Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can I eat this while breastfeeding?

I just read a poor article called "Eating for Breastfeeding" on another blog. Here's the comment I sent to correct its gross misinformation.

Thank you for addressing this important topic; however, your information is seriously incorrect. Most women do not need to drastically change their diets or fluids intake to successfully breastfeed. It almost seems as if this article was written with the sole sources being hearsay and folktales. I would be happy to provide accurate information to replace this. Feel free to contact me for details.

In short:
  • It is no longer generally accepted that women use 500 calories per day for lactation. That number may be closer to 300 calories, but what's more important is that the woman look at her own nutrition needs as she consider how much and what she eats. A woman who has some weight to lose may not need to consume any extra calories to breastfeed successfully.
  • A breastfeeding mother should drink to thirst. Artificial guidelines about amounts to consume are not helpful. It's a good idea to keep a bottle or glass of water handy throughout the day as a reminder to keep well hydrated.
  • While it is theoretically possible that chocolate could bother a nursing child, most women eat a varied diet with no problems. Chocolate would be much lower on the list of foods to consider should food intolerances or allergies be suspected. (The caffiene may be the more likely culprit in caffiene anyway.)
  • There is no need to issue a blanket edict against eating anything during breastfeeding. What a woman can eat during lactation is highly variable by culture. In some cultures, women are encouraged to eat lots of things that other cultures forbid entirely! It is based on tradition and not fact. (Consuming illicit drugs, smoking, or taking in large amounts of alcohol or caffiene, on the other hand, are universally accepted as poor choices.)
  • Go ahead and avoid greasy foods because they aren't part of a healthful diet, but not because they'll have the kind of impact on the baby that this article suggests.
  • It is an old myth that breastfeeding mothers should not eat spicy foods. Consider what women in Thailand, Mexico or other cultures regularly eat while successfully breastfeeding their babies!
  • The article is correct in its assertion that it is best to avoid large amounts of caffiene. The drug does pass into the infant's body and affects the child. Reasonable amounts are acceptable (a cup of coffee in the morning, for example, is just fine; a pot may not be).

For up-to-date, accurate information, I suggest mothers look to La Leche League, the breastfeeding support organization. They can find a local Leader by visiting www.llli.org. Read FAQs about nutrition while breastfeeding at http://www.llli.org/NB/NBmaternalnutrition.html.

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