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Foods to avoid while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Foods: 9 Foods to Avoid While Nursing

Being a new mom is hard.

You have a million questions and a million things to figure out.

Not only that, but it seems like as soon as you start figuring out your baby, he or she decides to change things up and keep you guessing!

Of all the challenges for first-time moms, learning how to breastfeed is often one of the most difficult. Studies have shown that up to 80% of new moms struggle with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding generally gets much easier over the first few months, especially if you follow quality tips on how to make the learning process easier.

This article will make your life easier by teaching you what breastfeeding foods to avoid and why.

Why Breastfeed?

Plenty of studies show the benefits of breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of your baby's life.

Benefits include:

  • A strong immune system for your baby
  • Helps mom and baby bond
  • A reduction in allergies for baby
  • A lower risk of obesity for baby
  • Possibly increased IQ for baby
  • Helps mom lose baby weight

It's clear that breastfeeding has a number of advantages for both you and your baby.

Breastfeeding Foods and Your Baby

Breastfeeding is a true miracle.

While certain foods (more on this below) can affect your baby, breastmilk is also designed to provide for and protect your baby.

That's great news for you because it means you don't have to stress about having an absolutely perfect diet for the entire time you breastfeed.

Does that mean you can throw caution to the wind and eat anything you want?

Absolutely not.

Not only will that make you feel horrible, it can also significantly affect your baby's growth and development.

La Leche League, a well-known breastfeeding support organization, puts it this way:

"Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible."

Thus, in general, no food is excluded from the list of foods a breastfeeding mother should eat. Obviously, it is best to make sure the foods you eat are fresh and healthy.

The concept of variety is important, because by eating a number of foods, you can be sure to obtain different nutrients and do not eat too much of any one food."

As you can see, the key to good nutrition - both for you and your new baby - is variety.

Eating a balanced, clean, whole foods diet with a variety of nutrients will ensure your health and a smooth development for your new baby.

It's also important to remember that no two babies are the same. What irritates your friend's baby might be no problem for your baby.

With those important principles in mind, let's get practical and talk about nine breastfeeding foods to avoid or use in moderation:

1. Alcohol

Opinions vary on whether it is safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding.

The concern stems from the fact that alcohol has the potential to affect your baby's neurological development.

Recommendations on how much alcohol is "safe" to drink vary from expert to expert.

  • USDA recommends not drinking any alcohol for your first three months of breastfeeding and then drinking in moderation moving forward
  • The March of Dimes urges breastfeeding moms to avoid alcohol altogether
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics instructs new moms to avoid breastfeeding for two hours after drinking an alcoholic beverage

Ultimately your approach to alcohol will depend on your personal choice. Use the above recommendations to make an informed decision.  If you decide to completely abstain from drinking alcohol, you take no risks in the side effects of drinking while breastfeeding. 

2. Coffee / Caffeine 

While neither coffee nor alcohol are technically breastfeeding foods, both hold certain risks for a new mama and baby.

Why do we drink coffee?

Let's be honest: It's the caffeine and the routine of it. We love it okay! Coffee is so yummy!  As a new mom, you'll likely want caffeine far more than you ever have in your life.

BUT, the problem is that caffeine can pass through to your breastmilk and can irritate your baby. This may lead to fussiness, irritability and/or sleeplessness.

Getting your baby to sleep is hard enough normally.

Have less coffee and time it for certain hours, and avoid other caffeinated beverages (especially energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster drinks) to make your life as easy as possible.  Nurse, then have your coffee after because that way you might have a few hours before you have to nurse again. 

3. Citrus Fruits

Biting into a fresh orange is like eating a sunny day.

It's a beautiful thing when you're a tired new mama. However, citrus fruits contain high levels of acidity, and too much acid can irritate your baby's developing GI tract.  Now lots of mothers report no problem at all having citrus drinks while breastfeeding so try it and see how baby reacts to know your limitations.

In order to avoid any problems for your little one, the safest bet is to have citrus fruits in moderation for the first several months of breastfeeding.

4. Broccoli

"Gassy foods make gassy babies."

So says DrSears.com, a website started by a medical doctor and his wife, a registered nurse.

Foods like broccoli and garlic have long been known to cause gas problems for people of all ages. The same principle rings true for newborn babies.

To make sure that you and your baby don't regret your diet choices try cooking broccoli prior to eating it. This should help cut down on any unwelcome side effects.

5. Spicy Foods

Food with a lot of spice often contains peppers with capsaicin, an irritant which has been known to cause issues when it comes into contact with skin.

Capsaicin can also cause rashes in new babies when ingested through breastmilk.

Avoiding spicy foods will help to prevent any unnecessary discomfort for your little one.

6. Peanuts

Do peanut allergies run in your family? Consult your doctor before eating lots of peanuts while breastfeeding.

If so, be especially careful if you indulge while breastfeeding.

Research shows that proteins from peanuts can pass through breastmilk to your baby. This exposure may predispose your baby to a peanut allergy.

Just like any allergy, if your little one has an allergic reaction it could cause a rash, hives, breathing issues or worse.

It's still a questionable issue whether slowly exposing your child to peanuts will actually clear any possible allergies...just ask the doc to be sure.

7. Cow's Milk

While allergies to cow's milk are somewhat rare the symptoms can be quite severe.

Possible symptoms include:

  • Frequent spitting up
  • Vomiting
  • Signs of abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Lack of weight gain
  • Hives
  • A scaly rash

If you indulge in cow's milk (or butter, cheese or other dairy products) keep a close eye on your little one. If any of the above symptoms appear, try cutting out all dairy products to see if things improve.

8. Wheat/Gluten

Gluten is a protein within wheat and is one of the most common allergens.

Gluten intolerance is most likely if mom or dad also have some type of intolerance.

Reactions to gluten and wheat are similar to most allergic reactions. If you see hives or swelling shortly after feeding your baby, it might be time to try eliminating wheat from your diet.

9. Chocolate

Chocolate contains caffeine, just like coffee.

Unfortunately, that means that indulging in your favorite dessert could lead to a fussy baby later on.

To ensure your baby doesn't feel any ill effects from your indulgence, try to wait several hours after eating chocolate to breastfeed.

Conclusion

It's worth mentioning once more: Every baby is different. You will have to try what works and doesn't work because the above is just a general guideline and all may or may not apply to you.

Breastfeeding foods that bother your baby will differ from what breastfeeding foods that bother another baby.

Putting the above recommendations into practice will help to keep both you and your baby safe and healthy. For the flip side, check out our article on foods that you absolutely should incorporate into your diet for expecting moms.

If you ever see any questionable symptoms or have specific questions, we recommend speaking to your pediatrician as soon as possible.