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Heartburn and Breastfeeding

author image Jessica Lietz
Jessica Lietz has been writing about health-related topics since 2009. She has several years of experience in genetics research, survey design, analysis and epidemiology, working on both infectious and chronic diseases. Lietz holds a Master of Public Health in epidemiology from The Ohio State University.
Heartburn and Breastfeeding
Sitting up while you breastfeed can help prevent heartburn. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Heartburn causes discomfort and pain and interferes with your usual eating and sleeping routines. Certain nursing positions, baby-care activities and dietary habits all contribute to heartburn in breastfeeding mothers. Fortunately, most treatments for heartburn are safe for breastfeeding moms, and many cases of heartburn are preventable with changes in diet and nursing position.


Nursing in the side-lying position can cause stomach acid to leak through your esophageal sphincter, resulting in heartburn. Frequently bending down to change or pick up your baby can have the same effect. Stress and anxiety are risk factors for developing heartburn, so worries about milk supply or the baby's weight gain can contribute to stress in breastfeeding mothers. Certain foods, including acidic items such as vinegar, mustard, ketchup, tomatoes and orange juice; hot or spicy foods such as onion and pepper; fatty and fried foods; and carbonated and caffeinated drinks trigger heartburn in some mothers.


Before starting any medications, try lifestyle changes. Avoid foods and drinks that trigger or worsen your heartburn; engage in light to moderate exercise such as walking or biking; or use aromatherapy to help you relax and reduce your stress. If these efforts do not alleviate your symptoms, ask your doctor to recommend an over-the-counter medication for heartburn that is compatible with breastfeeding. If your heartburn does not respond to over-the-counter treatments, your doctor can prescribe a medication. Rarely, surgery is necessary to fully treat heartburn. Before taking any medications, make sure they are safe for breastfeeding mothers.


Follow the recommended dosage of over-the-counter heartburn treatments such as calcium carbonate, especially if you consume them with milk. Large amounts of calcium can cause you to develop kidney stones or even kidney failure, explains Dr. Jack Newman of the Breastfeeding website. Small amounts of medications used to treat heartburn, such as ranitidine, do pass into mothers' milk; however, this medication is frequently used to treat acid reflux in babies, and is generally considered safe, especially in the small amount your baby will consume through your milk.


Avoid using the side-lying position to nurse for 3 to 4 hours after you have eaten a meal. Decrease your portion size when eating, and eat slowly, giving yourself time to digest your food. Wear clothes that fit, advises the Cleveland Clinic website, even if it means you must buy a size or two larger than your pre-pregnancy clothes. Drink plenty of water to aid digestion and keep your milk supply up.

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