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.
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:
- 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