The Truth About Caffeine, Alcohol & Fish When Breastfeeding

The Truth About Caffeine, Alcohol & Fish When Breastfeeding

Did you know that your breastmilk derives from your blood supply? It’s true!

Inside your breast is a complex network of channels called milk ducts that lead to smaller channels of ductules. These ductules have grape like sacs called alveoli that do the hard work in creating your milk supply. The hormone prolactin rises after giving birth and alerts the alveoli to take proteins, sugars and fat from your blood supply and make breastmilk.

Luckily, this means nursing mothers don’t have to cut out specific foods as heavily as during pregnancy. Instead they should pay attention to substances that filter into the bloodstream and ensure they are hitting the proper caloric intake to meet their body’s demand.

Caffeine — How Much is Safe for Breastfeeding Mothers?

Lindsey Shipley, a friend of Nourisher and Registered Nurse and IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) addresses the consumption of caffeine in detail over at the Lactation Link.

Shipley dismisses the myth that caffeine must be avoided to the same degree as during pregnancy.

“Based on research studies, very little caffeine actually passes into mother’s milk.  Many experts agree that it takes more than 5 cups of caffeinated coffee daily to see effects in the breastfed baby.  That is the equivalent of about 300 mg.” Source 

 Coffee lovers rejoice because you don’t need to cut caffeine when nursing!

Do I Have to Avoid Alcohol When Nursing?

There are specific guidelines to drinking alcohol while nursing that the American Academy of Pediatrics outlines:

‘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. Nursing should take place 2 hours or longer after the alcohol intake to minimize its concentration in the ingested milk.”

Shipley also dispels the need to pump and dump if all above guidelines are met.

“Since milk is made from your blood, once your own blood alcohol level has gone down, so has your milk’s alcohol level.” 

In short, alcohol can be consumed in limited quantities if sufficient time has passed before nursing.

Eating Fish While Breastfeeding - What is Good and What is Bad?

Many types of fish are nutrient rich and should be consumed without worry but several types of fish can transfer mercury into your bloodstream.

The Good:

Fish provide a rich source of mega-3 fatty acids, including DHA and EPA, which are great for baby! Fish is also low in saturated fat while high in vitamin D. View this chart from the FDA to find the best and worst choices for eating fish. Healthy fish to eat when nursing include: 

  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Anchovies

The Bad:

Certain types of fish should be avoided due to trace amount of mercury. Mercury naturally settles into water and turns into methlymercury. Fish absorb this and methlymercury builds up over time with more consumption of organisms. When you eat cooked fish, the methlymercury remains and is transferred to your bloodstream. Breast feeding can then pass trace amounts of methlymercury to your baby who is susceptible to brain and nerve damage from this chemical. Fish with the highest amount of mercury include:

  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • King Mackerel
  • Marlin

Don’t let these fish put you off from the powerful benefits of the right choices! If you have more questions, The Bump provides answers to in-depth questions about how fish can affect your breastmilk supply. 

How Should My Diet Change?

Mothers can breathe a sigh of relief because there is no one “right way” to eat when breastfeeding.

So long as your body has enough calories and nutrients to meet the demands of breastmilk you can rest assured that baby will be well nourished. We’ve outlined a resource for calculating your daily caloric intake here.

Other than that, remember to drink plenty of water and and look for healthy snacks such as lactation bars to add into your daily routine!

Keep Reading Breastfeeding Diet 101: What Your Body Needs to Produce Breastmilk


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The Truth About Caffeine, Alcohol and Fish When Breastfeeding

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