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Breastfeeding FAQs

Q: What are the proven benefits of breastfeeding?

A: The advantages of breastfeeding your baby versus bottle-feeding are well-documented and proven. According to Motherisk, a research program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids that provides information on the safety of drugs and exposures during pregnancy and lactation, breastfeeding is the best way to provide all the necessary nutrients for your baby, especially in the first six months.

Q: Do I need to avoid certain foods while breastfeeding?

A: Although a lot of new moms avoid certain foods while nursing, this is not really necessary as food is rarely the root cause of a baby’s problem. That being said, it is important to monitor your baby’s reactions. If she’s fussy at the breast when you eat a certain dish, then that should be removed from your diet until your baby is fully weaned. The odd time when your milk is causing your baby gassiness or upset stomach, it could potentially be a problem with dairy protein. If you see a rash, your baby is fussy or gassy, has a runny nose, cough or congestion, you might want to try cutting out dairy for a few weeks and see if these symptoms improve or cease.

Q: Do I need to avoid certain drinks while breastfeeding?

A: In terms of what you drink, try to minimize caffeine intake to 150mg per day (about three cups of black tea) or less as small traces can end up in your breast milk. How much alcohol ends up in your milk depends on the amount you drink and when. It takes about two to three hours for alcohol to leave your system, so if you want to indulge a little, have one drink then wait before feeding. Moreover, because of the lack of information and research on the effect herbal teas have on breast milk, you should take caution. Steer clear of golden seal (often found alongside Echinacea) because it can be toxic in moderate doses and research has yet to confirm the effects on nursing babies.

Q: I am breastfeeding and know that the medications I take may affect my baby. What can I take if I have an upset stomach?

A: Always consult your doctor or pharmacist before you take medications while you are breastfeeding. For an upset stomach, they are likely to recommend calcium carbonate (Tums®, Rolaids®) or alginic compound (Gaviscon®) for heartburn and acid reflux, or an aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide (Maalox®) for sour stomach, which according to Motherisk are all deemed safe to take while nursing.

Q: I took prenatal vitamins while I was pregnant. Can I continue to take them now that I am breastfeeding my baby?

A: Prenatal vitamins are safe and many mothers continue to take them while nursing. Your body needs an increased amount of folic acid when breastfeeding, which there is more of in the prenatal multivitamins. For this reason, Motherisk recommends that you continue taking a prenatal supplement with folic acid for as long as you are breastfeeding.

Q: I am worried about having enough breast milk for my baby. Is that a common concern?

A: Most women will produce enough milk to feed their little one. If you aren’t, don’t worry. Motherisk says that there are safe medications your doctor can prescribe to help boost your milk production. Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant about how to make sure your baby is latching properly and getting everything she needs.

Q: I have high blood pressure and need to be treated. Does this mean I can’t breastfeed my baby?

A: Not necessarily. This should be at the very top of your list of things to discuss with your doctor. Ask her about alternative high blood pressure medications that you can take while nursing. Motherisk says that your doctor may prescribe a beta-blocker, calcium channel blocker or ACE inhibitor, many of which are completely safe. Remember, taking certain medications may also mean that your doctor will want to monitor your baby for beta-blocking side effects.

Q: I’m suffering from mild constipation. Is there anything I can take even though I am breastfeeding my baby?

A: According to Motherisk, a common side effect of taking prenatal vitamins is constipation. Whatever the cause of your discomfort, this symptom can be managed with stool softeners such as docusate calcium (Surfak®) or docusate sodium (Colace®), which are both safe for breastfeeding moms.

Q: Is it safe for me to continue to take oral contraceptives while I am breastfeeding my baby?

A: Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. Motherisk warns contraceptives that contain estrogen may decrease breast milk production and should be avoided if you’ve just started breastfeeding your newborn or are struggling with milk production.

Visit motherisk.org for more information on staying safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Copyright © 2011 The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). All rights reserved. The Information on this web page is provided for educational information purposes only. It is not designed or intended to constitute medical advice or to be used for diagnosis or to replace your physician. Consult your physician to determine the appropriateness of the Information for your specific situation and before making any decision regarding treatment and/or medication. The Information is believed to be reliable when posted. However, neither Motherisk, The Hospital for Sick Children nor Shoppers Drug Mart guarantee or warrant the quality, accuracy, completeness, timeliness, appropriateness or suitability of the Information provided. Reference to or mention of specific products or services do not constitute an endorsement by Motherisk , The Hospital for Sick Children or Shoppers Drug Mart.