Eat, Drink, but Be Wary
What's safe (and what's not) while breastfeeding
•Medications to treat asthma and low thyroid function are fine, as are most antibiotics and antidepressants.
•Non-sedating prescription medications for allergies, such as Allegra and Claritin, are safe, as are non-sedating over-the-counter antihistamines, although they may inhibit milk production in some women. To clear a stuffed nose, you can use a nasal-spray decongestant; oral decongestants are probably OK as long as they are used only at the prescribed dosage.
•Avoid aspirin, as it can thin your baby’s blood. Instead, use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin)—but only for a few days.
•Laxatives and antacids are OK. Avoid herbal substances; not enough testing has been done on them, and they’re not as closely regulated as other medications.
•Most painkillers (such as those prescribed after a Cesarean section) are probably OK short term, although they may make your baby sleepy. Avoid long-term use of sedatives.
Should you change your diet?
When it comes to eating, almost anything goes; most breastfeeding women can and should eat all types of foods, Lawrence says. Once in a while, babies can appear to be sensitive
to a food in their moms’ diets, but in nine out of 10 babies, that’s not the case.
Stephanie Nielsen’s children were the exceptions. For example, when Nielsen’s first child, Heather, was born four years ago, Nielsen—who was breastfeeding—didn’t avoid any foods. But when Heather started having nightly bouts of colic at age 6 weeks, Nielsen decided to cut onions, broccoli, cabbage and beans from her diet, foods known to create intestinal gas. The colic persisted. Nielsen, whose husband and brother both have food allergies, next cut out all dairy, and the colic stopped within four days. Gradually, she added back the other foods she’d omitted, and Heather had no problems.
In general, if food allergies run in your family, you should be watchful; common trouble-makers 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 with allergies needs her mom’s immunities even more than other children.
In October 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 agree that breast milk is the best source of nutrition in early infancy, they are 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: