What Foods Should I Avoid While Breastfeeding?


Ok, well, that may not be totally true.  Moms who are nursing should eat a healthy, well balanced diet, so pork rinds and cheetos are out.  But, the commonly held belief that breastfeeding moms can't have spicy foods, fatty foods, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, peanuts, cabbage, garlic, blah, blah, blah is not true. 

Let's just stop and think for a bit.  What do you suppose moms in Mexico, Greece, Italy, and India are eating while they are nursing? I would bet it's not boiled chicken and rice. 

In fact, what mom eats flavors the breastmilk, and when the baby starts solid food, the broad exposure to flavors that they have had through breastmilk help makes the transition to solids easier and the baby's palate a little more adventurous.

Alcohol.  Alcohol definitely gets into breastmilk, but it is metabolized in breastmilk as well.  The level of alcohol in breastmilk is exactly the same as the level in the bloodstream at any given time.  So, if you have a glass of beer and are feeling the effects of the alcohol, then don't feed the baby.  If you don't feel the effects, then it's OK to nurse.  There is no reason to pump and dump that milk.  Strategically, it's best to nurse, and then have the drink, so that by the time the baby wants to nurse again, the alcohol will have already been metabolized.  Alcohol can really inhibit the let-down reflex, so be aware of that as well.

Caffeine. Caffeine gets into milk as well, and because it sticks around in the body for awhile, a second cup or can can have additive effects.  What we are looking for is effects in the baby.  If you notice that your baby is cranky after you  have your triple mocha espresso, then caffeine may be a bad thing.  But, as I sit here with my second can of Diet Mountain Dew, caffeine is probably ok for most nursing moms and babies.

Gassy Babies. Most of the time, the diet concern is because the baby has gas.  That gas can probably be fixed with a change in feeding technique, and really has nothing to do with mom's diet.

Foods that may be associated with decreased milk supply: not a whole lot of science behind this, but may be worth mentioning.   Sage has been used to decrease milk supply in some cultures, and I have heard that sage dressings and such (like on turkey over the holidays) can cause a dip in supply.  In order for sage to cause a big drop in supply, lots has to be used, but it is a potential cause of low milk supply, so I mention it.  I have heard similar things about peppermint but I have no idea how it works.

Other reasons for cranky breastfed kids


updated April 3, 2007