Welcome 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!
In the last part in the series, explore your sleep training options while breastfeeding: Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 4.
Need Breastfeeding-Friendly Baby Sleep Help?
We know that, as a breastfeeding mom, your breastfeeding relationship with your little one matters to you. But remember, the fact that you are breastfeeding does not mean you have to suffer through sleep deprivation for months on end! You really can help your little one build healthy sleep habits in a gentle, breastfeeding-friendly way, with one of our sleep coaching packages that includes special lactation support. These lactation packages are serviced by one of our combination sleep and lactation consultants, and will include specialized breastfeeding recommendations that align with the sleep coaching recommendations in your Personalized Sleep Plan™.
Once you have chosen your sleep and lactation package, you will immediately receive an email with your Helpdesk login credentials. From there, you will be able to complete your family profile and connect with your sleep and lactation consultant, who will craft a Personalized Sleep Plan™ with lactation support just for you and your family.
Share your experience with medication or diet while breastfeeding
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON BREASTFEEDING AND BABY SLEEP: