We know that breast milk is the best food for your baby, but what about you? Are there certain foods that affect the quality of your breast milk? It’s a valid question and one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet is the best way to ensure that both you and your baby are getting what you need. As with most things parenting-related, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Together you will find what works best for both you and your baby. If you are concerned, you should consult your doctor or breastfeeding professional.

Are there foods I should avoid while I’m breastfeeding?

ANSWER:

In short, no. There are no foods that all mothers must avoid. Contrary to popular belief, in most cases, there is no need to avoid chocolate, spicy foods, onions, garlic, broccoli, or cabbage. Moderation is the key.

In one study, mothers consumed an abundance of garlic—more than anyone could eat with a meal. And their babies actually breastfed more because they liked the taste! In countries such as Thailand and Mexico, where spicy food is a part of their cultural diet, moms continue to breastfeed their babies with no ill effects. It’s also worth noting that your breast milk tends to carry the flavours of the food you eat. So enjoying a varied diet may result in your baby having a more diverse palate later in life!

My diet isn’t even close to perfect. Will my breast milk still be good for my baby?

ANSWER:

Absolutely. We all know that eating a balanced and nutritionally rich diet is good for you (it boosts energy and your resistance to illness). But maintaining an ideal diet is not necessary when it comes to producing good quality breast milk. According to breastfeeding expert, Ruth Lawrence, MD, “All over the world women produce adequate and even abundant milk on very inadequate diets.” Studies have found that it takes several weeks of famine conditions before a mother’s milk is affected.

How will I know if my baby is reacting to something I’ve eaten?

ANSWER:

Firstly, keep in mind that almost all babies go through fussy periods. Reactions such as this being in direct correlation to your diet would be considered very unusual. Your baby’s fussiness is probably unrelated to your diet.

A few more relevant signs that your baby is having a reaction could include dry skin, congestion, bloody stool, rash, or wheezing. If you suspect that something in your diet is affecting your baby, the first step is to eliminate that food from your diet. (Note: cow’s milk takes two or so weeks to clear.) Then try reintroducing it. If your baby’s reaction reappears, you’ll know to avoid that food for a few months.

The older your baby gets, the less likely they are to have a reaction to your diet. (Most babies will not react after approximately six to nine months of age.) The most likely culprits are often protein foods such as dairy, soy, egg whites, peanuts, and fish. Changing your diet using the process of elimination will tell you if something in your diet is causing your baby’s symptoms.

Do I need to increase my calories to increase breast milk production?

ANSWER:

No. Just “eat to hunger.” Extra calories do not seem to be as important as was once thought. Your fat stores at your baby’s birth provide much of the fuel needed to produce breast milk. Research has found that your metabolism may be more efficient while breastfeeding than at other times which may reduce your need for extra calories. More active mothers will need more calories, but they will likely also feel hungrier . Listen to your body, it will tell you if you need more calories.

As a vegetarian, is there anything special I need to know?

ANSWER:

The biggest concern for mothers that follow vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, or other diets that don’t include animal products, is the risk of a B12 deficiency. Usually, vitamin B12 is transferred through the placenta to the fetus during pregnancy and through breast milk subsequently. So if a breastfeeding mother is deficient, her infant may also become deficient. Vitamin B12 is essential in supporting brain development and producing healthy red blood cells in infants.

Ensure either your diet includes foods that are rich in vitamin B12 (such as eggs or dairy), you eat foods with vitamin B12 added, or you take supplements. Consult your healthcare provider to determine which supplement is best suited for your needs.

Are there certain foods that will increase my breast milk production?

ANSWER:

Nothing we are aware of has been scientifically proven to increase breast milk production. Again, breast milk production is based on how many times per day your milk is drained well from your breasts. The more times you breastfeed or express your milk and the more drained your breasts are, the more milk you will make. For information on herbal and prescribed medicines that increase milk production, consult your lactation consultant.

Can I diet while I’m breastfeeding?

ANSWER:

While we don’t necessarily advocate for “dieting” but rather adopting a more healthy lifestyle and balanced nutritional diet, the answer is yes. If you are considering dieting, this may in fact be the best time, as breastfeeding helps burn fat stores. It’s best to go slowly and lose weight gradually. Your chosen diet should include at least 1800 calories per day. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight should be for your unique frame. Any diet should be rich in fruits and vegetables and lean protein.
If your meal plan includes artificial sweeteners, use them in moderation, one to two servings per day.

Is caffeine safe while breastfeeding?

ANSWER:

As with all parts of your diet, moderation is key. One or two cups of coffee (or other caffeinated drinks such as teas or colas) are not likely to cause a reaction. Unless your baby is unusually sensitive, there is no need to abstain.

How much should I drink while I’m breastfeeding?

ANSWER:

“Drink to thirst” is the simple rule of thumb. Research has not yet found a link between the quantity of fluids a mother drinks and her milk production. Rather, milk production is based on the number of times per day your milk is drained well from your breasts. A tell-tale sign that you need more fluids is if your urine is dark yellow. Keeping a container of water or juice at your usual nursing spot makes it easier to grab a drink when you’re thirsty.

Can I have an occasional glass of beer or wine while I’m nursing?

ANSWER:

Moderate to heavy drinking is risky for your baby. However, a little alcohol in the milk now and then has not been found to be harmful.

Moms who want to avoid any alcohol in their breast milk should keep to having their drink right after nursing. Research shows that alcohol passes quickly into a mother’s milk, peaking within 30 to 60 minutes (60 to 90 minutes when taken with food). But it also passes out of milk quickly. For a 120-pound woman, it takes approximately 2 to 3 hours for the alcohol in one glass of beer or wine to leave your milk. And there is no need to pump to make your breast milk alcohol-free. As your blood alcohol levels drop, alcohol leaves the milk.

Note that if you are having a stronger drink or more than one glass of beer or wine, it will take much longer for the alcohol to leave your milk.

This is general information and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away.

Adapted from: Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant Co – author of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

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Are you experiencing pain during or after breast pumping? Even though sore nipples are a common problem, pumping should not hurt.

mom and baby laying on bed

Some moms assume pumping should be painful. Not so! “No pain, no gain” does not apply here. Painful pumping means something needs to be adjusted. What’s causing the pain? The following are the two most common culprits.

Breast Pump Suction Set Too High

The strongest pump suction is not always the most efficient and does not always pump the most milk. In fact, too-high suction can actually slow your milk flow. Instead, set your pump at the highest suction that feels good to you…and no higher. If you’re gritting your teeth, turn it down!

Pumping milk is not like drinking through a straw. With a straw, the stronger you suck, the more you get. But with pumping, most milk comes only when a let-down or milk release happens. Without a milk release, most of your milk stays in the breast.

What is a milk release? Hormones cause muscles in the breast to squeeze and milk ducts to widen, pushing the milk out. Some mothers will feel tingling while others will feel nothing.

A milk release can happen from a touch at the breast, hearing a baby cry, or even from thinking about your baby. Alternately, feelings of stress, anger, or upset can block milk release.

During breastfeeding, most mothers have three or four milk releases, often without knowing it. To get more milk with your pump, you need more milk releases, not stronger suction.

Flange Fit Issues

Many mothers pump comfortably with the standard size flange (25 mm diameter nipple opening). But if pumping hurts even on low suction, this is most likely a sign that you need another size. If the standard flange is too small or too large, a better-fitting flange will feel more comfortable and may even allow you to pump more milk.

Flange size – and your fit – is determined by the width of the flange opening. To check your flange fit, watch your nipple during pumping. Your nipple should move freely in the breast flange tunnel. If there is a little space around your nipple as it’s drawn into the flange’s nipple tunnel, you have a good fit. If your nipple rubs against its sides, the flange is too small. And if too much of the areola is being pulled in or if your nipple bounces in and out of the tunnel, it is too large.

nipple fit properly inside flange
Good Fit
flange too tight around nipple
Too Small
too much space between flange and nipple
Too Big

Nipple size changes with birth, breastfeeding, and pumping. This may mean that the pump flange that fit when you first started pumping may need to be changed the more you pump. For that reason, you’ll want to recheck your flange fit from time to time. Thankfully, Ameda has several different flange sizes available so you can go larger or smaller, as needed.

Circle diameters of various nipple sizes
Nipple Size Chart

Other Causes of Breast or Nipple Pain

There are other possible causes of pain during/after pumping that are related to breast and nipple health. If your pain doesn’t seem to be caused by a high breast pump suction or a poorly fitting flange, it is time to ask more questions and seek assistance from a professional.

Do you have nipple trauma (broken skin on the nipple)? Could you have a bacterial infection of the nipple (can occur with a history of nipple trauma)? Do you have an overgrowth of yeast (also known as thrush or candida)? Is mastitis a possibility? Does your nipple turn white, red, or blue after pumping? If so, see your lactation consultant or another health-care provider to rule out other possible causes, including Raynaud’s Phenomenon.

Adapted from Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

Simple Steps to Cleaning Your Ameda Breast Pump

Keeping your breast pump clean is not difficult but in the life of a busy parent, it can feel quite tedious. Luckily, there are only a few steps required to care for your Ameda breast pump. We’ll go through how to sanitize your pump before first use, which parts need regular cleaning, and which ones can do without.

Sanitize Your Ameda parts Before the First Use

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If your pump kit package is not marked “sterile”, you will need to sanitize before using it for the first time. Start by putting all the pieces that will come into contact with your milk in a pot, cover with water, and boil for 20 minutes. With an Ameda breast pump, this includes the bottle, flange (the part that goes on your breast), white valve, and silicone diaphragm. All Ameda pumps use the same HygieninKits so this will apply to both personal use pumps or rental/hospital pumps. It is best to let the parts air dry so make sure you set aside a bit of time for this. Good news, unless your doctor or hospital has told you otherwise, there is no need to do this again.

Everyday Cleaning of Your Ameda Breast Pump

Ameda breast pumps don’t require you to boil, microwave, or use disinfecting wipes on a regular basis. Instead, after every use, rinse the pieces that come in contact with your breastmilk with cool water followed by a wash in warm, soapy water (using mild detergent). Rinse them again this time with clear, warm water, and allow them to air dry. Alternately, you can clean your pump parts in the dishwasher.

Tip: it’s a good idea to get one or more extra pump kits and wash them all at once at the end of your day. This way you won’t be spending valuable time washing parts after every pumping session.

To clean your pump motor or bag, just wipe it with a clean, damp cloth. This is also a good way to clean the outside of your pump tubing if milk drips onto it.

No Tubing Care Required

Ameda breast pumps have Proven Airlock Protection™ making it the world’s only breast pump with an FDA proven protective barrier. This means that you don’t have to clean the narrow tubing. During pumping, Ameda’s diaphragm keeps the air from your pump from coming in contact with your milk. For mothers using a breast pump with tubing, any moisture in the tubing can contaminate their expressed milk with bacteria, mold and viruses. Please ensure that you always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for caring for your breast pump.

Adapted from Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

Once you have your breast pump, you can start breast pumping and collecting milk any time. But be mindful, in the first two weeks after your baby is born, it’s best to pump occasionally to relieve engorgement – don’t get carried away!

Pumping a lot in these early weeks tells your body that you had triplets. Your body will then reciprocate by producing an enormous amount of milk. Remember: more milk out = more milk made! While this may sound like a good thing, it will increase the likelihood of breast problems such as clogged ducts and engorgement.

When your baby is a little older (2-3 weeks), and you are ready to start pumping regularly, you will most likely get very little milk. This is normal. After all, you’ve just spent the first weeks of your baby’s life getting your milk supply into an exact balance with your baby’s needs. It’s the basics of demand and supply, your body is providing what your baby requires, there isn’t supposed to be any extra. What you’re doing by pumping in these early days is building a little bit of a stash, and getting used to pumping. You’re also increasing your milk supply bit by bit.

Note: It is important to ensure that breastfeeding is progressing well before you start incorporating pumping.

When to pump:

The first step in pumping regularly is to start including it into your daily routine. To do this, start by adding a pumping session at about the same time each day. By pumping at about the same time each day, you’re telling your body that it needs to make a little more – tricking it into thinking that your baby has really taken to that 10am feeding! Even if you pump and no milk comes out at all, you’re placing the order for milk to be made later.

Learning how to pump:

It may take you a while to get the hang of pumping. You may be tense and worried about whether you’ll be able to pump enough (don’t worry, you will). You may be uncomfortable with a machine hooked to your breasts (imagine!). Don’t worry, that’s why you practice. This time pumping at home teaches you how to set up your pump, how to set it so that you get the most milk in the least time, and most importantly, how to relax when you’re pumping. A hands free pumping bra can help you if you are double pumping and find it hard or awkward.

How often to pump:

When you’re pumping at home to build up your supply and milk stash, once a day is plenty. Don’t make yourself crazy with it!

If your baby nurses every two hours, you may need to spread out your pumping sessions a little more, but make them a bit longer than your baby typically nurses.

If you don’t have enough time to include pumping sessions during the day, pump when you get up, before work, after your baby goes to bed, or during the night – it can be done, you may just need to get creative! Having an extra set of collection kits can help so the washing and drying doesn’t get overwhelming.

If your baby nurses very infrequently, you may need to pump more often, since the baby is usually more efficient at getting the milk out.

How long should you pump?

In short, you should pump until milk isn’t coming out any more. You don’t need to watch the clock, but it is a good idea to check the bottle to see if it is still flowing. In general, pumping for 15 minutes should do it for most people. (If you’re having trouble letting down for the pump, read Better Pumping, below.)

Or, if you’re trying to boost your supply, pump for a few minutes after the milk stops flowing. There is no harm and it’s a great way to send your body the message that more milk is needed (if it is).

Breast Pump Settings

Contrary to popular belief, your pump does not get the milk out of your breasts by brute force alone. Stronger suction does not necessarily result in more milk. It may however, result in excruciating pain or damage to your breasts. What your pump needs to do to get the most milk out is imitate your baby. Pay attention to how frequently your baby sucks and the strength of that suction. Then try to adjust your pump to match your baby. From there, you can experiment to see if slightly more, less, faster, or slower suction feels better and produces more milk. What’s the best setting? The one that works for you. So don’t pay attention to how other people’s pumps are set, it’s a personal thing. Custom Control makes this easy for you to adapt as your baby changes and grows.

Better Pumping Results

A few tricks can increase your pumping output without increasing the amount of time it takes. The most effective ways to increase your output (aside from ensuring you have the best pump for your needs) are good relaxation skills and breast compressions – both described here.

Breast Compressions

Doing breast compressions during pumping can help stimulate additional let-downs, and helps to thoroughly drain all of the milk ducts. While you are pumping, use one hand to massage your breast from the armpits towards the nipple (or as close as you can get without dislodging the pump flange). Gradually increase the pressure, and finish with a few firm squeezes of your breast, like you do when you are hand expressing milk.

Relax while Pumping

For some people, relaxing while pumping is akin to asking them to relax during a root canal. But it can be done. Relaxing is important, because it’s really hard to have a let-down if you are tense. Here are some tips for relaxation:

Positioning:

Sit back in your chair, don’t tense your shoulders, and support the bottles so that you don’t have to lean forward.

Environment:

Play relaxing music, have a comfortable chair for pumping, have a cup of tea before you start – in general – be comfortable!

Baby Cues:

If you are away from your baby when you are pumping, bring some cues to help you think about your baby. Some mothers respond very strongly to the smell of your baby, so bring whatever your baby slept in last night (as long as there’s not too much spit-up on it!) Other moms respond better to pictures or sounds – you can put photos of your baby right in many of the pump carriers, or bring a tape of your baby’s “hungry noises” (all out crying doesn’t usually work – it’s too stressful)

Bottle Watching:

For me, the best way to stop a let-down in its tracks was to watch the bottles. I always had trouble pumping enough, and the stress of watching the ounces was enough to severely limit my ability to pump. Look at something else – anything! Say to yourself “any breastmilk at all is a precious gift to my baby” and visualize waterfalls, spilled milk trucks, your baby’s contented face after a feeding – whatever relaxes you.

Activity:

Some people like to work while they are pumping – for me, pumping time was when I rewarded myself for the hard work of the rest of the day. Find something you enjoy doing while you pump. Maybe it reading the latest Janet Evanovitch novel, the paper, or your favourite tabloid magazine. Or maybe it’s scrolling through social media.

Do whatever makes it a relaxing time for you. And if you’re stressed about the work you’re missing, pick yourself up a hands-free pumping bra and keep on working – whatever relaxes you best.

Adapted from Kristen Berggren, PhD, IBCLC
author of Working Without Weaning and creator of the website, www.workandpump.com

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If you’re pregnant, you may have already started thinking about breastfeeding. You may even have a breastfeeding plan in place. But if you’re considering buying a breast pump while you’re pregnant or adding it to your registry, our advice is to wait.

There is comfort in feeling prepared. However, it’s tough to know what you need before baby arrives. There are so many variables that make your breastfeeding experience unique and you won’t know the answers until after you hold your precious bundle in your arms. What if you have breastfeeding challenges and need a hospital grade pump for an extended time? What if your baby refuses the bottle no matter what you try? The choices can be quite overwhelming: single, double, manual, electric, hospital grade, etc.

Here are a few things to consider when determining what type of breast pump to buy:

Are you planning to use your pump for occasional feedings or are you planning to pump exclusively? If you are planning to exclusively breastfeed with the odd bottle given by dad, grandma, etc., then a manual pump will likely do the trick.

A manual pump uses hand-operation to create suction. You can collect as little or as much milk as you desire (comparable to an electric pump) but it is more time consuming and labour-intensive. Manual pumps can be great for travel as they don’t require a power source, or if you are planning to only pump occasionally.

If you plan to go back to work while you are still breastfeeding, a double electric pump is a no-brainer. It’s a particularly wise investment if you will be exclusively pumping or if this is your first child and you are planning for more in the future. It will undoubtedly become one of the more useful tools in your parenting arsenal!

Double electric pump: These pumps are run by a motor, either plug-in or battery-operated , and allow for pumping both breasts simultaneously with the motor doing the work for you. This will allow you to express more milk in a shorter period of time. Convenient and time-saving, a double electric pump is ideal for busy moms and frequent pumping.

Do your research!

Breastfeeding is a natural, unique, and rewarding experience for most families. Some will struggle and some won’t, every experience is unique. Should you decide to pump, keep in mind that a pump cannot replace skin-to-skin contact and all the benefits to mom and baby that come with it. Enjoy your pregnancy and when you start thinking about breastfeeding make sure you do your research. Take the time to really consider which pump fits you and your baby’s needs. And buy when the time is right. Breast pumps don’t usually go on sale and waiting until after you have your baby won’t change that.

Good luck and happy feeding!

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