Wondering what foods to avoid while breastfeeding? Just like during gestation, what you eat while breastfeeding can directly impact your infant’s health and development. Here we discuss the study of maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding | A Mother’s Breastfeeding Diet
1. Avoid Excessive Caffeinated Drinks
A small amount of daily coffee intake (a cup a day) was seen to have no negative effects on a breastfed infant. Above-average consumption, on the other hand, is a different story. Consuming more than 5 cups of coffee daily poses a threat to your baby. Caffeine will begin entering their system, causing negative and debilitating effects. Common sources of caffeine are the following:
- Foods with coffee as an ingredient
- Dark tea
- Carbonated drinks or soda
Can you eat chocolate when breastfeeding?
Although chocolate does not contain caffeine, it has Theobromine, a compound with similar effects to caffeine. Similarly, eating a small amount of chocolate does not affect babies, but excessive consumption can have negative effects.
2. Avoid Fish High in Mercury
Fish and other seafood contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids and protein which are good for the baby. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to your baby’s brain development, but some kinds of fish do contain high mercury levels and contaminants, which may be passed on to the milk and may harm the developing nervous system of your baby. These are the bigger kinds of fish as listed below:
- King Mackerel
In short, enjoy your Omega-3 fatty acids in common fish, but avoid options high in mercury.
3. Avoid Foods Rich in Trans Fatty Acids
A high level of trans fatty acids in breast milk has a negative effect on infant growth and development. Sadly, trans fatty acids are found in many of the common foods we like to binge on. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid these comfort food items entirely. Check the labels for products with zero trans fats or try to balance them out with healthier choices. These are some of the common foods which may contain trans fatty acids.
- Fast food products (fried, burgers, chips, pizza)
- Bakery products (bread and pastries)
- Junk food
4. Avoid Spicy Foods
Mothers were initially advised against spicy foods because they are thought to cause rashes, diarrhea, colic, and gas in babies, but it’s been found that breast milk from moms eating spicy foods rarely affects babies. Although spicy and highly flavored foods have a slight influence on the taste of breast milk, they’re not really harmful to your baby. Some experts even suggest it could facilitate self-weaning in babies. If you don’t like the idea and prefer your baby to enjoy the taste of your breast milk or just want to avoid any risk of your baby rejecting your milk, you may avoid these spicy foods:
5. Avoid Raw Foods
Eating raw foods does not pose a serious threat to breastfeeding infants, but raw foods can be a cause of infections or food poisoning in nursing mothers. Also, raw seafood may contain mercury, which is definitely bad for your baby. While eating raw foods does not directly affect your baby, it’s better to exercise caution when consuming these foods, because you can get sick and compromise your ability to nurse your child.
- Rare steak
- Fresh salads
- Unpasteurized milk
6. Avoid Allergenic Foods
Certain types of foods which are known to cause allergies raise some concerns among mothers who think they may pass these allergies on to their babies, too. Allergenic food reactions in exclusively breastfed babies are quite rare and if there is any adverse reaction, it usually isn’t too severe. Even if you have established that you are not allergenic to any of these foods, you can still exercise caution. You can even take a look at your diet as your first step if you notice any skin or digestion issues with your baby, and you can try eliminating these common allergenic foods:
7. Avoid Gassy Foods
Gassy Mom, gassy baby! While these foods should not cause any severe or lasting symptoms, exercise some caution and make observations on how your baby reacts to your diet. If the infant shows signs of gassiness, you may consider cutting out any of the ‘gassier’ food items you consume.
- Brussel Sprouts
8. Avoid Processed Foods
While processed foods are easy to prepare and cost less, the risk of toxins in additives and preservatives is a cause for worry both for you and your baby. Many of these foods may also contain trans fatty acids. Avoid these as much as you can and try maintaining a wholesome, healthy diet while breastfeeding. Try eliminating some of these foods:
- Instant noodles
- Fruit candy snacks
- Microwave popcorn
- Dried fruits
9. Excessive Fluids
Many mothers think drinking lots of fluid will help increase their breast milk volume. On the contrary, it was found taking lots of fluids by 25% more resulted in a decreased milk supply. “Drinking to thirst” is the best measure of how much a breastfeeding mom should be drinking. As long as you’re amply hydrated, you should be fine.
Check out this video from Intermountain Moms for more ideas about breastfeeding diet and foods to avoid while breastfeeding:
Your breast milk is the healthiest and most affordable food your baby can have. Your diet plays an important role in securing healthy milk production for your baby, so eat wisely for you and your offspring! But remember, this can be a difficult period given the demands of breastfeeding so cut yourself a bit of slack! It’s totally okay to pamper yourself with ice cream every now and then or a cup of coffee in the morning.
Are you aware of any other foods to avoid while breastfeeding? We’d love to hear your take on it in the comments section below!