It’s not just your pregnancy diet, your breastfeeding diet also needs care! Here is a look at some common foods to avoid while breastfeeding.
As soon as a woman finds out that she’s pregnant, one of the first things she starts monitoring is her diet. Throughout those 9 months, she takes care to eat more fruits and vegetables and cuts down on all the unnecessary stuff. Once she gives birth, many of these restrictions don’t apply, since the baby is already out of her body. However, there is something else that’s going inside baby’s body – breast milk!
Technically speaking, there really are no foods that a breastfeeding mother should absolutely avoid, unless there is an obvious adverse reaction from her baby. However, what you eat during this time can have multiple effects – it can affect your milk supply, it can change the flavor of your milk and it can also transport good and bad things into baby’s body.
While a breastfeeding mother can eat many of the foods a pregnant woman can’t, she still needs to closely watch her diet since whatever she eats enters her blood and then into breast milk. So here’s a look at the different foods that are best avoided during breastfeeding.
10 Foods to Avoid while Breastfeeding
If you’ve cut down on your caffeine consumption during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to continue to do so, especially if you’re a java junkie. A cup or two of coffee a day shouldn’t be a big deal, but any more than that can cause trouble. The caffeine passes into baby’s body through breast milk and although it is only a small amount, it is enough to mess with a tiny baby’s system, especially her sleep.
While most of us think of coffee when we hear about caffeine, the truth is that tea also contains caffeine and too many cups of chai and bother your baby. Besides, tea can make iron absorption difficult for your body. So if you do need your cuppa, avoid doing so while eating iron-rich foods like meat, leafy greens or with iron supplements.
3. Certain Herbs
We have a tendency to consider anything ‘herbal’ as safe, but doing so blindly can backfire. Certain herbs like parsley, sage and peppermint are known anti-galactogogues, which means that they contain properties that inhibit lactation, thereby reducing your milk supply. Very small amounts of these herbs are generally safe, but some mothers can be very sensitive to even these low doses.
Garlic is a very healthy spice, and helps to increase the breast milk supply but you can’t deny that it has a pungent flavor! Many babies dislike the taste too, they can be put off by the smell in breast milk which would result in irritable and fussy behavior. In that case it’s better to avoid garlic or to take less of it. If you’ve eaten a lot of garlic during pregnancy your baby may be used to it through swallowing amniotic fluid, but it’s still safer to take garlic in moderate.
5. Acidic Foods
While we are still waiting for solid scientific evidence on this matter, some mothers find that acidic foods like tomatoes, oranges, lemons and limes can make their baby fussier. If you suspect the same in your case, you can try avoiding these foods and see.
6. Laxative Foods
Many Moms find that eating foods that are naturally laxative can produce a similar effect in their little ones. Foods like prunes, figs, cherries and bran may cause loose stools in the baby too, although not all babies are equally affected. If you notice your baby pooping more than usual and are worried, try cutting out these foods from your diet.
7. Fish with Mercury
Pregnant women have a lot of restrictions when it comes to eating fish, and if you’ve missed your sushi and fish curry, you’re probably enjoying it now. While fish as such is perfectly safe while breastfeeding, it’s important to stay away from fish that have high mercury levels, like swordfish, shark, tuna, sea bass and tile fish. The mercury content in the fish can pass into breast milk and can affect the baby’s nervous system.
8. Artificial Sweeteners
Cutting down on sugar is always a good idea, whether you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or not in any of these stages. However, it’s important to consider what you’re substituting it with. For instance a natural sweetener like jaggery or coconut sugar is safe, but artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Stevia are best avoided. We still don’t know much about how the substances in these affect breastfeeding women or their babies, so it’s a good idea to skip it altogether. The same applies to foods like diet sodas and similar ‘sugar-free’ foods.
9. Processed Foods
Speaking of diet sodas and sugar-free foods, processed foods of any kind are best avoided not just for baby’s health, but for Mom’s health too. Such foods are loaded with artificial flavors, preservatives and chemicals of so many kinds that we can’t even be sure what’s in them! None of these can be good for anyone so stay away from these especially while breastfeeding.
It may be surprising to learn that alcohol is not completely off limits for breastfeeding Moms – a drink a day is okay, according to most experts, and also waiting for at least two hours after the drink before breastfeeding. However, we’d suggest erring on the side of caution and staying away from alcohol altogether – it’s a small price to pay for your baby’s health!
With all these guidelines, it’s important to understand that severely restricting your diet or avoiding complete food groups can result in a nutritional deficiency and insufficient calories which will do more harm than good. Breastfeeding women need about 450-500 extra calories a day to maintain their milk supply without getting exhausted.
Another common misconception is to avoid all allergy-prone foods while breastfeeding, like eggs, peanuts, cow’s milk, nuts, wheat etc. Many believe that exposing your baby early to these foods can increase their risk of developing food allergies later. However, the reverse is actually true, and exposing baby’s immune system to these foods can actually ‘train’ the body to accept them. The more varied your diet, the better your baby’s chances of tolerating everything.
However, if you do suspect a reaction to some food, you can avoid it for a few days and then reintroduce it to see how baby handles it. It usually takes between 2-6 hours for anything you’ve eaten to affect baby through breast milk. Symptoms like crying or fussing after a feed, diarrhea, rash, eczema, vomiting, chest congestion or trouble sleeping are all indications that your baby could be allergic to something. The easiest way to find out the trigger is to maintain a food diary, where you note down the following:
- What you eat and drink
- When you eat and drink
- How long after eating you fed your baby
- Baby’s symptoms during or right after feeding
- Baby’s symptoms a couple of hours after feeding
Taking this food diary along to your baby’s doctor will be of great help in identifying the issue so you can quickly spot the offending food and eliminate it from your diet.