Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 3

Baby Sleep and BreastfeedingWelcome to part 3 of my Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series! If you are just joining us, you might want to start at part 1, where I discuss reasons why breastfeeding moms sometimes struggle with sleep. Today, I’ll go over the way mom’s diet or medication might affect baby’s sleep.

Breastfeeding Mom’s Diet

In general, breastfeeding moms do not need to limit their diet. Most babies will not be sensitive to anything in your diet and some sources even say one glass of wine or alcohol in small quantities is OK. I am a nervous mom, so I really did not drink when I was breastfeeding, but some do say it’s okay. What is okay for one mom to eat may not be right for you and your baby, so there really isn’t a list of regular foods that breastfeeding moms have to stay away from, including “gassy foods.” Breast milk is made up of what is in your blood, not what you eat.

The AAP does recommend to limit caffeine, but you can drink it. Basically, consume anything in moderation. No throwing back shots or drinking five cups of coffee (limit to 1 maybe 2 cups per day). Even if you are drinking caffeine in moderation, if your baby is unusually fussy or difficult to settle for sleep, try cutting back (or out) caffeine to rule it out as a culprit. I gave up caffeine in pregnancy (the first time, not the second) and didn’t start drinking it until I went back to work and just couldn’t keep up with my son’s sleep problems and work (this was around 8-10 weeks). So, caffeine most definitely was not the source of our sleep problems. I do know that! One thing to keep in mind is that newborns *are* fussy for the first 6-8 weeks and just when you think about cutting out dairy and all kinds of things in your diet (like I considered but thankfully didn’t do because I love cheese!), their fussiness starts to go away, so be patient.

All in all, your diet has little influence on your breast milk and your breastfeeding baby will get the nutrition she needs. So, just when you think that spicy food affected your baby’s sleep, keep in mind that there are areas in the world where spicy food is the daily norm and they breastfeed just fine. Please read more about the effect of mom’s diet on breast milk to put your mind at ease. Having said that, it’s important to eat enough calories to keep up your milk supply, so going on a diet while nursing is not advisable and that includes taking diet pills. Breastfeeding usually burns more calories and actually makes it easier to lose weight (though not for everyone) and it may take up to a year to lose all that baby weight, but your baby’s health will be well worth it.

Breastfeeding Mom’s Medication

If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you do have to be careful about some medications you might take. Always talk to your doctor about the medication he wants to prescribe and make sure you remind him that you are breastfeeding. Search the LactMed database for approved medications for breastfeeding mothers.

Some cold medications are not advised when you are breastfeeding. Sudafed and Actifed are okay to take as well as some allergy medications such as Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, and Benadryl. Keep in mind any cold or allergy medication can affect your milk supply, so if you notice a dip, once you stop using it, your milk supply should go back up. Advil and Tylenol are both deemed as safe for you to take without an effect on your milk supply. This is different than when you are pregnant and should NOT take Advil. You can also review natural cold remedies that might help without adding to your stress or worry.

Anti-anxiety and anti-depressants have not been proven to cause a problem in a nursing infant, but the AAP puts them on a list of “Unknown, but could be of concern.” You should also make sure you review the list of medication with significant effects on infants, such as aspirin.

Any particular medication may or may not cause any sleep issues (none specifically that I know of — remember, I am not a doctor), and if you need medication for any given problem, I’d recommend working around it rather than trying to stop your medication. If medication is temporary, always keep in mind that you can “pump and dump.” I know of one mom who weaned at around 8 weeks because she had to take a certain unsafe medication for a week or two. She later realized she could have pumped and given her baby formula for a couple of weeks and then gone back to breastfeeding, so I try to remind people that weaning to fix a temporary problem is unnecessary and we can work around it. If you need ongoing medication, don’t assume your sleep struggles are due to the medication and definitely talk to your doctor about it.

Whether it’s diet or medication, there are many things breastfeeding moms have to worry about. When there are so many variables, it’s easy to blame breastfeeding and wonder whether if you stopped breastfeeding if all your sleep troubles would disappear. My mother-in-law was convinced that would have been true for me, but the pros definitely outweighed the cons and given I get just as many bottle-feeding moms to the site, I’m sure that, once again, all babies are different. Don’t wean. I breastfed for a year with both boys, and we can work on the sleep troubles!


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13 thoughts on “Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 3”

  1. Nicole, when did you publish this sleep and breast feeding series? I wish I had seen this when I had my first back in 2013! I remember scouring this site for all sorts of advice but I had no clue regarding concepts of storage capacity and how normal it would have been if my little one continued to wake to feed past 6 months. She ended up sleeping though the night on her own right around the time I went back to work, but we also ended up supplementing soon after with formula as i could not pump enough at work. My supply is better this time around with my second, the sleep not so much..but glad to read its normal for him to wake 2-3 x per night at 4.5 months. I’m a pediatrician and I’ll be the first to say we do not receive nearly enough training on breast feeding basics and sleep!

    • @Meghna – Thank you for reading and for your comment! The original version of this particular series was published back in ’09 actually. We wish you would have found this then but hope you came across helpful information then and now! It’s great to hear your supply is better this time around. Pumping at work can be such a challenge! At 4.5 months, we know exactly what you mean by sleep “not so much!” 😉 We’re here to help if you need more support there, for sure, and can send some brochures for your patients at your office or other groups you may be a part of, if needed, as well. Just let us know, and please keep reading!

  2. My daughter is 8 months 2 weeks and we’ve never quite recovered from the 4 month sleep regression.
    We tried co sleeping because we were in a 1 bedroom but when we moved to a larger unit and she got her own room.
    She sleeps in her crib but now we are dealing with CONSTANT waking. 5-6-7 times a night and I know she’s sleep deprived.

    She cries wanting to eat or just be held. She’s totally awake in her crib. Standing and wanting to play or begging to be picked up.
    We were on night 6 of sleep training (that wasn’t really taking) and she started teething her 5th tooth. SO now I just don’t know what to do.
    I’m thinking maybe my coffee intake has been keeping her up, so today I will cut it out of my diet. Hopefully that helps but do I continue sleep training?
    At this point I really don’t want to but should I bring her back in my bed?
    Should I just pick her up till she falls asleep in our rocking chair and of course she won’t drink from a bottle. Exclusively from the tap only :/ )

    Being in an apartment, loud screaming and crying at 3am isn’t really the best option, though we have been doing it for the last week.
    As you can see I’m at my whit’s end. I don’t care about me or my husband’s sleep. We’re not trying to put her on our schedule. We just want her to get a quality night’s sleep.

    • @Dawnn, I am so sorry to hear that your daughter has been waking so frequently. I understand how it can be disruptive to everyone in the household, and that you are concerned for your neighbors, as well. There could be many factors that are keeping her awake, or causing her to wake frequently. The important thing to remember during sleep training is to be consistent. Which ever method you choose, we recommend sticking with it for 1-2 weeks to see the results you are anticipating. It can take time for children to adjust to the new changes. I recommend reading this article about the most common sleep coaching methods: Hang in there!

  3. i did no realize chocolate could have such an affect on a babies sleep! I knew it had caffeine in it but the amount it would take to even match a cup of joe would be a lot of chocolate. I have been eating a good amount since I had the baby I feel almost addicted to the stuff. What better reason to quit the stuff, I hope it helps!!! Thanks

  4. Oh Mandy and I have the EXACT same problems. My baby girl is 9 months now and her sleep is getting worse. She use to sleep in her crib so nicely for even 7 hours STRAIGHT back when she was 3 months old and little of that wonderful sleep on up to about 6 months then it started getting bad as I was so tired when I got her out of crib for first night feeding I accidentally would fall asleep with her in the bed every night. I am 39 years old and after 6 months of sleep depravation it was getting to me. Now its even worse as I have to wake up every hour on the hour to pet her head for 10 minutes until she goes back to sleep. Now we are all getting sick from all the many so called sleep training. I am done with it!! I l cut the night time feeding, I cut the picking her up at night, we cut the letting her sleep with us. Now after reading your articles about breastfeeding moms and my daughter’s age I am going to try to breastfeed her once at night to see if that helps.

    Her naps during the day are like anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours and I let her do the 3 hours more and more as I don’t want a sleep deprived baby who has a brain still in development. sigh. This IS by far the most frustrating thing I have had to deal with. The pregnancy and delivery was easy compared to this. Sleep has always been a big thing for me as I get sick easily with out it. I can’t imagine what will become of me when I have to go back to work some time in the next few months when I find a job.

    Dead Tired

    • @Dana By far, sleep has been THE most difficult part about being a mother, so I completely understand. I hope you’re finding a plan that works for you and your family. Good luck!

  5. I have given up chocolate and caffeine as well :/.

    My son is 8 months old and still wakes 5-6 times a night to nurse, and his sleeping just keeps getting WORSE. I don’t even mind nursing because we co-sleep and I side-lie nurse… But lately, he’s been going down at 7 for bedtime, waking at 8 and staying up until 11! We can’t do ANYTHING to get him back to bed. That, on top of nursing every hour, is killing me. :/. Ugh.

    • @Mandy Oh no!! How is your son’s napping during the day? I would need to know many other details to make any recommendations, but it sounds like the key is to help your son learn to fall asleep on his own, so he can stay asleep all night. You can do this and continue co-sleeping. Good luck!

  6. My baby is 11 weeks old today, and she’ll often go 6-8 hours in between feedings at night, then they gradually narrow down to every three hours during the day. I breastfeed, then my husband gives her a bottle to top her off during the dark hours. During the day, she’s generally breastfed only, but we’ll give her bottles if she’s still hungry. If I’m really exhausted, he’ll do just a bottle feeding at night so I can sleep. It does make a huge difference, and our baby will certainly have quite a bit to eat when she wakes up and I take back over!

  7. I found that my baby would be up for a couple hours during the night when I would eat chocolate, even a little- so I gave it up until I finished nursing.

    • @Cindy Give up chocolate? Nooooo! 🙂 I’m glad you figured it out, though! At least it’s temporary and you can go back to eating chocolate when you are/were done breastfeeding. 🙂

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