Is it Safe for a Nursing Mom to Drink Unpasteurized Apple Cider?

When you're nursing your baby, everything you eat suddenly takes on new importance, because certain substances can pass through your breast milk to your baby.

No one should drink unpasteurized apple cider -- whether nursing or not -- because it can carry bacteria that causes intestinal illnesses.

If you do get sick with an intestinal disorder, dehydration can affect your milk supply, but the bacteria that made you sick won't affect your baby through your breast milk, as long as your milk supply is well-established. Never give your baby unpasteurized juice.

Bacterial Contamination of Cider

Pasteurization kills bacteria such as E. coli, cryptosporidium or salmonella.

Apples used in cider production could become contaminated with these bacteria if they come in contact with animal or human feces. Apples that fall to the ground have a higher risk of contamination with animal feces, but apples stored in containers near animals before can also pick up bacteria.

Poor hand-washing techniques can transmit bacteria from a person's hands to the fruit. Presses and other equipment used to make cider can also transmit bacteria.

Transmission Through Breast Milk

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While certain substances do pass through breast milk, bacteria that infect the intestinal tract generally don't. Even if you get sick, your baby won't catch the same illness through your breast milk, with one possible exception. The toxins that cause certain infections, such as E. coli, are too large to pass through the tissues into your milk, once your milk supply is well-established, according to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. However, if you acquire an E. coli infection in the first seven days after delivery, when you're still producing colostrum, larger particles are more likely to enter your breast milk. "Pump and dump" milk in the first seven days if you have a bacterial intestinal infection, Texas Tech University recommends. After this period, your baby is unlikely to acquire the infection through your breast milk.

Transmission Through Skin

You're much more likely to transmit the bacteria that cause intestinal illnesses to your baby through skin contact than through your breast milk. If you have bacteria on your hands, touching your nipples without washing your hands first could transmit the bacteria first to the nipple and then to your baby's mouth. Wash your breasts thoroughly with soap and water before breastfeeding. Wash your hands thoroughly every time before handling your baby; you could transmit bacteria through her skin, which she then could transmit to her mouth.

Benefits of Continued Nursing

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If you develop an intestinal infection, continuing to nurse your baby might provide some protection to her. Substances in human milk help prevent the bacteria from attaching to your baby's intestinal wall; antibodies in breast milk protect against serious complications of E. coli infection such as kidney failure, according to Texas Tech University. Drink extra fluids to prevent dehydration, which can decrease your milk supply, but continue nursing your baby, recommends International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Anne Smith of