When a woman is expecting, her baby shares blood, oxygen, and nutrients with her. Once the little one is out in the world, the woman still shares nutrients if she has chosen to breastfeed. If a mom notices that her baby is more irritable or gassy after certain feedings, it’s possible that some of the components of her diet could be irritating the baby’s stomach.
While occasional sensitivity to a particular food isn’t cause for concern, sometimes gas or other irritations could be a sign the baby has a food sensitivity or even a food allergy. This may be true if your baby starts refusing the breast, vomits after eating, diarrhea, eczema, wheezing, constipation, hives, or even a stuffy nose without having a cold.
Moms shouldn’t completely eliminate all foods from their diets because too-restrictive diets mean both mom and baby aren’t getting enough nutrients. Eliminating a certain food group or specific food for a few days and seeing how baby responds can be one way to determine if diet is to blame for baby stomach upset.
After a while, you can re-introduce the food to see if the food truly was the cause of the symptoms. The following are some of the most common foods that could irritate baby’s stomach that may be worth avoiding while breastfeeding.
15 Dairy Products
Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream have proteins that can be passed along via a mother’s milk to her baby and potentially cause sensitivity. Gauging a baby’s sensitivity can be difficult. Sometimes a mother simply eats too many dairy proteins, which causes a reaction.
Reducing the total amount of butter, sour cream, cheese, and milk can help a mom enjoy these common foods and get some dietary calcium without totally eliminating dairy from her diet.
Even if a baby is sensitive to dairy products, this doesn’t mean they will be lactose-intolerant later in life. A sensitivity to the protein in cow’s milk isn’t the same as lactose intolerance. Although, it’s possible that both reactions can occur at the same time. The good news is that most babies outgrow their dairy sensitivity between ages 6 and 18 months.
Some may take as long as age 3 to reduce their allergic sensitivity.
14 Wheat And Bread Products
If new moms have celiac disease or other forms of gluten intolerance, their babies are at higher risk for the condition as well. Also, if a sibling has a gluten intolerance, a baby is at greater risk for experiencing the condition as well. Celiac disease is when the body cannot process the protein gluten that is in many carbohydrate-containing foods like breads, cereals, and pastas.
Gluten is also added to some products as a thickening agent, such as salad dressing. The body’s immune system mounts an inflammatory response to the foods that contain gluten.
Some signs a baby may be gluten-sensitive include rashes (including diaper rash), asthma, colic, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, or frequent episodes of spitting up. A few babies may also have difficulty gaining weight is they cannot tolerate wheat and other gluten-containing products.
Some foods that breastfeeding moms avoiding wheat can eat include potatoes, nuts, beans, fruit, salads, and vegetables.
If a mother has a history of corn allergies in her family or is personally allergic to corn, she is at an increased risk for her baby to experience a corn allergy. Unfortunately, corn products are widely used in cooking and food manufacturing – even when the food doesn’t appear as if it would have corn-containing products in it.
Examples of foods that may contain corn include vegetable oils, cornmeal, cornstarch, corn syrup, breadcrumbs, cereals, grits, and in foods that are “thickened,” such as frosting, icing, gravies, sauces, dressings, and marinades. If a mother supplements her feedings with infant formula, it’s important to note that corn sugar is also present in infant formulas as well.
Sometimes doctors also recommend giving a baby vitamin D supplements when they are breastfeeding because breast milk isn’t often high in vitamin D. However, some vitamin D supplements may contain corn oil or corn syrup. While this is a small amount, if a baby has shown a significant corn allergy, this should be avoided.
12 High-Mercury Fish
The nutrients found in fish can be important for a baby’s growth and development. For example, omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help with brain development. However, fish can unfortunately also contain mercury or other contaminants that are potentially harmful for both mother and baby.
Mercury can have especially damaging effects to a baby’s nervous system. For this reason, it’s important moms avoid certain types of fish known to contain a significant amount of mercury. Examples of these foods include swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
Fish such as eel, salmon, crab, and clam are all low-mercury choices and therefore safer for a baby, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
If a mom eats fish caught locally, it’s important not to exceed more than 6 ounces a week because it can be harder to measure how much mercury is present in these fish. She also shouldn’t eat any other types of fish during the week to avoid excess mercury exposure.
Eggs can prove highly allergenic for adults as well as breastfed babies. Albumin, a protein in egg, can cause allergic reactions. In a study published in the journal Pediatrics from the American Academy of Family Physicians, an estimated 75 percent of women who ate a designated amount of eggs secreted the egg proteins (known as ovalbumin) in their breast milk.
However, most of them didn’t excrete the egg protein in their breast milk about six hours after eating the egg-containing food. Usually, allergic to egg whites is more common than egg yolks.
Because eggs are added to so many foods, it can be difficult to completely avoid eggs. Sometimes, people are less allergic to eggs that are well-cooked, such as those included in baked goods. Like allergies to dairy and many other childhood food allergies, many children do outgrow an egg allergy around about ages 2 to 3, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Peanuts are some of the most allergy-causing foods, and this is no exception for a breastfeeding mom and baby. Tree nuts may also cause stomach upset in a breastfeeding baby. Eating an excess of peanut products may be best avoided while a mom is breastfeeding.
The reason why peanuts can be so allergenic is that they contain proteins that most foods don’t have, according to Johns Hopkins University. The proteins found in peanuts have a unique structure, which make them more likely to cause allergic reactions. Interestingly enough, roasting peanuts can further alter the peanut proteins, making an allergic reaction more likely.
Boiling peanuts is less likely to damage proteins, which is why allergy rates to peanuts are lower in countries like China who typically boil their peanuts. According to “Popular Science” magazine, previous exposure to peanuts in the womb and/or through breast milk can cause an allergic reaction in “allergic” kids (children who are allergic to several foods).
Caffeine is a stimulant that can make you feel more alert and energetic. It can also speed up your heart rate. The stimulant from drinking coffee, tea, sodas, or energy drinks can be passed along to a baby. However, most moms don’t have to completely eliminate caffeine from a diet unless her baby seems especially sensitive to its effects.
Signs that a baby may be especially bothered by caffeine in a mom’s diet include agitation or difficulty sleeping.
The Mayo Clinic recommends consuming no more than 2 to 3 cups per day of caffeinated beverages. This is the equivalent of 16 to 24 ounces. One way to cut back without having to completely reduce the effects of caffeine can be to mix a half-cup of decaf with a cup of regular coffee. The same can be done with carbonated drinks.
Just like with many foods on the list, moderation is the best approach for foods and drinks with caffeine.
Alcohol is a controversial substance for consumption when pregnant and even when breastfeeding. According to the La Leche League, if a woman does choose to drink alcohol while breastfeeding, it’s important she do so in moderation. Moderation is about one drink per day.
Because alcohol peaks in a mother’s milk about 30 to 60 minutes after drinking it and about two to three hours to fully eliminate it from her body, feeding the baby and then having a drink may be the best strategy for timing to reduce the effects of alcohol in breast milk.
Signs a baby may have been exposed to excess alcohol in breast milk include drowsiness, a deep sleep, abnormal weight gain, or unexplained muscle weakness. According to Dr. Jack Newman with the La Leche League “Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all…Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.”
Some babies who are allergic to the proteins in cow’s milk will also experience a cross-sensitivity to soy products. Examples of these could include soy milk and soybeans. Common ingredients that may contain soy and sneak their way into the foods that you eat include soy lecithin and soybean oil.
To ensure that soy-containing foods are truly the cause of a person’ s soybean reaction, most doctors recommend doing an elimination diet. This involves cutting out a certain type of food for two to three weeks at a time and seeing how the baby responds. Eliminating foods more frequently may make it more difficult to identify what potential allergy-causing substance is truly to blame.
If a mom is cutting out soy in her diet, she should ask restaurants if they cook with soybean oil when dining out. Unfortunately for those wishing to cut out soy, this can be a challenge.
6 Beef Products
Sometimes beef manufacturers will add additional preservatives, flavorings, and colorings to their foods, which can lead to allergic reactions in mom, baby, or both. According to a study published in “Canadian Family Physician,” an estimated 13 to 20 percent of infants that are allergic to milk proteins are also allergic to beef.
Other possible sensitivities include ewe, goat, and buffalo. However, it’s important for a mother to find good sources of protein. If beef seems to irritate baby more when breastfeeding, she may wish to switch to chicken or turkey options.
Many moms are surprised to learn that foods commonly associated with gas in an adult don’t always cause problems for baby. Examples include foods like broccoli, cabbage, garlic, and potato chips.
This is because these foods cause a reaction in the gastrointestinal tract that increases bloating – since a baby gets the digested material, they’re less likely to experience irritation from the food.
5 Spicy Foods
Eating spicy foods and breastfeeding does not necessarily cause an allergic reaction when breastfeeding, but it may irritate a baby’s stomach. Spicy foods can cause breast milk to have a distinct taste.
While there are many cultures where strong and flavorful spices are incorporated into a baby’s diet without adverse effects, it’s not uncommon for a breastfeeding mom to notice that a baby may be especially irritated, fussy, or gassy after eating foods that have a strong flavor.
One of the best ways to track these potentially trouble-causing foods is to keep a food diary of what a mother eats and drinks on a regular basis. After each meal or snack, the mom should write any comments about how her baby acted after eating.
One to two weeks of tracking these foods should be enough for a mom to evaluate how what she’s eating could be potentially affecting her baby. If spicy foods are a common problem, she may need to eliminate them.
4 High-Garlic Foods
Much like spicy foods, foods that are heavily seasoned with garlic can be secreted in breast milk to create a different flavor that baby may seem to reject. Garlic is a common herb added to salads, pizzas, and pastas. Signs that a baby may not respond as well to garlic include increased fussiness and irritation after a feeding.
However, garlic may not be all bad for babies. Some mothers actually take or eat garlic as it is believed to be a galactagogue, which stimulates breast milk production and increases a woman’s breast milk supply.
In fact, some studies suggest that babies actually like the taste of garlic in the breast milk and may improve their latch and overall feeding when they eat breastmilk that has some aspect of garlic in it. Since garlic can be controversial as a breastfeeding food, the best step is to watch the baby’s reaction to breast milk that may have some garlic flavor present and see how the baby responds.
If a baby seems especially gassy after a feeding, it’s possible that foods known to cause gas in adults could be affecting the baby as well. This is especially true for broccoli, a commonly gas-causing food. Broccoli is especially gas-inducing in babies when it’s eaten in raw form.
So if a breastfeeding mom is trying to incorporate more green vegetables in her diet, cooking the broccoli may reduce the effects of gassy. Sometimes, the extra gas is due to a sensitivity to broccoli or maybe that a baby doesn’t yet have the digestive enzymes to break down the components of broccoli.
According to Dr. Sears, another number of potentially gas-inducing foods for baby include onions, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and green peppers. According to Dr. Sears, “Personal breastfeeding experience validates what veteran breastfeeding mothers have known for a long time – gassy foods make for gassy babies.”
While these green herbs may add flavorings to a variety of dishes or steeped in a tea, respectively, it’s possible that these herbs may come with an increased risk of reducing a mother’s breast milk supply.
Although eating a small amount here and there shouldn’t reduce a mother’s breast milk supply significantly, a mother may wish to avoid these when she knows her baby may be going through a growth spurt and therefore drink more milk.
Just as there are foods that are rumored to reduce breast milk supply, there are some that are rumored to increase it. Instead of eating parsley- or peppermint-containing foods, try eating more oatmeal, which is said to increase milk supply.
Incorporating the Indian herb fenugreek may also increase a mother’s milk supply. Fenugreek is sold as a tea or also packaged in supplement form that a mother can take to boost her supply.
1 Citrus Fruits
Unfortunately, tasty citrus fruits like oranges and lemons can be irritating to baby when breastfeeding. Limes and grapefruits also make this list as well. Some symptoms this may be the case include spitting up, being especially fussy, or having an increased incidence of diaper rash due to stomach irritation.
While citrus fruits may prove irritating to some babies, a mom shouldn’t avoid vitamin C-containing foods altogether. Instead, try incorporating foods that have vitamin C, such as pineapples or mangoes, instead. Surprisingly, moms may find strawberries have a similar effect as citrus fruits on babies.
Just like all the foods on this list, citrus fruits have potentially been known to irritate a breastfeeding baby. Moms should always talk to their doctor and/or lactation consultant to gain more specific information on potential allergy or irritation causes in a breastfeeding baby. With the right diet, mom and baby can have a happy and healthy breastfeeding relationship.