Is It Safe To Eat Spicy Food While Breastfeeding?

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Some women may think twice before having spicy food while breastfeeding because they fear it might affect their baby’s health.

Including a moderate amount of spice in your diet does not affect the baby’s health. The taste of the food that mothers eat influences their breastmilk (1). This is considered good because it enables babies to develop a taste for solid foods much before they start eating. Babies whose mothers eat a variety of food accept solid foods much more readily than others.

However, if your baby shows signs of discomfort and fussiness after feeding on breastmilk, it is better to consult a doctor.

Read the post to understand if spice affects your breastmilk and how to check if your baby is sensitive to it.

Is It Ok To Eat Spicy Food While Breastfeeding?

Yes, it is safe. Though a tiny fraction may pass into the breastmilk, it will not affect the baby in anyway. In many cultures, mothers are used to eating spicy food and don’t make a drastic change to their diet while breastfeeding. There is no evidence that their babies are gassy, fussy or irritable.

The best that you can do is to stick to a varied and healthy diet, avoiding foods that tend to make you feel uncomfortable (2).

According to psychologist Lucy Cooke who specializes in children’s nutrition, “Breastfed babies are generally easier to feed later because they’ve had this kind of variety experience of different flavors from their very first stages of life, whereas a formula-fed baby has a uniform experience.”

Does Spicy Food Affect Breast Milk?

Unlike formula milk, breast milk alters its taste based on the food you take. For instance, if you eat garlic-based foods, breast milk may have a similar taste and your little one would like it too. Your baby may have more feeding spells if the flavor of the milk changes.

Experts even consider it a wise way to introduce the tastes of solid foods to your baby (3). International Board Certified Lactation consultant Emma Pickett says, “You’re helping your baby to develop their sense of taste in preparation for the starting of solids. But basically, the sweetness of the natural sugars in the milk will dominate the flavor.”

A study conducted in the early 1990s by researchers Julie Mennella and Gary Beauchamp revealed that nursing babies of mothers who consumed garlic showed longer feeding spells, sucked harder, and drank more garlic-scented milk than babies of mothers who were not exposed to garlic (4).

Another study published in 2001 indicated that babies exposed to flavors when they are in the uterus or while breastfeeding may like the same flavors when they grow (5).

However, if you find your baby upset or irritable, or you feel a heartburn then try taking a milder diet for some time. Give the baby a little more time to accept it. To check if your little one loves spicy flavored milk, go by a trial-and-error method.

How To Identify If Your Baby Is Sensitive To Spicy Food?

You can figure out if your baby is sensitive to spicy food when breastfeeding by observing his/her reaction.

He/she may:

Other signs which indicate any reaction in your baby are:

However, these signs may not necessarily signal a response to spicy food, as they could be an indication of allergy to some other foods such as wheat, dairy, citrus or corn in your diet.

While breastfeeding, you should be extra careful about what you eat since it may pass on to your baby through breast milk. However, consuming spicy food while breastfeeding is not generally considered unsafe, so you may safely consume a moderate amount. In fact, consuming spicy food may help your baby get acquainted with the taste and help in their transition to solid food. However, look out for adverse reactions that indicate your baby is sensitive to spicy food and consult your child’s doctor if needed.

Infographic: Common Myths About Breastfeeding Food

Like spicy foods, lactating mothers can safely consume other commonly avoided foods when taken correctly. Here is an infographic about the myths surrounding consuming different foods while breastfeeding.

breastfeeding diet myths [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different... more

Jyoti Benjamin

(MS, RD, CSO, FAND, CD)
Jyoti Benjamin has 25 years of experience as a clinical dietitian and currently works in Seattle. She focuses on teaching people the value of good nutrition and helping them lead healthy lives by natural means. Benjamin has a masters in Foods and Nutrition, and has been a longtime member and Fellow of AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and the... more

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