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Food You Should Avoid When Breastfeeding

When a new mom is breastfeeding, what she eats is passed on to her baby through her breast milk. There really isn’t any food that’s “off-limits” or foods to avoid when breastfeeding. It just depends on what your baby can tolerate, and what he or she can’t.

For example, although you might love eating your grandmother’s recipe for homemade spaghetti, all those tomatoes and garlic might not agree with your nursing child’s tummy. Your baby can get gassy and cranky, and it might be due to what you had for dinner.

Another baby might be fine if you get tomatoes, garlic, and cheese.

If you’re a first-time breastfeeding mother, you’re going to need to find foods that trigger gassiness and discomfort in your baby.

Breastfeeding Foods to Avoid

Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding – the Common Culprits

Every baby is different, but the common food culprits that cause gas, crankiness, and fussiness in babies include:

  • Caffeine – A caffeinated soda, or a cup of coffee in the morning might give you a much-needed lift in the morning, but it might not sit well with your baby. An infant’s body cannot process caffeine as quickly as you do, so when you drink a caffeinated drink, that caffeine gets secreted in your breast milk and it may cause your breastfed baby to feel irritable and cranky. Your child may not be able to sleep well either.
  • Garlic – That piece of honey garlic chicken you had for lunch might not sit well with your baby. When you eat garlicky foods, it can cause your breast milk to secret a garlic odor that your new baby might not like. Garlic’s aroma may taste delicious to some babies, but others may grimace and fuss. Your baby’s taste buds will clue you in on his or her preference.
  • Tomatoes – Sometimes acidic foods, like tomatoes, can upset your baby’s stomach. Every baby reacts different, but if you’ve eating tomato-rich foods and your breastfed baby seems to cranky, has an upset stomach, you’ll want to stay away from tomatoes for awhile. 
  • Shellfish – If there is a shellfish allergy in your baby’s family (whether on your side, or the father’s side), you should try to stay away from shrimp, lobster, and other shellfish while you are breastfeeding. Researchers have noticed that when there is a strong family history of a shellfish allergy, breastfed babies are more likely to show symptoms sooner.
  • Dairy – Many babies cannot tolerate the protein in cow’s milk. For this reason, breastfed mothers who eat dairy foods (like milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt) can have fussy, irritable babies. If you’ve been eating dairy products, pay attention to the signs of a dairy allergy or dairy sensitivity in your baby. He or she may have colic (crying bouts for no reason), sleeplessness, infant eczema, and just general fussiness.
  • Soy – If you switched from dairy products to soy products, but your baby is still fussy, it’s possible that soy is causing problems for your baby’s tummy. Many babies who are dairy intolerant also have soy allergies.
  • Eggs – Some babies are sensitive to egg whites. Egg allergies are pretty common in young children. If you love eggs, but you’ve noticed that your breastfed baby tends to be more irritable or cranky on days that you’re eating eggs (or egg products), you may want to avoid this food.
  • Hot Peppers and Spicy Foods – Hot peppers and spicy foods may be harsh to your baby’s digestive system. Your baby can end up with an upset tummy, or he or she may have diarrhea. Even just adding a dash of hot pepper in your food can irritate your infant’s tummy. If your baby is fussy and irritated by spicy foods, you may want to spice up your food with ginger instead. Ginger helped you with morning sickness, and it may actually help soothe your baby’s stomach.
  • Peanuts – If there are any members of your family with known peanut allergies, you may want to stay away from peanuts when you are breastfeeding. Peanut allergies are becoming more common in American households. If you eat peanuts (or a peanut product, like peanut butter), and your baby is sensitive or allergic to this nut, you may notice that he or she breaks out in a rash, gets hives, develops infant eczema, or starts wheezing.
  • Chocolate – Another food you may want to avoid during breastfeeding is chocolate. Chocolate does have bits of caffeine, and it can make your baby irritable and uncomfortable.
  • Wheat Breads – Some babies do not tolerate wheat well. So if you’ve been eating a whole-wheat sandwich, and your breastfeeding session ends in inconsolable crying or bloody stools, you may want to avoid wheat products in your breastfeeding diet.

The above foods are known to upset a baby’s tummy through mother’s milk. They are foods you should avoid during breastfeeding (Or foods that you consider eliminating from your diet, if you find that your baby is fussy, irritable, or has stomach aches).

Food Allergens and Sensitivity in Babies

Some babies are intolerant of certain foods and they have allergic reactions to them. Their little tummies haven’t developed the flora that older infants have, so they may have some food sensitivities.

The most common symptoms of allergic reactions include:

  • Eczema
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Runny noses

Keep in mind that all babies are different and react differently to foods. Trial and elimination is the best way to determine what makes your child uncomfortable.

While breastfeeding moms should avoid foods that she is allergic to herself, she should also consider foods her husband is allergic to. The food intolerance could also be passed genetically from father to child.

Food that All Breastfeeding Moms Should Avoid

Breast milk is generally safe, but there are some foods nursing moms should avoid altogether. Those include foods that have high methyl mercury levels – especially tuna, mackerel, shark, and swordfish.

While it’s more important to avoid these high-mercy fish during pregnancy, the US Food and Drug Administration also suggests avoiding these fish while nursing. Mercury can cause developmental problems in your baby, and even lead to neurological disorders.

Nursing moms should avoid fatty meats in their diets. The fatty tissues in meat may contain toxins, so the leaner the meat, the better. While breast milk contains the antioxidants necessary to fight toxins, it’s a good idea to lessen the amount of toxins nursing moms digest through food or through the air. They should also avoid using strong chemicals like glue or nail polish.

Moms should eat more vegetables than meat, and wash those vegetables well before consuming. It’s also a good idea to avoid vegetable oil when cooking. They should drink more water than they usually drink as it’s a great detoxifier.

Avoid alcohol for the first few months of breastfeeding and never over-consume it. A glass of wine with dinner or a beer on a hot day is fine, but avoid breastfeeding for at least three hours after consumption. It’s better to prepare in advance by pumping and saving milk prior to drinking alcoholic beverages.

Breastfeeding Vitamins and Nutrients

While breastfeeding, moms need to have extra nutrients and vitamins, like calcium, zinc and folic acid.

  • Calcium – Cheese, milk, yogurt, and kale are among the best sources of calcium. If the baby can’t tolerate milk, there are calcium supplements available that don’t have milk proteins.
  • Folic Acid – Moms can get folic acid from several sources including oranges, spinach, and corn.
  • Zinc – Breastfeeding mothers can get zinc from meat, eggs, peanuts and oatmeal.
  • Iron – Nursing moms also need an iron supplement, especially if they don’t eat red meat, which is the best source of iron.

Most nursing moms don’t need to make too many changes to their diets, but it is important to add more calories and eat well-balanced meals. A basic healthy diet for moms will ensure their babies get all the nutrients they need through breast milk.

Special Thanks to My Guest Writer:
Ayla Hawkins is a writer for Everyday Maternity

About the author: This blog post was written by a guest contributor. If you’d like to guest post for Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies, please read my Guest Writing Policy for a guideline of what I am looking for. All guest posts need to be at least 500 words and be original to this site only.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Jenn Wheelis September 1, 2017, 12:18 pm

    What are the effects of giving a five month old infant peanut butter red meats and pasta with his stomach just starting him in solid foods

  • Deb October 11, 2016, 10:31 am

    What people need to realize is that in MOST cases, gas, colic, spit up, and even vomiting are normal for a lot of babies. These issues USUALLY resolve with time. If you cut something out of your diet and notice improvement the next day, it’s likely a coincidence. If you notice improvement in a few weeks, it could be that baby’s digestive system is improving. Food sensitivities are nowhere near as common as people on the Internet think they are, so many people are limiting their diets for no reason. If your pediatrician says to do it or if it makes you feel better, great, but “advice” like this isn’t really helpful. Obviously there are babies who actually do have serious issues, so my comment doesn’t apply to them, but babies spit up. Babies cry inconsolably sometimes. It’s stressful and hard but it’s normal. If they are gaining weight well and generally happy and comfy most of the day, then cutting out soy and dairy is just going to create unnecessary stress.

  • Kellanandlilysmom September 3, 2016, 1:31 am

    This article isn’t for you guys who only have perfect little babies. My first had zero problems and she nursed so well! My son on the other hand, cried relentlessly! At 4weeks we were told he was sensitive to lactose to eliminate it from my diet. At 5 weeks we were meeting with pediatric surgeon at children’s hospital bc they thought (because his allergies worsened so quickly) that he had pyloris. He did not. We were referred to the gi specialist bc his rxns were so severe. We are at 7weeks now and so far we are allergic (which are at this point classified as sensitivities instead of actual intolerance or allergy) to lactose, artificial colors, artificial dyes, preservatives, gluten, and most serverely, eggs! Not sure about nuts or fish at this point but we have the least rxn to soy. I have to now supplement with soy bc my son dropped from 20th percentile to 2nd (02) percentile–> scary!!! My child wheezes,rash on face and tummy, vomitting, diarrhea, gassy(colic symptoms) . I love to breastfeed and that is why I am working very hard to figure out this elimination diet (strict paleo). But as my Dr. Said….. Sometimes we have no other choice but to help our children even when the decision is hard for us to make. I am awake right bow bc instead of being able to roll over and pop a boob in, I had to make a bottle and pump and dump-ugggggh! Sometimes we have no other choice. I am so tired of hearing women bash other women for having to use formulas. No, it’s not best….usually. But when your milk is essentially poisoning your child and you watch them in so much pain you will do what eases your child’s pain! Good article, pretty spot on from my experience.

  • Pinky July 30, 2016, 4:50 pm

    I find this article useful as a new mom. My 2 month old baby girl got quite restless and cried when i ate pasta with heavy white sauce. Also with coffee. So i think there is no hard and fast rule. Lets appreciate what the author has shared.

  • Ha ha ha! January 21, 2016, 5:07 pm

    Very restrictive and unnecessary ‘advice’ for the vast majority of breast feeding mothers and their babies. Formula industry propoganda I fear!

  • Nicoline December 28, 2015, 2:01 pm

    This article makes breastfeeding wound soooo challenging! No wonder so many people don’t breastfeed!!!! I have never eaten anything on there than a “healthy” diet, my baby had never had issues. This article overstates many things.

  • Heather November 24, 2015, 5:48 pm

    I’m very disappointed by all the negativity on here. This person was simply offering advice and trying to help. It isn’t meant to be a “you must stop eating these items or else” article. It was well written. If anything, the negative comments might stop someone from offering helpful advice in the future. I never considered that what I might be eating could be causing the eczema in my babies skin but you know what, It’s with a shot to look at those suggestions. I feel like there is a foundation in what to look for now and I’m not a new breastfeeder. There is always something to learn.

    • Sapana June 28, 2016, 5:24 am

      I completely agree with you. The advice here is of general nature. It totally depends on ones health. The information given here is for understanding what can possibly cause problems. Breastfeeding is challenging but it depends on a mother to enjoy it or think negatively. When your doctor says take care, he/she doesnt mean you stop doing everything and go to sleep. Right?

  • Candyce June 30, 2015, 10:26 am

    I appreciate this article, it may be a little severe; however, it is helpful for a mom like me who has been breastfeeding for over a year now and am just now realizing that my diet could have been causing skin issues for my baby. I wish I had looked at articles like this earlier. I recently had an allergy test done on my little one and found out that he has an egg white and peanut allergy. Since then, I thought as long as I didn’t feed him those things he would be fine, but I realized that it did not really clear up until I stopped eating those things myself. I wish that I would have known this earlier, would have caused my baby a lot less discomfort.

    • Lisa March 20, 2016, 1:46 pm

      It’s a very solid artical. She didn’t say don’t eat, she stayed these few could be culprits for tummy trouble. That’s helpful information! It could cause problems not these foods cause the problem.
      Woman need to get off their self rigorous high horse and realize others experiences might help. It’s not your experience. It’s somone else’s.
      It’s nasty rude comments and attacking someone who who has had an experience different from yours with nursing that causes woman to shut down.

      Grow up

      Lisa 44, raised 3 grama to 1.

  • jess May 14, 2015, 11:18 am

    Its articles like these that make women not want to breastfeed.

  • anita January 3, 2015, 1:08 pm

    dear moms when u breastfeeding your baby ..u can avoid raw garlic and onion juice ..it may be harmful for your baby’s stomach.

  • Laura October 5, 2012, 11:44 pm

    Dear Grumpy Mummies,
    If your babies are so perfect why are you on this site?? the author has offered i think ( as a mum with a baby who has issues when i eat certain foods but wasnt sure which ones i should be looking out for) a great list of things to trial to eliminate and see if it makes a difference…the purpose IF you read it properly Sarah is that its not good to fully illiminate ALL the culprits listed but as a person you know if you have a hankering for certain foods more than others and you can look at when baby is gassy and colicky or has a rash etc with in 4-24hours of eating something on the above list. Which im sure as a breast feeding counsellor you would also advise mothers with refluxy, rashy or colicky babies…it is a Guide ONLY.
    Its more sickening to a New mother as myself having mongering “self appointed” know it all mothers making HUGE issues about articles like this!.
    It is shown in Scientific research ( not just by now it alls) that a dairy free or Low dairy diet CAN reduce instances of reflux…so having that info isnt hurting anyone a diet of fresh fruit and veges and red meats for iron dont hurt anyone.

  • Rachael September 18, 2012, 10:27 pm

    This long list of rules to follow and foods to avoid during breastfeeding is simply wrong and unnecessary. The article is misleading at best and does nothing to support a new mom in her efforts to breast feed. I’m very disappointed. I hope readers question this article and seek out accurate info from La Leche League, kellymom, Best For Babes, and other reputable sources.
    While a small percentage of breast-fed babies may have a sensitivity to something in mom’s diet, the vast majority of babies throughout the world grow and thrive on their mothers’ milk, with no limitations on their mothers’ diets. Yes, those diets even include spicy curry, scrambled eggs, cole slaw, peanut butter, salsa, fish and chips, chocolate, ice cream, beer, sauerkraut, etc. If diet restrictions like those suggested by the “guest writer” we’re really necessary during breast feeding, humans never would have made it this far as a species.

  • Sarah September 18, 2012, 9:11 am

    As a breastfeeding mom of 3 and a breastfeeding counselor, I am very disappointed in this article. Yes, *some* babies will react to what mom is eating, but the majority will be just fine. Alcohol in moderation is fine, no need to wait 3 hours or pump and dump. Garlic, tomatoes, wheat, eggs, milk and on and on…every baby is different, and telling moms that in order to breastfeed they must avoid everything on this fairly substantial list is a great way to market formula.

  • Rachel April 13, 2012, 11:23 pm

    So what CAN we eat?

    • Tiffany Solod May 11, 2016, 11:51 am

      You can eat whatever you want and drink whatever you want. The only thing that has ever had a negative effect on my milk was peppermint and all that does is decrease supply. Other than that, nothing has ever bothered my babies and they are all thriving and healthy. Trust me — eat what you want, drink what you want. I would cut out soda for your own health if you drink it but it doesn’t hurt in small doses. Then just up your water intake to remain hydrated.

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