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Alternative Names Return to topBreast pump information; Nursing mothers - self-care
Definition Return to top
Breastfeeding is often an enjoyable and rewarding experience for mothers. A breastfeeding mother must continue to take care of her baby and herself, as she did during her pregnancy.
Recommendations Return to top
In general, lactating women should get nutrients from a well-balanced, varied diet, rather than from vitamin and mineral supplements. Eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, calcium-rich dairy products, and protein-rich foods (meats, fish, and legumes). Make sure you are getting enough calories.
BREASTFEEDING DAILY FOOD GUIDE
This is just a guide. You may need to eat more than this based on your size and activity level.
Nursing mothers need enough fluids to stay hydrated -- most experts recommend drinking enough fluids to satisfy thirst. Eight 8-ounce servings (64 ounces) of fluid such as water, milk, juice, or soup is a good goal.
Breastfeeding mothers can safely eat any foods they like. Some foods may flavor the breast milk, but babies rarely react to this. If your baby is fussy after you eat a certain food, try avoiding that food for a while, then try it again later to see if it is a problem.
Don't limit your diet excessively. Make sure you are getting enough nutrition for yourself and your baby. If you become overly concerned about foods or spices causing problems, try to remember that entire countries and cultures have diets that contain foods that are extremely spicy. In these cultures, the mothers nurse their infants without problems.
It is possible that some highly allergenic foods (strawberries, peanuts) may be passed into breast milk, increasing the risk of a later food allergy in the baby. If this is a concern, discuss food allergies with your pediatrician.
CAFFEINE, ALCOHOL, AND SMOKING
A nursing mother can safely drink moderate amounts of caffeine (equal to 1 cup of coffee per day) without causing harm to her baby. But any more caffeine than that may cause agitation and sleeping difficulties in the baby.
Since alcohol has been found in human milk and can interfere with the milk ejection reflex, avoid alcohol while breastfeeding. An occasional drink, no more than two ounces of alcohol, may be safe, but you should consult your health care provider about the associated risks.
If you are a smoker, this is a great time to quit for yourself and for your baby. Nicotine and other chemicals from cigarettes are found in breast milk. Smoking will increase the number of respiratory infections your baby develops. If you are unable to quit, try to limit the number of cigarettes as much as possible, change to a brand with low nicotine, and visit your doctor regularly.
DRUGS IN HUMAN MILK
Many medications (prescription and over-the-counter medications) will pass into the mother's milk. Check with your health care provider before taking any medications. Do NOT stop taking any prescribed medication without speaking first to your doctor.
The American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Drugs releases a periodic statement with a list of drugs and their compatibility with breastfeeding. Your obstetrician and pediatrician are both likely to be familiar with this publication and can answer your concerns about breastfeeding while taking medications.
Most breastfeeding women do not have normal menstrual periods (lactation amenorrhea). Although the risk of pregnancy is less for a woman experiencing lactation amenorrhea, pregnancy can occur during this time. Breastfeeding should not be used for contraception, since failure is likely.
Birth control choice should be discussed with your health care provider. Barrier methods (condom, diaphragm), progesterone contraceptives (pills or shots), and IUDs have all been shown to be safe and effective. Progesterone contraception is generally not started until the milk supply is established, usually at 4 weeks after giving birth.
Estrogen-containing birth control pills are not recommended for breastfeeding women, because they may affect milk supply.
WORKING OUTSIDE THE HOME
Mothers face unique obstacles in maintaining adequate milk supply once they return to work. With planning, commitment, and skilled use of a breast pump, breastfeeding mothers can maintain their milk supply and continue breastfeeding even after returning to work outside the home.
A maternity leave is helpful for establishing your milk supply and breastfeeding skills before returning to work. An ideal work place would provide a private room for breastfeeding moms, with a comfortable chair and an electric breast pump for use by all nursing mothers.
However, many moms have had success using a hand breast pump and a bathroom stall for privacy. Many women prefer the speed of the electric breast pump. Hospital-quality pumps are available for rent through medical supply stores. Personal, portable models are available for purchase.
MAINTAINING YOUR MILK SUPPLY
Here are some tips that have worked well for many breastfeeding mothers who work fulltime outside the home:
There are a number of breast pumps on the market, with varying degrees of comfort, efficiency, and cost. Most require time to develop the skills to use them. Pumps may be hand-operated (manual) or work by battery or electricity.
The most dependable, efficient, and comfortable pumps are electric, create and release suction automatically, and require minimal training.
Your local lactation consultant can help you make realistic plans and guide you to a supportive breast pump supplier.Update Date: 11/30/2008 Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.