Q: Good evening Doc, please I want to know if it is healthy for a baby to be breastfed whenever the mother is on her monthly cycle?
A: Hi dear, thanks for writing in.
There are lots of myths about things that women can or cannot do when they are breastfeeding. The simple answer to this is that you can definitely still breastfeed your baby when your menstrual period returns after childbirth. Trust me, the blood does not mix with the breast milk.
Other breastfeeding myths include:
I cannot have sex during the period of breastfeeding. This is so not true! Remember that if you really do breastfeeding right, you should be at it until baby is 2 years old though other foods would have been introduced by 6 months.
I hear a breastfeeding mother cannot get pregnant. The answer is yes. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, feeding your baby on demand (every 4 hours), you’re within 6 months of your baby’s birth and your menstrual period has not returned after the birth of your baby, you stand a better chance of not getting pregnant during this period. However, this is not a reliable method.
Breastfeeding mothers should not take contraceptive pills. Birth control pills can help prevent pregnancy at this time. Pills that contain estrogen can lead to reduction in breast milk supply (and yes, combination pills contain estrogen). So, it’s a good idea to avoid such pills at this time. Pills that contain only progestin (like the minipill) is a better idea as it does not affect breast milk supply. It’s usually taken at the same time daily. It’s best to start this discussion before you have your baby or immediately after so that your doctor can advise as to when you should start taking the pills.
Barrier contraceptives like condoms, diaphragms etc can also serve the purpose of preventing pregnancy at this time.
There are, of course, other methods of birth control available eg Intra Uterine Device (IUD), implants, patches etc also exist and you may want to discuss these other options with your doctor as you conclude breastfeeding.
Other tips concerning breastfeeding and diet:
Caffeine in coffee (try decaffeinated and stick with 2 small tea cups), energy drinks, some soft drinks etc. This makes the baby irritable and by extension, makes sleep difficult for the baby. Now, you don’t want that, do you?
Alcohol: This should be avoided at all costs as it does not mix quite well with breastfeeding. The alcohol consumed makes its way into the breast milk in about the same concentration as it does in blood. Though baby is exposed to just a fraction of it, the fact that baby’s liver is unable to excrete this alcohol as well as an adult makes even this small amount a potential problem. This alcohol has been found to affect baby’s sleep and feeding pattern (babies appear to drink less milk after alcohol intake by mother) and also baby’s motor development. Motor development refers to development of baby’s ability to move around and manipulate his/her environment.
Old wives’ tales have it that drinking alcohol increases milk production but there is no scientific evidence. If anything, alcohol causes dehydration and by extension reduces breast milk production.
The length of time the alcohol stays in your breast milk depends on how much you drink and can also vary from person to person. If you take a drink, it could be about 2 to 3 hours before it clears from breast milk.
Cigarette (yeah, yeah, I know it’s not food) should also be avoided as it reduces the production of breast milk.
If baby reacts to what the mother ate, efforts should be made to pinpoint what the mother ate before the incident started and then eliminating that from the diet to see if the diarrhea or allergy stops.
Make sure that you eat well: lots of fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates. Cut out the junk which will not help you achieve your weight loss goals and in addition have empty calories. And drink sufficient fluids daily.
Be careful before taking any drug as most find their way into your baby.
I hope this helps.
Enjoy the rest of your day 😀