If You’re Breastfeeding, You Need to Read This

Family Health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

There’s no doubt that breastfeeding is good for your baby.

“Among the known health benefits are nutritionally balanced meals, some protection against common childhood infections, and better survival during a baby's first year, including a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” reports the National Institutes of Health.

“Other studies suggest that breastfeeding may reduce the risk for certain allergic diseases, asthma, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It also may help improve an infant's cognitive development.”

And we are now getting to a point in our culture where women are taking a stand and breastfeeding in public, despite others who may deem this inappropriate. Public breastfeeding is even being celebrated.

For example, during a photo shoot, one model started breastfeeding her baby on set. The photographer continued to take photos of her and thought that these images where so stunning, he decided to use one of them for the cover of the magazine.

Although it may not be realistic for a woman to wear high fashion clothing while she breastfeeds, some of the feedback from this magazine cover was that it was about time we start seeing images like these.

Another model walked down the runway in a swimsuit while breastfeeding her baby.

If the baby’s hungry, the baby has to eat, right?!

But breastfeeding in some cases may be dangerous.

Recently, a mother was accused of killing her baby because of drugs in her breast milk. She said she had an addiction to painkillers and was prescribed methadone, which she used both during and after her pregnancy, to treat her addiction.

Reportedly, the baby suffered from cardiac arrest after being fed breast milk containing methadone, amphetamine and methamphetamine.

(Amphetamines and methamphetamines are stimulant drugs usually used to treat ADHD. If abused, these drugs can be highly addictive. Some reports say the effects are similar to cocaine).

Incidences like these should be a reminder that despite the effective role breastfeeding plays in the nutrition of our babies, we need to be aware of our own nutrition and health as well. If a woman who is breastfeeding takes drugs and alcohol and does not eat healthily, the baby receiving the milk is essentially taking drugs and alcohol and not eating healthily. The baby may have developmental issues, be malnourished or, as we have seen from this tragic story, even die.

So let’s talk more about breast milk content and quality.

Obviously, abusing drugs and alcohol is one of the worst things you can do to reduce the quality of your breast milk and put your baby in harm.

But how can you make sure you produce the best milk for your baby?

As you may have guessed, nutrition!

Breast milk is produced in the mammary glands of the breasts. These glands take in nutrients from the foods you eat and your body’s store of nutrients (vitamin D, for example, is stored in the body).

When your body is producing milk, these mammary glands will have the first go at your body’s nutrient resources in order to provide the best milk for your baby. And if you are not especially proactive about getting adequate nutrients while breastfeeding, you will likely be left feeling very tired and have severe nutritional deficiencies. So you want to make sure you eat healthily and consume a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, in order to ensure that both you and your baby are nourished and nutritionally balanced.

Other than nutrients, what else can be passed through breast milk?

There is a lot of information out there and varying opinions on what can be passed to your baby through breastfeeding. So let’s go through some main points of concern:

  • Environmental Toxins.

Whether we live in the city or the suburbs, we are exposed to toxins and chemicals in the environment.

“When we nurse our babies, we feed them not only the fats, sugars and proteins that fire their immune systems, metabolisms and cerebral synapses,” said a source in this report from Scientific American. “We also feed them, albeit in minuscule amounts, paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, cosmetic additives, gasoline byproducts, rocket fuel, termite poisons, fungicides and flame retardants.”

But again, it appears to be in very small amounts.

“Despite these concerns, some recent research has shown the toxic load in breast milk to be smaller than that in the air most city dwellers breathe inside their homes,” according to the report.

  • Prescription Drugs.

“Although many medications do pass into breast milk, most have little or no effect on milk supply or on infant well-being. Few medications are contraindicated while breastfeeding,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But keep in mind…

“The most common products of concern include pain medications, antidepressants, and drugs to treat substance/alcohol abuse or smoking cessation,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A great resource you can take advantage of is a web database called LactMed. You can search by drug and see the levels of such substances in breast milk.

In the event you are taking prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs while breastfeeding, it is best to consult a competent healthcare professional to determine what is appropriate for you. And of course, taking the proper dosage is always important and never take drugs that are not personally prescribed to you. You also need to inform your doctor if you are taking any herbal products.

Should you breastfeed when you are sick?

The common cold, flu or diarrhea cannot be passed through breastfeeding. Breast milk even contains antibodies that help babies fight off illness and infection. How cool is that?! But keep in mind, HIV and Hepatitis C can be passed through breast milk.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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