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Foods to Avoid When Breastfeeding

Monday, February 15, 2021

Have your friends or family members warned you about foods to avoid when breastfeeding? Do you really have to avoid vegetables, spicy foods, coffee and chocolate? Before you deprive yourself, have a look at these facts.

“Gassy” Vegetables

It is commonly thought that vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are foods to avoid when breastfeeding.  A 2017 study of 145 mothers confirmed that although these foods may cause the mother to have gas, the gas does not pass through to her breast milk.

Foods mothers consume can flavor their breast milk. Rather than being a problem, this is thought to be a benefit, helping babies to be more open to flavors in the future. In one study, women drank carrot juice 4 days a week beginning in their last trimester of pregnancy. A control group drank water instead. When solid foods were introduced, babies of the carrot-juice-drinking mothers enjoyed the flavor of carrots more than the babies of women who drank only water.

Peanuts and peanut butter

There has been some question about whether breastfeeding women should avoid peanuts and peanut butter to lower their baby’s risk of developing allergies. A review of the research found no evidence that either including or excluding peanuts from the mother’s diet changed their baby’s risk.

A 2011 USA Expert Panel Reportdoes not recommend restricting maternal diet during pregnancy or lactation as a strategy for preventing the development or clinical course of food allergies.”

So, go ahead and enjoy a handful of peanuts or peanut butter on your toast. There is no reason to exclude them from your diet.  
If you’d like to learn more about peanut butter and breastfeeding, read this La Leche League article.

Spicy Food

Spicy foods often top peoples’ list of foods to avoid when breastfeeding, thinking that it will upset baby’s tummy and digestive tract. When your baby is fussy, someone is sure to ask, “What did you eat?”

While it is known that spicy foods can flavor breast milk, scientists do not think it makes babies fussier. A 1991 study of garlic in the diet of breastfeeding women showed that babies stay at the breast longer and drink more milk when the milk smells like garlic!

Are spicy foods foods to avoid when breastfeeding? Research shows you do not need to avoid spicy foods.

Caffeine

Coffee and tea are popular drinks, especially with sleep deprived parents of young children. But mothers also wonder if caffeine in their breast milk will affect their baby’s sleep pattern.

Caffeine does pass through into breast milk, but only in small quantities. A 2012 research study looked at the coffee habits of pregnant and postpartum women and the subsequent sleep patterns of their babies at 3 months old. Their conclusion:

Caffeine consumption during pregnancy and by nursing mothers seems not to have consequences on sleep of infants at the age of 3 months.

Caffeine is found in coffee, tea and some soft drinks. To err on the side of caution (for both the baby’s health and your own), we recommend limiting yourself to a couple of cups of coffee, tea or cola products a day.

Chocolate

You may have been told to avoid eating chocolate when you are breastfeeding. Thankfully this is not true!

Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which is similar to caffeine. A 2017 study found, “Typical intake of chocolate does not significantly increase the level of either theobromine or caffeine in the infant.” You would have to consume very large quantities for it to have any effect on your baby.

Summary

If you’ve been told there are foods to avoid when breastfeeding, you are likely restricting your diet unnecessarily. There are no universal foods you must avoid.

There are rare cases, however, where a baby will react to a particular food in your diet. Dairy can be one of those foods. If you suspect your baby is reacting to food in your breast milk, read this article by KellyMom.

Is there a food you were wondering about that we haven’t included in this list? Let us know in the comments and we will dive into the research.

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Bibliography

  1. “Consequences on the Newborn of Chronic Maternal Consumption of Coffee during Gestation and Lactation: a Review.” Nehlig, A, and G Debry. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 1994, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8157856.
  2. “Dairy and Other Food Sensitivities in Breastfed Babies” KellyMom.com, 15 Jan. 2018, kellymom.com/health/baby-health/food-sensitivity/.
  3. “Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States: Summary of the NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel Report.” Boyce, Joshua A, et al. Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4249938/.
  4. “Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Infant Nighttime Waking: Prospective Cohort Study.” Santos, Iná S, et al. Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, May 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566755/.
  5. “Maternal Food Restrictions during Breastfeeding.” Jeong, Goun, et al. Korean Journal of Pediatrics, The Korean Pediatric Society, Mar. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5383635/.
  6. “Peanut Allergy.” La Leche League International, 25 May 2018, www.llli.org/peanut-allergy-2/.
  7. “Peanut Sensitisation and Allergy: Influence of Early Life Exposure to Peanuts”: Thompson, Rachel L., et al. British Journal of Nutrition. Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 26 Jan. 2010, www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/peanut-sensitisation-and-allergy-influence-of-early-life-exposure-to-peanuts/5AF1E6FE88AC6AE6B73E5F3F8B9415A4.
  8. “Prenatal and Postnatal Flavor Learning by Human Infants.” Mennella, J A, et al. Pediatrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2001, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11389286.

Posted July 9, 2019

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