Ask the experts

What foods should I avoid whilst breast-feeding and what about alcohol?

 Addy Henderson is a registered health visitor and international board certified lactation consultant with over 30 years of professional experience and her own private practice. Addy has extensive experience helping women with a broad range of problems relating to breastfeeding - including sore nipples, mastitis, low milk supply and gastric reflux.  

Q. How can I tell if my baby is getting enough milk?

The signs that your baby is getting enough milk are:

1.         That he is growing and putting on weight.  It is normal for him to lose weight in the first five days as he comes “with a packed lunch” board of extra fluid, but this should not be much more than 10% of his body weight.  After this during the first three months of life he should gain between 5 to 7 ounces (140-175 grams) per week.  Between three and six months he should gain 4 to 5 ounces (113-142 grams) per week.

If you are still concerned that your baby is not getting enough milk please absolutely feel free to speak to me direct on from the comfort of your home phone. I am more than happy to help. Just go to addy_henderson and request a call.

2.         He needs to have regular wet and dirty nappies: a minimum of six to eight heavy wet nappies and two poos, which should be soft and yellow, or mustard like, in consistency.  Some breast-fed babies only poo two to three times a week after the first six to eight weeks.

3.         During feeds he should be relaxed, but sucking actively and rhythmically with short pauses.  After feeds he should appear drowsy, full and sleep, or be content, for two to three hours on average, although it is normal for babies to “cluster feed” in the evenings and sleep for one longer period, hopefully, at night.

Q. What can I do to improve my milk supply?

The most important and effective way of improving your milk supply is to make sure your baby is well attached to the breast during feeds.  He needs to have a good deep mouthful of breast tissue and after a few moments of rapid sucking, be sucking deeply and strongly.  The only noise you should hear is swallowing.  Check the positioning and attachment guidelines on the websites for further help, or have an experienced breast-feeding advisor or lactation consultant watch you feed your baby.   In order for your breasts to make more milk they must be emptied frequently.  Thus, ensuring your baby is feeding efficiently and often will increase your milk supply.  If he is not doing this, expressing your milk at least six to eight times in twenty-four hours will have a similar effect.

Other methods that can help increase your milk supply include keeping your baby close to you and giving him lots of “skin to skin” contact and expressing your milk after feeding.  There are some drugs and herbal remedies that can help boost your milk supply known collectively as Galactagogues, but you will need to seek expert help before trying these.

Q. What foods should I avoid whilst breast-feeding and what about alcohol?

You can enjoy all the foods you would normally eat.  There is no need to avoid anything, unlike during pregnancy when you were advised to cut out certain foods.  Indeed it is important that you have a varied, well balanced diet, containing protein, fats, carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables and plenty of fluids.  You may find that you feel thirstier when breast-feeding, so have a drink nearby, but there is no need to drink more than you wish to.  Contrary to popular belief this will not make more milk! You will burn extra calories while breast-feeding, so if you eat sensibly there will be no need to diet.  Tea, coffee and other drinks containing caffeine are fine in moderation, but some babies may become unsettled and restless if excessive caffeine is taken, so limit such drinks to five or six a day.

A few babies, especially if suffering from Gastro-intestinal reflux, may improve if cow’s milk protein is eliminated from their mother’s diet, but it is important to seek further advice from your doctor or a qualified lactation consultant before doing this.

Q. Do I have to cut out alcohol for the duration of breastfeeding?

Again, moderation is key.

If you wish to have a glass of wine or other alcohol it is best to have it just after you have fed your baby. It takes on average one hour for one unit (small glass of wine) to be metabolised by your body. If you do have a special occasion to attend when you will be drinking more, you will need to express and discard your milk for several hours. It would be a good idea to express some milk ahead of this time and freeze it so that you have a reserve for your baby

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