Eating a wide variety of healthy foods during pregnancy and while breastfeeding isn't only beneficial for the woman's health. Research also suggests that children exposed to varying nutrients in the womb and during breastfeeding as less likely to become fussy eaters in the future.
However, just like us adults, babies are individuals and not all of them react in the same way to the foods you eat while you are breastfeeding. Theoretically, there aren’t any foods that should never be eaten while breastfeeding, but there are plenty that are more likely to cause either you or your baby difficulties.
Having said that, there is a range of foods that are more likely to cause problems either with your milk supply, the taste of your milk, your baby's digestion, or some other elements of your baby's health. Because of the need for healthy balanced nutrition for you both, you should not restrict any foods without good reason. If you are breastfeeding and suspect there has been a reaction of some kind caused by something you have eaten, make an appointment to discuss the issue with your healthcare provider. They will help you work out if it was the food that caused the problem or if it was a coincidence.
15 Minty Freshness
Both peppermint and spearmint have the capacity to adversely affect a mother's milk supply, but you will have to consume a relatively large amount to have this happen. The occasional cup of mint tea is highly unlikely to be a problem, so do not panic, you would have to drink several pints of mint tea a day for it to begin to have an impact. However, there are plenty of sources of peppermint and spearmint oils out there that are easy to consume without really noticing and these could lower your output.
Mint-flavored candies and items designed to aid digestion, such as Altoids, are made with mint oil which is far more concentrated.
While you should not be consuming large amounts of this item from a simple dietary health point of view, it is essential to consider whether or not they are also having an adverse effect on your milk supply.
Luckily the foods that may contain more significant quantities of mint oils are relatively easy to avoid, and it is unlikely you will find this flavor used as a hidden ingredient and items such toothpaste and mouthwash do not contain enough to cause you any problems so no need to sacrifice your oral hygiene.
14 Leave The Sage Out
Sage, along with the different kinds of mints, sage is scientifically categorized as an antigalactagogue. This means that in high doses, these foodstuffs have been known to cause breastfeeding mothers to experience a decrease in their breast milk production. “There’s truth to that, but you’d need to eat so much sage, you’d have to eat a sage sandwich,” Tamara Hawkins, FNP, RN, IBCLC, president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association says. So you can probably still happily still add sage to your cooking but are there other ways for sage o sneak into your lie and have an impact on you and your baby?
The website organicfacts.net says that sage is a favorite ingredient in many herbal remedies and a wide range of cosmetic preparations. The site says that “The health benefits of sage essential oil can be attributed to its properties as an antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antibacterial, cholagogic and choleretic, cicatrizant, depurative, digestive, disinfectant, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, laxative, and a stimulating substance.”
It is unlikely that you will be using any face creams or other cosmetics in quantities large enough to limit your milk supply but sage essential oils are far more concentrated and should be avoided, just as they should be avoided in pregnancy.
13 Skip The Tasty Red Berry
Strawberries are an excellent source of nutrition, packed full of many of the essential vitamins and minerals you will need when you are breastfeeding. Many “Do not eat these foods while you are breastfeeding” articles and lists include strawberries but there is very little evidence about why you should.
On the Madela blog that touches on the issue and frames it in this way:
“Experts no longer give out lists of foods to be avoided while breastfeeding, but it makes sense to avoid foods or medications known to cause problems in family members. If Daddy breaks out in hives when he eats strawberries, Mom should avoid strawberries in her diet when she is pregnant or nursing.”
MedlinePlus also says: “Highly allergenic foods can be passed through your breast milk. Strawberries are a highly allergenic food, which means that they can cause an allergic reaction if you eat them and then nurse your infant shortly afterward. If you have a family history of strawberry allergies, ask your baby's pediatrician if you should exclude them from your diet. Signs of an allergic reaction can include fussiness, congestion, diarrhea and skin rash. If your baby displays any of these symptoms after you eat strawberries, call his doctor right away.”
To sum up, if you have a family history, it might be wise to avoid strawberries while breastfeeding and if not eat away.
12 The Fun Stuff
It is one of life’s great paradoxes that just when you are under the unimaginable stresses of adjusting to life as a new family, you could probably use a drink to help you relax but if you are breastfeeding, you are discouraged from drinking alcohol.
The thing with alcohol and breastfeeding is that there are two issues involved. First of all, you have the level of intoxication of mom to consider. If you are going to be the lone or primary carer of a baby, of any age, then you should be lucid, clear-headed and able to react quickly should you need to. If you are going to have an alcoholic drink it is important not to drink so much you become in any way impaired.
The second issue is alcohol in breastmilk. Kirsten Goa, chair of La Leche League Canada says “In utero, you’re sharing your bloodstream with your baby; if you’re drunk, your baby is even more drunk because they’re so small and their liver is still developing. But your breast milk only contains the same amount of alcohol as your bloodstream. For your baby to get the equivalent of a non-alcoholic beer, you’d have to be ten times over the legal limit.”
So as with most things, a little won’t hurt but don’t drink too much.
11 Fish - But Only Some Of Them
First of all, don’t worry this is not a blanket cautionary note on all fish. The vast majority of the fish we eat every day is okay to continue eating while you are breastfeeding. There is no reason to stop eating cod or haddock unless you want to get into the politics of over-fishing, but that is not what we are talking about here.
The kinds of fish you should be avoiding are potentially dangerous not because of their flesh exactly but because they are swimming in increasingly polluted waters and have absorbed large amounts of toxic materials which you will, in turn, ingest when you eat them. As soon as you have chomped down on a sandwich made with albacore tuna, for example, you have taken a relatively large amount of mercury on-board.
Once or twice, or once in a blue moon this will not affect you or your baby so do not worry if you have already eaten some. You should exercise caution in the frequency and the amount you eat. The USDA and the FDA recommend you stick to low mercury fish such as light tuna, shrimp, catfish, and salmon and avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish which are the ones known to have high mercury levels.
10 Your Much Needed Mood Booster
This one should be a bit of a no-brainer for most of us. As life tends to be pretty cruel sometimes, when we most need coffee to stay awake we should be avoiding too much of it, so we don’t make tasty caffeinated breast milk. As a double whammy, babies under six months, you know, the ones that are keeping us up all night, so we need the coffee, are more likely to have an adverse reaction to caffeine than their older counterparts.
According to the book “Medications and Mother’s Milk”,
caffeine is in Lactation Risk Category L2 (safer). It says that the levels of caffeine in milk are quite low (0.06-1.5% of maternal dose) and usually peak 1-2 hours after ingestion. The American Academy of Pediatrics has classified caffeine as a “Maternal Medication Usually Compatible with Breastfeeding.”
In fact, caffeine is sometimes given to premature babies, in much higher doses than it is ever found in breast milk, as a treatment for some breathing problems.
In “Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple” it says “If a mother consumes daily 750 mg of caffeine or more – the amount of caffeine in five 5-oz cups of coffee – and her baby seems irritable, fussy, and doesn’t sleep long she can try substituting caffeine-free beverages for a week or two.”
9 Surprisingly, Even Grapes
First, let's look at how good for you grapes are. These little globes of goodness contain sugar, fiber, essential amino acids, ascorbic acid, vitamins A, B, E, R, K, folic acid, pectic substances, calcium, zinc, magnesium, selenium, potassium, and enzymes. They are perfectly packaged for you to eat one or two or a plentiful handful and are readily available for most people.
There is absolutely no reason why every breastfeeding mother should avoid grapes. So, you may be asking “What are grapes doing on this list?”
Well, if you remember, back in the intro we discussed the fact that some foods have an adverse effect on some people and grapes fall heavily into this category. If you browse the web, you will find heated discussions on breastfeeding forums all about whether or not you should eat grapes while feeding your baby.
The definitive answer is this. There is nothing toxic in grapes that will adversely affect your baby. However, some babies do seem to have an increased digestive sensitivity when their moms eat this particular fruit. That’s the polite way of saying they poop, a lot.
So feel free to eat grapes and if your baby poops much more than usual a couple of hours after a feed but seems otherwise well try avoiding grapes for a couple of weeks then reintroduce them. If the same thing happens again, just lay off of the juicy globes until your little one is weaned or you are prepared to do an excessive number of diaper changes.
8 Best To Avoid Parsley Too
For some people, parsley is just the pretty green bit that is plonked on top of some meals in a restaurant for you to pick up and leave on the side of your plate. For other people, this common herb is a regular visitor to the kitchen or a permanent resident of the herb garden and finds its way into many of their dishes. Parsley is also popular with some people for chewing after a meal as a way of cleansing the palate and freshening the breath.
None of these uses are likely to cause you any problems at all. You will be ingesting such a tiny amount that it’s presence in your breastmilk would be negligible, although the presence in your breastmilk is not the issue as parsley will have no known impact on your baby at all.
Parsley is, however, another one of those foodstuffs that can have a negative impact on the levels of breastmilk you can produce. So it is best to avoid dishes made predominantly from parsley such as tabouleh, too much of anything with a parsley sauce or anything with a parsley essential oil.
Remember though; it might reduce your milk production in large amounts, but it will not affect your baby.
7 Vitamin Enhanced Items & Supplements
This one might seem to be counter-intuitive, after all, when you are breastfeeding you want to maximize the number of vitamins and minerals you consume, don’t you? Strangely the answer to this question is no and is one of those times where the phrase “too much of a good thing” is appropriate.
Our bodies cannot make vitamin C, so we have to take it in the form of food through eating foods like kiwi, citrus fruits, berries, peppers, leafy vegetables, and tomatoes to name but a few sources. It is thought that the body can regulate the amount of vitamin C in the breast milk so that even mothers who were given massive supplements did not produce milk with excessive vitamin C levels.
However, in mom, it does have the effect of reducing milk supply, so large amounts are not recommended.
Likewise, our bodies cannot produce or store the B vitamins, so it is essential for us to maintain a healthy level in the diet, and that is especially true for breastfeeding mothers. The jury is out on whether high vitamin B levels can cause a reduction in breast milk volume but excessive levels can lead to nervous system problems, so it is best to keep within the recommended daily dose range unless you are advised otherwise by your doctor.
6 Cabbage, Except For The Girls
In some ways, cabbage can be a breastfeeding moms best friend. In the first week when your milk comes in some moms experience painful breast engorgement as their body takes a few days to find its milk production balance as you and your baby get into your stride with feeding. A popular home remedy for this situation, and any other time you might experience breast engorgement while breastfeeding is to use cabbage leaves.
You use the inner leaves of a green cabbage and crush them a little before stuffing them in your bra against your sore boobs for around 20 minutes. It might feel a bit silly, and you might feel a little ridiculous, but this really does work.The thing with this treatment is that it is also used to decrease supply for moms who are producing too much milk or are trying to decrease milk production during weaning.
For this reason, it is not a good idea to eat large amounts of cabbage either while breastfeeding. The evidence is patchy, but it could reduce your milk levels, as well as making you unpleasantly gassy of course! So why not give the cabbage rolls a miss while you are breastfeeding, although, if you can’t resist you won’t be hurting your baby.
5 Steer Clear Of The Spice
Spicy is one of those words that has different meanings for different people and conjures up a range of images, depending on your background and the cuisine with which you grew up. If spicy food, in general, were a problem for breastfed babies there would be vast segments of the world's population having a terrible time either having to give up almost all local food while they were breastfeeding or having to put up with irritable and gassy babies for months on end.
There is no evidence to suggest that spicy food, in general, will have badly affected a baby.
There will be traces of breastmilk, but if you have been eating similar foods during your pregnancy, then your baby will have already experienced this tastes when drinking amniotic fluid.
It is highly unlikely that your baby will react to spices in your food but if your child experiences unusual wakefulness, urns fussy after feeding, sleeps less, appears to be uncomfortable, wakes abruptly of cries a little more than usual after mom had been going heavy on the spice then ease up a little and see if your little one seems happier again.
Of course, if your baby appears to be in severe distress at any time do not wait and see, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
4 Tone Down On The Garlic
Historians can trace the use of garlic back at least 5000 years. It was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun in Egypt, and its use was recorded in ancient Rome, China, and Greece.
Not just a tasty flavoring garlic contains plenty of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids as well as the sulfur compounds that give it plenty of health benefits and it’s distinctive odor. It has been used to treat swelling, digestive issues, and infections and is still used widely today.
In fact, garlic is often recommended for breastfeeding moms to promote the production of breastmilk and in the early '90s, researchers Julie Mennella and Gary Beauchamp carried out a study in which mothers who were breastfeeding their babies were given a garlic pill while others were given a placebo. The babies nursed longer, sucked harder, and drank more garlic-scented milk than those who had no garlic exposure.
The reason it made the caution list is that it is often claimed by breastfeeding moms to cause digestive issues in their child but Paula Meier, Ph.D., director for clinical research and lactation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says "To truly say that a baby had something that was milk-related, I would want to see issues with the stools not being normal. It's very, very rare that a baby would have something that would truly be a contraindication to the mother's breastfeeding."
3 Wheat, But It's Everywhere
The Mayo Clinic says that “Celiac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy), sometimes called sprue or coeliac, is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
If you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine. Over time, this reaction damages your small intestine lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients (malabsorption).
The intestinal damage often causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia, and can lead to serious complications.
In children, malabsorption can affect growth and development, in addition to the symptoms seen in adults. There's no cure for celiac disease — but for most people, following a strict gluten-free diet can help manage symptoms and promote intestinal healing.”
Children whose parents have celiac disease are more likely to suffer from it themselves. It is not understood if or how the introduction of wheat glutens into a child's diet can trigger Celiac disease, but wheat gluten is found in high concentrations of breastmilk when they have been consumed by the mother.
If your family has a strong history of celiac disease, you should speak to your doctor about when it is best to have your child exposed to gluten.= either directly of through breastmilk.
2 Watch Out For Cucumbers
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that nursing mothers build complex carbohydrates -- some of the best foods to eat while breastfeeding -- into their daily intake. These include:
• Veggies like broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, squash and even bell peppers or beans.
• Fruits like oranges, melons, apples, berries, peaches, and plums.
• Whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat or rye bread.
Many moms are surprised to read this because the internet is rife with pages that tell you not to eat the traditionally “gassy” vegetables. This list includes cucumber, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, and peppers.
As a breastfeeding mom who read I should not eat these veggies, I was suddenly thrown into a panic. I would prep little bags of raw broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower or peppers as one of the snacks I would graze on while feeding one of my little ones. Had I been doing untold damage to my baby? Was he destined to grow up with some mysterious condition caused directly by my love of raw green vegetables?
Again, this is one of those anecdotal issues. Some people swear this veg gives them and their child gas, but there is no research-based evidence to prove it.
1 Too Much Of The Good Stuff
If you thought that breastfeeding was a good excuse to avoid specific healthy food because they might cause you problems and instead indulge your love of chocolate, think again.
The La Leche League says of chocolate: “The potential area of concern is a substance called theobromine, [which] is a stimulant which affects the body similar to caffeine. Chocolate does not naturally contain caffeine although most discussions on the internet regarding the stimulating effects of chocolate use caffeine interchangeably with theobromine. There are some chocolate products which contain added caffeine. Theobromine is generally not an issue for breastfed babies unless mum is eating chocolate in very large amounts. Theobromine is found in the cocoa solids. Dark chocolate is dark in color because it contains a higher percentage of cocoa solids and therefore it will contain higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate. White chocolate has no cocoa solids and consequently no theobromine.”
For this reason, as always, chocolate in moderation is not a problem, but excessive chocolate consumption (is there really such a thing as too much chocolate? Apparently yes).
It may result in your baby displaying the symptoms seen in babies exposed to excessive caffeine. Also, too much chocolate will mess with your blood sugar and fill you full of empty calories, neither of which you want to do while breastfeeding.
References: Milkmakers.com, WebMD.com, lebonheur.org, organicfacts.net, drugs.com, lllc.ca, medelabreastfeedingus.com, kellymom.com, canadianbreastfeedingfoundation.org,