Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

When should breast pumps be used?

Many women find the convenience of a breast pump to be an invaluable aid in breastfeeding. Basically, breast pumps allow the nursing mother to expel (and store, if desired) breast milk at times when she is not available to nurse the baby.

There are different types of breast pumps. Large, dual-action pumps are typically used in the hospital setting and may be rented for home use. The options for personal use and purchase include automatic models that are comparable to hospital-grade pumps, small electric or battery-operated units that double- or single-pump, and one-handed manual pumps.

Breast pumps may be useful for working mothers who wish to provide a supply of breast milk for their newborn and keep up their own milk production. Sometimes, women must stop breastfeeding on a temporary basis due to an infection or need to take certain medications. In these cases, use of a breast pump can keep milk production active during the breastfeeding hiatus.

Should certain foods be avoided while breastfeeding?

Some babies appear to be sensitive to certain foods in the mother's diet, while other babies never appear to have negative reactions to foods. A baby may become fussy, may have trouble sleeping, or may develop gas after the mother eats certain types of foods with strong flavors. Some of the most common triggers of fussiness in babies include chocolate, spices, citrus fruits, and gas-causing vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli. However, not all babies will have a reaction to particular foods.

Most experts recommend limiting consumption of caffeine while breastfeeding, since high levels of caffeine can make the baby fussy or disturb the baby's sleep patterns. Having more than one alcoholic beverage is also not recommended, since two or more alcoholic beverages at one time can increase blood alcohol levels to a point where the alcohol enters the breast milk. If a nursing mother consumes more than two drinks, she should wait at least two hours until nursing the baby to allow for elimination of alcohol from the body. If the breasts become engorged, it is fine to pump and discard breast milk while waiting. Studies have also shown that alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to "let down" (enable the free flow of breast milk) during breastfeeding.

Symptoms of allergy in a nursing baby may or may not be due to something eaten by the mother. If an allergic reaction to mother's food is present in the baby, it usually develops two to six hours after the mother consumed the offending food.

Because of concerns about mercury poisoning, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that nursing mothers limit their exposure to mercury in fish. The FDA and EPA advise eating no more than 6 oz. (about one serving) of canned albacore or "white" tuna a week and limiting intake of canned "light" tuna and other cooked fish to about 12 oz. (about two servings) per week. Nursing mothers should completely avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (also called golden or white snapper) because of potentially high levels of mercury.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016

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