better breast milk
Follow our simple rules to make your nutrition as safe and nutritous as it can be.
Laxatives and antacids are OK. Use herbal remedies with caution; not enough testing has been done on them, and they’re not as closely regulated as other medications.
Avoid long-term use of sedatives.
Should you change your diet?
Most breastfeeding women can and should eat all types of foods, Lawrence says. Once in a while, a baby can appear to be sensitive to a food in his mom’s diet, but in nine out of 10 babies, that’s not the case.
Stephanie Nielsen’s daughter was the exception. When Heather was born eight years ago, Nielsen—who was breastfeeding—didn’t avoid any foods. But when Heather began having nightly bouts of colic at the age of 6 weeks, Nielsen cut onions, broccoli, cabbage and beans—foods known to create intestinal gas—from her diet. The colic persisted. Nielsen, whose husband and brother both have food allergies, next eliminated all dairy, and the colic stopped within four days. Gradually, she added back the other foods she’d omitted, and Heather had no further problems.
In general, if food allergies run in your family, you should be watchful; common troublemakers are dairy products, eggs, wheat and nuts. If you are testing on your own to see whether one food is causing the problem, avoid the food for a week or more to be sure it clears your system and your baby’s, and avoid all foods that might contain that product. But whatever you do, don’t make food sensitivities a reason to switch to formula: A baby who has allergies needs his mom’s immunities even more than other children do.
Avoiding environmental hazards
In 2001, pediatricians, researchers and representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered to discuss chemical contaminants in breast milk and their impact on children’s health. Although the experts agreed that breast milk is the best source of nutrition in early infancy, they were concerned about toxins being passed from mothers to infants through breast milk, says Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., director of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Landrigan suggests that you limit your exposure by taking the following steps before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding:
Avoid gasoline and dry-cleaning fumes.
Avoid using paint and nail-polish removers.
Avoid installing new carpet or synthetic-wood furniture; they emit potentially hazardous gases. And don’t install a new computer, television or other large appliance that contains plastic, as it may contain toxic flame-retardant chemicals. Most are released over three to six weeks, so if you must buy any of these items, try to stay out of the affected room during that time frame, and leave the windows open as often as possible.
Remove lead paint from your home before you become pregnant. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a young child, hire a certified lead contractor to remove the paint and repaint the area. Stay out of the house completely—even at night—until the job is finished. n Don’t eat fish that was caught in contaminated waterways. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, which may have high mercury levels. You may eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.
Eat organically grown fruits and vegetables.