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Breastfeeding Basics: What You Need to Know to Get Started

Breastfeeding Diet

Generally speaking, because only a small amount of what you consume is passed along in your breast milk, you don't have to avoid quite as many things as you did while pregnant. However, "use common sense," says Ryan. "If you're not eating it while you're pregnant — like fish with high levels of mercury — then you should be cautious while lactating," she adds. In addition, certain spicy or strongly flavored foods might cause baby to reject your breast milk (temporarily). If they do, you may have to give them up until you wean your baby. Babies also sometimes show intolerance to the proteins found in cow's milk, to nuts, wheat products or citrus fruits. If baby appears to be in distress, his pediatrician might recommend that you remove such foods from your diet (one at a time in order to determine which is the culprit). Medications can also be passed along through breast milk, although many are safe to take while breastfeeding. Read the label to determine if it is safe, or ask your doctor.

Do I have to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding? Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), just because you finally had your baby doesn't mean alcohol is no longer taboo. Generally speaking, it's OK to have an occasional small drink while breastfeeding. However, because alcohol can be passed along in breast milk, you want to avoid consuming large quantities, says Ryan. In other words, a glass or two of wine is OK. Guzzling the whole bottle is not. If you do consume alcohol, you can expect your body to metabolize small quantities in a few hours, so it's probably safe to nurse baby just before drinking a glass of wine, say, and then several hours later when baby would normally eat again. If you've had more than a little, you should pump and discard your breast milk when you would normally feed baby. For that feeding, give baby some of your stored breast milk instead.

Do I need to eat more when I'm breastfeeding? Because producing milk requires a little extra fuel, the American Dietetic Association recommends lactating mothers consume 500 calories more per day than they would have pre-pregnancy. Of course, those calories should come from healthful sources.