfect catch, in moderation
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that pregnant and breast-feeding women avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. These fish have high levels of mercury. However, don't make the mistake of avoiding fish altogether. Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, also can help your baby's brain and eyes develop. Breast-feeding mothers can eat up to 12 ounces a week (two average servings) of fish and shellfish that have lower concentrations of mercury. This includes shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish. Albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna and should be limited to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week.
Make no beans about brewing up caffeine
Most breast-feeding women can drink a moderate amount of caffeine without it affecting their infant. The American Academy of Pediatrics defines moderate intake as two to three cups of a caffeinated beverage per day. However, some young infants are sensitive to caffeine and become irritable or have difficulty sleeping even with small amounts of caffeine. An infant's sensitivity to caffeine usually lessens over time.
Spice up your baby's diet
You may have heard that babies can develop gas and become fussy from foods with citrus, garlic, chocolate or ethnic flavors, but fussiness and gas are normal in newborns, so it is unlikely these behaviors are related to your food intake. Even when a baby does react to a food in the mother's diet, the specific food that causes a reaction will vary from baby to baby. A true allergy will usually produce a skin rash or blood in your baby's stool. This usually occurs between two and six weeks of age but may occur earlier. Elimination diets can identify what triggers an allergic reaction. If you think your baby has an allergy, talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian.
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