As a Midwife and Lactation Consultant of 11 years there are things I have seen surprise parents time and time and time again.

Lots about life with a newborn is much different than we expect. Some of this is obvious, some of this is a little more obscure.

I wanted to collect some of my favorite facts and myths together for you to take a look at.

There are thousands and I could go on forever BUT a lot of you may be new parents and I’m sure your time is limited!

Lets hope you can get through these 8 before your next feed.

Please add your favorite breastfeeding facts in the comments!

 

Fact – Nobody has 2 boobs the same!

The vast majority of people have 1 boob bigger than the other.

It’s been written that approximately 65% of women produce more milk in their right breast vs their left.

You might have never known this but size difference can become a LOT more obvious when you’re pregnant or nursing.

It’s much rarer to have 2 boobs that produce the exact same amount.

 

Fact – breastfeeding saves lives

The antibodies in human milk protect newborn babies from countless infections. It’s now well known babies who are breastfed have more effective immune systems.

Included in the list of illnesses breast milk protects against are the two leading causes of child mortality worldwide – diarrhoea and pneumonia.

 

Fact – Babies who breastfeed can sleep better

I know it sounds made up – but breastmilk helps your baby develop a circadian rhythm (our internal body clock).

Studies have shown that the hormonal changes in breastmilk throughout the day mimic the hormonal changes we as adults go through that set our sleep and wake patterns.

This isn’t something that happens right away. As any of you breastfeeding right now or in the past can attest to.

So although this is something that can take time, there is a lot of evidence and studies that are ongoing.

Unfortunately there is still no substitute for your baby feeding through the night when they are going through a growth spurt…. Maybe one day?!

 

Myth – Your newborn will eat every 3-4 hours

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I feel like a lot of you may have figured this out for yourselves by now.

I always believed new babies feed every 3-4 hours, so do many other new parents I meet.

This usually means that if we have a baby that feeds more often than that we feel like we’re doing something wrong.

The truth is breastfed newborns were never supposed to feed on that schedule.

When your baby is establishing your supply and navigating their way through multiple growth spurts in the early days they will feed randomly.

The majority of the time these feedings will be MUCH closer together than 3-4 hours, especially at night when they can be constant.

New moms need to prepare to feed on demand and often a lot more than they expect. Your baby will dictate the early days, it is intense, but it doesn’t last forever.

Surround yourself with support and take help that is offered.

Your job in those first few weeks is exactly the same as your baby’s. Sleep + eat, everything else can wait!

 

Fact – Getting support makes a difference

The World Health Organization recognizes that families who get professional support during the early days benefit in many ways.

They are more likely to breastfeed for longer.

They are less likely to suffer with postpartum mood disorders.

They are less likely to need trips to the emergency room.

Many countries have systems in place where the government provide support to new families for free. This is usually in the form of home visits from a Midwife in the first 6 weeks.

If your country doesn’t have a program like this I encourage you to think about what postpartum support you might need BEFORE the baby arrives. Meet someone you like and put plans in place while you’re still pregnant. You won’t regret it!

Check out my blog about getting help from an IBCLC.

 

Fact – You’ll burn extra calories!

My all time favorite. You WILL burn at least 500 extra calories per day for the duration of your breastfeeding journey!

Breastfeeding will help you slim down faster, after all it takes a lot of energy to liquify yourself ladies!

As well as burning calories, in the early days the hormones released when nursing help your uterus to contract back down to it’s pre pregnancy size.

Mother nature’s workout!

Click to read more about what to eat while you’re breastfeeding.

 

Myth – If it’s hot my baby will need water

Although just 1 teaspoon of your breastmilk contains billions of good bacteria crammed with immune properties and lots of other things we may well never fully understand, it’s basic composition is fairly simple.

Breastmilk:

  • 3-5% fat,
  • 0.8 – 0.9% protein,
  • 6 – 7% carbohydrate,
  • 0.2% minerals
  • And a LOT of water.
  • The composition remains similar throughout the day but what’s actually in the milk NEVER stops changing.

So if it’s hot, don’t reach for the tap. Let your baby tell you what they need. You may notice they feed more. This is to quench their thirst.

Rain or shine, hot or cold, your body and your baby will work out what they need. Your breastmilk is 100% perfect every time.

 

Myth – I’m the only one that’s finding this hard!

In 11 years I have NEVER met a family that said to me “This new baby thing is actually much easier than I thought.”

For a lot of families the frequent feeding and sleep deprivation is much harder to deal with than they ever expected.

I never leave a new mum without telling them ‘I know it doesn’t make it any easier right now, but you’re not alone in this, the things you’re struggling with today are shared by millions of new parents across the world at the same time, in the same way’

Even if you spent your entire pregnancy learning about what to expect, when these things actually happen it’s still hard.

Tired is tired, anxious is anxious BUT know that you’re not alone.

Get out of the house, find your people, talk to other parents. You’ll quickly realize you’re in this with A LOT of other people.

 


My name is Marie I’m a board certified lactation consultant living in San Diego! You can read more about me here. If you’re a new mom, soon to be new mom or know someone who could benefit from some friendly help or advice please see my services or send them my article about getting the most out of your lactation consultant!

Are you wondering if it’s ok to be drinking alcohol while breastfeeding?

Are you getting conflicting advice? Unclear answers?

Not sure where to find the evidence about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding?

Well, as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I’ve got you covered.

First things first. Like a lot of things pregnancy and postpartum related… this is going to be an individual choice. As people we are all very different. If you do something different from the other women at the office… GREAT. Don’t feel bad and don’t make them feel bad either.

The point of this article is not to tell you what to do. The point is to give you some facts, some things to consider and give you the tools to make an informed decision for yourself when it comes to drinking alcohol and breastfeeding.

 

Things to consider when it comes to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding

1. How much alcohol are you going to consume?

This helps work out your blood alcohol level. Your blood alcohol level will be exactly the same as your milk alcohol level. It is a popular misconception that alcohol becomes diluted as it finds its way to the breast milk. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

2. Will you be eating? 

If you eat whilst drinking the blood alcohol level takes longer to peak.

3. How old is your baby? 

Babies livers are immature and, until around 3 months of age, babies metabolize alcohol at half the rate of adults. Simply put, it takes much longer for them to clear the alcohol from their system.

 

Should I pump and dump?

Most people at least consider this as an option. It can be a little confusing.

The only thing which clears your milk of alcohol is time, pumping will not speed this process.

Alcohol passes freely between the bloodstream and your breastmilk the only time your milk will be alcohol free is when your blood alcohol has returned to normal. This is the same regardless of whether you pumped 5 times or not at all.

So in actual fact pumping and dumping is not necessary unless you have to. This might be a time when you plan to drink a lot and can’t get through the day without expressing.

If you DID pump while your blood alcohol level was high the milk alcohol level will be high, and will continue to be so. In this case the milk you expressed should be disposed of.

If you consume a minimal amount of alcohol and your blood alcohol is expected to return to normal prior to babies next feed or your next pumping session, you should be fine!

So how do you know when your blood alcohol level returns to normal???

 

How long does it take for the alcohol to be out of my system!?

Great question!

This can depend on your weight (people metabolize things differently based on their size you know!) and on whether you are eating at the time you’re drinking.

As a general rule blood alcohol peaks 30 to 60 minutes after consumption. This extends to 60 to 90 minutes if the alcohol was consumed while eating.

A 140lb women will take on average 140 minutes to clear the alcohol from a single serving of wine from her system. The same women would take 4x that amount of time (9-10 hours) to clear 4 drinks.

As I mentioned before, it takes your baby at least twice as long to clear the alcohol from their system dependant on their age. This is one of the key things to remember when judging the importance of waiting until your blood alcohol level is normal!

 

How does alcohol affect the baby?

It might not surprise you to find there are no huge randomized studies of alcohol and how it affects babies as it is considered unsafe. We have to use retrospective studies and individual cases to give us the best idea.

So far documented side effects are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slow weight gain
  • Inhibited gross motor development
  • Failure to thrive
  • Reduced milk supply in mother
  • Inhibited let down reflex in mother

 

How do I drink safely?!

My advice is always the same.

Try to work out how much you will be drinking, stick to it and plan ahead.

If it’s just 1 or 2 drinks you might be able to continue as normal at your next feed. As long as it has been at least 2-4 hours since consumption. If your baby feeds more regularly than this you may consider bringing some expressed milk for a feed in between.

If this is a big event with lots of drinking the best solution may be to pump enough beforehand and have a full day/night worth of milk to use. These occasions with extended drinking would mean that you need to maintain supply. Bring a breast pump, pump as often as you would feed the baby and dump whatever you express whilst you suspect your blood alcohol level is elevated.

Alternatively if this is the 10th article on drinking alcohol while breastfeeding you’ve read and the whole thing has you in a spin, just don’t do it.

There’s enough to worry about with a new baby and if this is really starting to add to the load, it might be a sign you just don’t need the extra stress.

 

Things to help!

It goes without saying that if you’re not sure get help from a professional like me! Check out my single and package consultations here.

Here is a really comprehensive handout I used to give moms in Australia (I used to live there… it’s pretty fantastic). It was created by the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

Here’s a handy milk alcohol level calculator I found:

Here’s a helpful drinking chart I print out for mom’s if I know they have an upcoming drinking event!

 

Take home messages

My take home messages about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding would be:

  • Plan ahead
  • Pick an amount and stick to it
  • Pump if you need to but know it won’t speed up the process of lowering your milk alcohol level
  • Be sure you’re comfortable with the plan! You can just not drink!

 

Need some advice on your Breastfeeding Diet as well?

Image of woman asking for help with her breastfeeding diet

Now that you’re a bit more educated of the effects drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, you should check out my Ultimate Breastfeeding Diet article as well. It will give you a good foundation for the types of food and other drinks (besides alcohol) you’ll want to be putting into your body.

If this was helpful to you, chances are it will be helpful to others too! Please share!

 


 

My name is Marie I’m a board certified lactation consultant living in San Diego! You can read more about me here. If you’re a new mom, soon to be new mom or know someone who could benefit from some friendly help or advice please see my services here or send them my article about getting the most out of your lactation consultant!

I’m so happy you’re interested in eating the right things while nursing your baby!! I’m so happy you’re interested in the ULTIMATE breastfeeding diet.

Full disclosure…. I may have mislead you (I definitely mislead you) because really there isn’t an ultimate breastfeeding diet. No step by step guide on what to eat, how much and how often to eat it. Whoever works that out will be a billionaire and probably deserves some sort of award for public health because they would be making all of our lives a lot easier/ healthier.

An ultimate breastfeeding diet is unlikely to ever exist. We’re too different from one another, we live completely different lives and we have very different goals and concerns. THAT’S OKAY.

If you are completely freaking out about your diet please just remember there is one certainty in all of this… regardless of diet your body will (almost) always create the perfect superfood the your baby needs in the form of your breastmilk.  

So why bother with diet at all?

You’ve just spent your entire pregnancy thinking before every meal, avoiding your favorite deli or sushi place, gazing longingly at all the smelly cheeses you love and miss dearly.

Do you really have to keep thinking about everything you want to eat?!

Look at it this way, if your body can always make the perfect superfood for your baby where do you think it’s pulling the nutrients from?

Think of eating the ‘right’ way while breastfeeding as topping up yourself with all the nutrients that you lose while nursing. If you’re eating right it’s easier for your body to produce milk that’s jam packed with good stuff for your baby.

Below is a list of general rules to follow in order to get off to the best start with your breastfeeding diet!

 

Eat more!

The best one, and easiest to start with. You need approximately 500 extra calories per day while breastfeeding (even more if you’re nursing multiples!).

In an ideal world these calories will come from nutrient dense foods such as fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or eggs. So aim to do this most of time time! Now and again if you’ve had a particularly long day…. cake may do. Everything in moderation right?

 

Eat a balanced diet

Now is not the time to start any new or restrictive diets. While nursing you should still be above your pre pregnancy weight so don’t worry if the lb’s don’t just drop off like they do for celebrities!

Lots of vegetables, plenty of protein and healthy carbs + fats are all needed to build and then maintain a healthy supply.

Fish, lean meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds and all the green things you can get your hands on are a great place to start!

Just like before, foods that are high in sugar, high in saturated fat or processed should be avoided.

If you are eating a well balanced diet supplements are not necessarily recommended but certainly won’t hurt. Many mom’s continue with a prenatal vitamin.

 

Stay hydrated

Seems simple, but because drinking plenty is considered easy we often forget it.

A common problem I see as a lactation consultant is mothers who don’t drink enough fluids to support their breastfeeding diet.

You produce a lot of oxytocin while breastfeeding, this increases thirst which should encourage you to drink more. Always have water close by when nursing.

Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue and muscle cramps.

Breast milk is 90% water so even being a little dehydrated can affect your supply. If this is ongoing it can take a lot of hard work to build supply back up.

 

Know which foods can boost supply

Since I just mentioned supply here are a few foods which are considered lactogenic – that just means they contain properties which are known to help facilitate the chemistry of lactation.

  • Fennel – seeds work better but the vegetable is effective also!
  • Nuts – cashews, macadamia nuts + almonds are all known to help
  • Green leafy vegetables – these contain phytoestrogens which are known to improve breast tissue health and aid lactation
  • Nutritional or brewers yeast – like vegetables these types of yeast contain phytoestrogens, there are many different types of lactation cookies out there which typically contain one of these yeasts!
  • Other spices – ginger, basil, anise, dill and caraway

Want to know more on boosting supply? I wrote about it here.

 

Limit your caffeine

It is still safe to drink caffeine whilst breastfeeding and with all those sleepless nights often desperately needed.

Approximately 1% of the caffeine you drink will be found in your breast milk and go to your baby. Although its only 1% if you drink more than 2-3 cups of coffee per day this can be too much for you baby and as a result they can act a little restless.

In my experience I’ve found 2 cups to be the sweet spot!

Just remember some teas and many soft drinks also contain caffeine so be mindful and try and consider ALL the caffeine you’re consuming.

 

Listen to your baby

Although your baby is new to the world they will tell you exactly what they don’t like right from birth. You just need to know what to look out for.

Babies that are gassy, spit up more, suddenly reject the breast or become fussy for several hours after a feed can be showing us they did not like something you’ve eaten!

It takes between 2-6 hours for something we have consumed to be present in the breast milk so you can work your way back.

It could be anything but common foods that upset babies include; dairy, citrus, chocolate, garlic, pepper, cinnamon, chilli, gas producing vegetables, soy, wheat and corn.

 

Take home message…

A lot of what you read here is logical, some things, like foods which boost supply are just really useful to know!

The ultimate breastfeeding diet really just starts with making the right choices.

If there’s a take home message I like to leave families with it’s that our bodies are clever and they will find a way to get what they need to feed our babies. This said, breastfeeding is hard work, tiring and in many ways a little like a full time job! So wouldn’t you like to give yourself the best chance to feel as good as possible throughout?

If you feel better and have a healthy diet your nursing becomes more efficient, your supply is easier to build and maintain, you have all the nutrients you need to support you AND to support your baby.

You’re not pregnant anymore so you can relax a bit, but being mindful about diet is not just good practice for now it’s good practice for ALWAYS. It’s also good practice for introducing food to your new baby when the time is right.

If you simply start with these 3 things:

  1. Try to make healthy choices MOST of the time
  2. Remember to have your extra calorie
  3. Always drink plenty of water

You’re already 80% of the way there!

Happy nursing!

 


 

My name is Marie I’m a board certified lactation consultant living in San Diego! You can read more about me here. If you’re a new mom, soon to be new mom or know someone who could benefit from some friendly help or advice please see my services or send them my article about getting the most out of your lactation consultant!

Marie Hobden

About Marie Hobden

I qualified as a Midwife in the UK in 2010 and have been lucky enough to help thousands of families, from all walks of life, in 8 very different hospitals, across 3 different continents.

I’m now based in San Diego, CA helping to normalize breastfeeding for new and expecing families.

Need breastfeeding help?

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I offer a wide range of services but can also work with you to come up with the a completely customizable plan. My typical services include:

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