A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Can I have that if I’m breastfeeding?

Mom holding cute baby girl with a pacifier

When it comes to breastfeeding, the rules aren’t as complicated as you may have heard.

Breastfeeding mothers often are told to skip spicy foods and bypass broccoli to avoid a fussy, gassy baby.

Some moms stop taking medicines so they can breastfeed, or stop breastfeeding because they’re taking medicines.

Moms want to make the right choices so their babies are happy and healthy.

Luckily, when it comes to breastfeeding, the rules aren’t as complicated as you may have heard, said Perinatal Lactation Consultant Elizabeth Harris.

Debunking breastfeeding diet myths

Instead of memorizing a list of foods your friends told you to avoid while breastfeeding, eat a well-balanced diet, Harris said.

“We want moms to have a wide variety of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, so they can produce ideal milk without depleting their bodies,” she said. “There aren’t any specific foods to avoid while breastfeeding.”

Mothers pass protein, vitamins, minerals and immune protection to babies through breast milk. Foods don’t directly enter the nursing baby’s digestive system, so gassy foods are less of a concern than most moms believe.

Moms are warned against eating excessive amounts of fish because of mercury risks. Using caffeine and artificial sweeteners also is discouraged.

These products may be fine in moderation, Harris said. If you choose to consume caffeine, she suggested timing your coffee or tea so the caffeine doesn’t keep your baby awake during naptime.

Can I have a beer if I’m breastfeeding?

“Of course we’re not encouraging breastfeeding mothers to drink alcohol, but the overwhelming message is moderation,” added Heather Seubert, also a perinatal lactation consultant at Marshfield Clinic.

Alcohol decreases milk supply and presents a greater risk to infants whose only source of nutrition is breast milk.

Avoiding alcohol is advised, but a glass of wine or beer may not be a problem, Seubert said. The alcohol level in breast milk is similar to the blood alcohol level and starts to decrease about an hour after having one drink. A good rule of thumb is to wait to breastfeed until you no longer feel the effects of the alcohol.

Misconceptions about medicines

Jessie Richardson, another lactation consultant at Marshfield Clinic, said, “A lot of families think no medicine is safe while breastfeeding, so they don’t comply with treatment.”

Not only are many medications safe to use while breastfeeding, an untreated medical condition could put both the mother and baby at risk.

There are a few exceptions – cancer drugs and some contrast dyes used in medical procures aren’t safe.

Some medicines, like extended-release antidepressants, have alternatives that are safer to use while breastfeeding. Timing doses of other medications limits the child’s exposure, Richardson said.

If you have questions about your medications and breastfeeding, talk to your health care provider.

When your baby is ready to transition to solid foods try one of these homemade baby food recipes.

Need help with breastfeeding? Talk to someone at Marshfield Children’s.

Learn more about Lactation Services

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