In an effort to make the ‘healthiest’ milk for our babies, many of us breastfeeding mums are eating lactation cookies, oats and taking herbal supplements plus eliminating alcohol and coffee. However…
Research proves that the mother’s diet does not change the components of breastmilk, the only exception being fatty acids (Hale & Rowe, 2017)
So the good news is you can save your money on supplements, and for those of us that want to indulge, you can enjoy a morning coffee or a glass of wine in the evening. For wine or other alcoholic drinks, the percentage of alcohol that is transferred to into your breastmilk that your baby will digest is so small that the benefits your baby receives from breastfeeding in the first place far outweigh any harm to your baby. However, the safe level of alcohol consumption for a breastfeeding mother is unknown and could vary from one person to another. A good tip is if you plan to have a glass of wine, do it while you are breastfeeding or immediately after. None of us want to end up in a tragedy like we heard in the media this time last year. That being said, there were several other risk factors for this family that the media did not mention Extra caution should be taken when your baby is under 6 months of age as the risk of SIDS is much higher and bed sharing is definitely not recommended as the babies natural reflexes will be affected (UNICEF link here). The general rule is if your sober enough to drive your sober enough to feed and prohibiting nursing mother from drinking alcohol just makes life unnecessarily restrictive: https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/alcohol/
Eating a healthy diet containing a variety of foods including the occasional treats will mean that your breast milk is perfectly nutritious for your baby. A recent research article showed that one of the carbohydrates found in breastmilk (Oligosaccharides) enhanced cognitive development measured at 2 years of age. And this is just one of the benefits that has me amazed!!!
Humans have breastfed their babies for hundreds of thousands of years and there has not always been food security like most enjoy in the modern world. However, mothers are able to feed their offspring even on what is known as a feast or famine diet. This proves that our bodies are brilliant at survival, we have evolved over millions of years we can rely on our bodies to nourish our babies, toddlers and small children without having to consume a perfect diet in order to produce perfect milk composition to achieve perfect growth and development.
There are many misconceptions about breastfeeding, and it can be very confusing for new parents.
From mothers I talk to I often hear:
“My milk is watery”
“I don’t think my milk is filling my baby up so I had no choice but to give formula”
Unfortunately, this can mean that many mothers often regret moving on from breastfeeding too early.
Recently, I supported a mother to re-establish breastfeeding her 6 month old baby after her friend made the wrong judgement call and in an attempt to settle her baby for her and gave her a bottle of formula. A classic case of confusing neurological and digestive sensitivity for hunger and being unsatisfied with breast milk. At the time I visited this mum she was very emotional about this and the parental guilt was evident. She wanted to breastfeed her baby and the decision to bottle feed was not an informed one. Ironically, her baby was much more contented when given breastmilk. My work here was done – this mother was protected against PND, it nurtured a healthy attachment with her baby and avoided parental guilt.
I hope this article will debunk the myth that your milk is not nutritious enough for your baby and some of you out there can make an informed decision about how you want to feed your baby rather than shaming yourself for not being able to provide nutritious breast milk for your baby because this is quite simply just not true! Your breastmilk is perfect for your baby.
References not linked above:
Hale, T. Rowe. H (2017). Medication and mothers milk. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
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Amy and Elspeth
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