14 Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding

Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding

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Indulgence during pregnancy is followed by self-deprivation when breastfeeding.

We are referring to your eating pattern. Pregnancy is a time when you may eat various foods to satiate your cravings. But once the baby is born, you do not have the liberty to listen to your taste buds. Before you eat anything, you would ask these questions: “Can I eat it?” “Will they have an effect on my baby?”

To save you from this anxiety, MomJunction has come up with a list of foods to avoid when breastfeeding.

But before going into the details, let us tell two things:

  1. You need to have regular meals when lactating, to meet the daily dose of nutrients.
  1. There is no such food, which needs to be universally avoided by all the mothers. Each baby reacts differently to a food. So, what works for your neighbor’s child might not work for your angel.

Now, let’s move on to the foods that you may have to avoid while breastfeeding. And by ‘avoid’, we do not mean you have to ban them from your menu, but limit them to small amounts.

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14 Foods To Avoid During Breastfeeding

1. Coffee

Why is coffee topping the list? It is because of the caffeine content in it. Some amount of caffeine in the coffee (or tea, soda, energy drinks and over-the-counter medicines) ends up in your breast milk.

So what? Unlike adults, babies cannot excrete caffeine efficiently. So the accumulated caffeine in their bodies causes irritation, sleeplessness, and crankiness. High amounts of caffeine can lower iron levels in breast milk and decrease hemoglobin levels in the baby (1). Hence the best solution is to cut down on coffee.

“But, how do I begin my day, especially after a long sleepless night?” Are you asking this? Have coffee moderately (not more than 2 to 3 cups a day) because smaller amounts of caffeine are absolutely fine.

[ Read: Is Caffeine Safe While Breastfeeding ]

2. Chocolate

Previously, break time would have meant chocolate time. But not anymore. Chocolate is rich in the substance called theobromine, which has an effect similar to that of caffeine. If you feel that your little one’s crankiness is due to your chocolate consumption, then keep away from it.

The only way to know if you are taking too much of caffeine is to observe your baby’s behavior.If a mother consumes more than 750mg of caffeine or theobromine a day, the baby might exhibit erratic and fussy behavior, besides suffering from sleep issues.

3. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are a source of vitamin C, but their acidic components can irritate little tummies. Their immature gastrointestinal tract will not be able to deal with these components, thus resulting in diaper rash, fussiness, spitting up and more.

If you decide to cut on citrus fruits such as limes, grapefruits, lemons, and oranges, replace them with other vitamin C-rich foods like papaya, pineapple, strawberries or leafy greens and mango.

4. Broccoli

Had broccoli last night? Then do not be surprised if your baby has gassy problems today. Other gassy foods to avoid while breastfeeding are: onion, cauliflower, cabbage, and cucumber. However, there is no research-based evidence to prove it.

5. High-Mercury Fish

Mercury appears in your breast milk if you eat high-mercury fish and other foods that are high in that element. Higher levels of mercury in the breast milk can affect the baby’s neurological development.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “If a breastfeeding woman consumes a high amount of mercury-rich foods, it could harm the development of baby by transferring into the breast milk and then onto the baby (2).”

FDA recommends that “breastfeeding women should avoid eating swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico as they contain high amounts of mercury.” Eat fish (including canned tuna) in moderation not exceeding two servings a week.

6. Alcohol

Alcohol can pass from mom to baby through breast milk and affect his neurological development. But after nine full months without a drink, it is fine to have an occasional glass of wine or beer.

Studies have shown that a couple of units once or twice a week do not harm your baby. Levels higher than these may inhibit mother’s “let down” reflex (i.e. the release of milk to the nipple area) (3).

[ Read: Alcohol While Breastfeeding ]

Moderation is the key, says Dr. Jack Newman, a member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council. In his book ‘More Breastfeeding Myths’, Newman says, “Alcohol can be consumed in reasonable amounts. Only a fraction of the consumed alcohol remains in breast milk.

“A nursing mom can drink some alcohol and continue to nurse her baby. Quitting alcohol is like making life unessentially restrictive for breastfeeding moms”.

If you plan to have more than one drink at a time, then wait for two hours before you breastfeed your baby.

7. Peanuts

If your family has a history of peanut allergies, avoid peanuts until you wean your baby. The allergic proteins in peanuts could pass into your breast milk and then to the baby. She might suffer from rashes, wheezing or hives. Eating even a few peanuts can result in the allergens passing into mother’s milk between one and six hours.

Research suggests that there is an increased chance of developing a lifetime peanut allergy for children exposed to peanuts at an early age. However, there is no sufficient evidence to suggest that avoiding peanuts during breastfeeding prevents peanut allergies in babies (4).

8. Parsley and Peppermint

Parsley and peppermint are two herbs, if taken in huge amounts, can reduce your breast milk. Whenever you eat these herbs, monitor your milk supply, especially when your baby is in the growth spurt – the phase when he needs more milk than usual.

In fact, mothers often drink peppermint tea when they want to stop the milk production after weaning. Another herb, sage, too decreases milk supply.

9. Dairy

To have or not to have dairy has always been a dilemma for nursing mothers. Babies could be intolerant to cow’s milk. When the mother eats dairy products or drinks milk, the allergens might enter breast milk and irritate the baby. If you observe symptoms like vomiting and colic in your baby after you consume dairy products, it means that you need to stop eating them for some time. Other symptoms include eczema, skin issues, and sleep issues.

Children with dairy intolerances often show signs of a soy allergy too. Keep a check. Go for organic varieties of high-fat dairy, meat, and poultry, as no antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals, or pesticides are used in their production.

10. Garlic

Garlic’s smell can get into the milk too! Some babies like it. Some do not. If you find your baby at discomfort while nursing, check if garlic is the reason. Some babies may grimace or fuss at the breast if they encounter garlic’s strong aroma.

[ Read: Eating Garlic While Breastfeeding ]

11. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can irritate some babies, while others are perfectly fine with it. A dash of pepper is more than enough to hurt a few babies. They remain fussy for a long time. Lessen the spices in your food if your little one is not comfortable with it.

12. Wheat

Gluten intolerance is a common food problem as it results in bloody stools, sensitive tummy, and fussiness. Like any other food, the best way to diagnose the allergy is by eliminating it from the diet. Some moms choose to remove all common problem-causing foods and gradually re-introduce them one at a time.

13. Corn

Allergies to corn are common among babies and toddlers. They cause discomfort and rashes in babies. If you observe that your baby is allergic to corn, eliminate it from your diet.

14. Eggs or Shellfish

A family history of a particular food allergy poses a risk in infants and babies. If there is somebody allergic to shellfish or eggs in your immediate family, then avoid them while breastfeeding. Egg allergies, mostly in the form of sensitivity to egg whites, are pretty common.

After reading our exhaustive list of foods to avoid while nursing, you will surely have one question: “Is there anything left for me to eat without worrying about my baby?” Do not worry. It is not necessary that you have to stop eating all these foods. Your baby could be allergic to a few foods on the list, or he may not be allergic to any of them at all!

[ Read: Is It Safe Eat Fish While Breastfeeding ]

Tips For Avoiding Foods When Nursing

Consult your doctor before avoiding any foods while breastfeeding, so that it does not cause a nutritional imbalance in you.

Meanwhile, keep a close eye on your baby’s behavior and his reactions to specific foods.

  • If you find symptoms like diarrhea, rashes, congestion soon after nursing, seek medical advice before avoiding any food.
  • When you are sure that something in your diet is affecting your baby, avoid it for a week and see if there is any difference.
  • Avoid processed foods containing preservatives and additives that aren’t good for your baby. Avoid foods that are high in trans and saturated fats to avoid obesity.
  • Maintaining a food diary is a good idea. Keep a list of the foods you are eating and your baby’s behavior. This practice makes your job easy.

You do not need a special diet while breastfeeding. Focus on making right nutrition choices for the benefit of you and your baby.

If you suspect that some food is troubling your baby, eliminate it and seek medical advice. It can take up to 14 days from the day of elimination, for the food to stop influencing the breast milk. So give enough waiting time before reintroducing it!

Does your baby seem to behave differently after you eat certain foods? Does he suffer from any food-related allergies? Tell us about it here. Leave a comment below.

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  • Betty

    PS: I have donated my milk to a Milkbank through Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) that supplies milk to premature babies. They are very strict on who can be a donor and what you can eat/not eat while you donate milk. While alcohol cannot be in your system when you donate (it’s fine if you drink in moderation to nurse your own child,) they do not have restrictions based on many of the items you listed. ( I can eat as much dairy, citrus, lentils, beans, fish, spicy food, etc. that I want.)

    • Niharika

      Thanks Betty for sharing that useful info with us !! and some of the food restrictions are based and differ from person to person.

  • Niharika

    Happy to know that you found the article to be informative and useful !

  • Rachel Randall

    Which foods are likely to cause conjestion issues?

    • Kalpana

      Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter can cause congestion. If your baby is fussy, spits up, or has congestion, then he may be allergic to dairy products.

  • momjunction

    Hi,

    Consult your doctor before avoiding any foods while breastfeeding, so that it does not cause a nutritional imbalance in you.