There is a lot of information (and misinformation) about breastfeeding out there. Many mamas end up scrolling through some of it on social media or through a Google search during a 3am feeding. But with so much conflicting and confusing information around breastfeeding, you might end up with more questions than answers. This blog is meant to set the record straight - we’re debunking some of the most common nutrition-related breastfeeding myths so you can quit searching and focus on what’s most important – you and your baby’s health and wellbeing!
Myth #1: Breast milk contains everything your baby needs
Breast milk is an amazing food for babies, but it is misunderstood that nutrients are fixed no matter what you eat or what supplements you take. Breast milk’s nutritional composition does indeed shift based on a mother’s diet and/or nutrient stores, and it can be deficient in nutrients.
Of course, even if your diet isn’t “perfect,” your milk is still a superfood containing immune-supporting antibodies, HMOs for the infant microbiome, easy-to-digest proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, folate, and many trace minerals. However, know that you can influence the nutrient content of your milk with high quality food and supplementation.
Myth #2: You can’t drink coffee or alcohol when breastfeeding
Moderation is key, but small amounts of both caffeine and alcohol are safe while breastfeeding.
Some babies may be more sensitive to caffeine intake in the first few months of life, but most moms can enjoy their daily cup without worrying about affecting their little one’s sleep. Sources are mixed on an upper limit for daily caffeine intake, but range from 300-750 mg per day. The best way to determine your own upper limit is to watch your baby for any signs of fussiness. Of course, be sure to also hydrate well alongside your caffeine.
When it comes to alcohol consumption, experts suggest that you can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as you feel “neurologically normal”. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that “ingestion of alcoholic beverages should be minimized and limited to an occasional intake but no more than 0.5 g alcohol per kg body weight, which for a 60 kg (130 pound) mother is approximately 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine, or 2 beers.
Less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by a nursing mama reaches her blood and milk. Alcohol typically peaks in mom’s blood and milk approximately one half to one hour after drinking (but there is considerable variation from person to person, depending on food intake, body weight, body fat, and more.) So ideally, nursing should take place two hours or longer after alcohol intake to minimize its concentration in milk. It’s also worth noting that “pumping and dumping” does not speed the elimination of alcohol from the milk.
Myth #3: Spicy foods and cruciferous veggies can cause gassiness in your baby
Babies are fussy for a lot of reasons. Unless your baby has an allergy or intolerance to a food that you are eating, food likely isn’t the cause.
Research does show that some strong flavors, like garlic, can pass into breast milk. However, this can actually serve to benefit baby, as strong flavors introduced early on can help influence their palate later in life.
Regarding cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale - they have no more potential to affect your baby than other foods. Eating these foods may cause gas in mom due to the breakdown of some of the undigested carbohydrates by bacteria in the intestines. However, breastmilk is made from what passes into mom’s blood, not what is in her stomach or digestive tract.
Myth #4: Breastfeeding makes you lose weight
There is a big misconception about breastfeeding that it will make any weight you gained during pregnancy just fall off without any effort. While breastfeeding can help support weight loss since it requires additional calories, there’s no guarantee that it will result in weight loss. In fact, some women find that they hold on to a little bit of weight while they’re nursing, and others feel quite hungry from the additional calories burned.
However, weight loss while breastfeeding, especially early on, should not be the goal. Your body is recovering from an incredible nine-month journey, plus the feat of labor and delivery. And it’s nourishing for two! So focus on consuming plenty of nutrient-rich foods to support you both. In addition, trying to lose weight too soon after childbirth by restricting calories can jeopardize milk production.
Myth #5: Breastmilk doesn’t have as much nutritional value after a year
Breast milk composition changes over time, but that doesn’t mean its quality declines. Breast milk adapts to meet the needs of your baby depending on their age and other factors, and breast milk continues to provide babies immune protection and nutrition the entire time you continue providing your baby with breast milk.