When Breastfeeding What Foods To Avoid (6 Foods To Limit Or Avoid Entirely)

Breast milk is the best food for babies up to 6 months old. When breastfeeding, eat healthy foods, but be careful with certain things like fish with a lot of mercury, alcohol, caffeine, peanuts, peppermint, parsley, supplements, processed food, cow’s milk, dairy, and garlic. If your baby shows signs like eczema, constipation, vomiting, bloody stools, hives, congestion, wheezing, too much gas, and being extra cranky, your diet might be the cause. To stay healthy and have enough milk, eat food high in fiber, vitamins, and protein.

I’m sure your OB/GYN must have given you a list of food items to eat and particularly avoid during your pregnancy.

Now, when you’ve finally delivered your beautiful baby, you must have been craving the things you couldn’t eat during your pregnancy.

But, Wait! Hold your horses; don’t chuck that list in the dustbin yet. There are certain foods that you should limit or avoid while breastfeeding, as they can be toxic and harmful to your baby.

Foods that you should limit or avoid while breastfeeding

No one says certain foods are completely off-limits while breastfeeding (unless you’re allergic to them, of course!), but yes, you need to eat everything in moderation whether or not you’re breastfeeding. What you should eat is a healthy and well-balanced diet.

So, here’s the 411 on foods to limit or avoid while breastfeeding:

1. Alcohol

Various alcoholic drinks shown

Now that you’ve delivered your baby, the rules of the game have changed slightly. Though it is best to abstain from alcohol completely, a drink once in a while isn’t harmful.

You need to remember that 1 drink takes 1-2 hours to metabolize, so it would be better to consume 1 drink after nursing and putting your baby to sleep.

This way, by the time your little one wakes up, the alcohol will have already left your bloodstream.

How much alcohol your baby will get from your breast milk depends on how much you consume. The more you drink, the more time it’ll take to clear out from your system.

Breastfeed your baby 2 hours after you had a drink.

Rule of thumb on alcohol when breastfeeding

Also, consuming alcohol often during breastfeeding can…

  • Can decrease your milk supply
  • Affect the let-down reflex
  • Pass the alcohol to the baby through breastfeeding

Consuming alcohol more than the limit will hamper your ability to take care of your child, and she will constantly be exposed to alcohol from your breast milk, which will affect her developmental skills.

2. Fish high in mercury

Cooked fish ready to eat

Fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which is excellent for brain development in infants, and when baked or broiled, it tastes amazing.

But, certain types of fish are high in mercury, a heavy metal that can be toxic, especially in infants and children, that should be limited in your diet.

Specific type of fishes was a big ‘no-no’ for me, and I had my reasons. For instance, research shows that too much exposure to mercury from fish is exceptionally harmful and poisonous for humans and especially to babies in the womb and while breastfeeding.

It can affect their central nervous system leading to impairment in:

  • Cognition
  • Delayed speech
  • Fine motor skills
  • Visual-spatial awareness

Fish that you should avoid are:

  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Big eye tuna
  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughly

You can have fish that are low in mercury and get your dose of the good omega 3 fatty acids, protein, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) by consuming no more than 2 or 3 times a week and up to 6 ounces of serving.

You can have:

  • Tilapia
  • Catfish
  • Salmon
  • Pollock

3. Caffeine

A cup of coffee

After multiple midnight nursing sessions, all you want is a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Although it is not prohibited, you can have caffeine only in moderation while breastfeeding.

Chocolate, coffee, tea, and soda are some familiar sources of caffeine.

Increased caffeine intake can cause sleeplessness and irritability in babies because some caffeine passes through the breast milk to the baby.

Babies have difficulty getting rid of the caffeine from the system which can cause extreme irritability and fussiness. Pediatricians usually recommend starting having caffeine in moderation after the baby turns 3 months old.

The Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC) recommends breastfeeding mothers have no more than 300mg of caffeine in a day which is equivalent to 2 to 3 cups of coffee spread throughout the day.

While these are obvious sources of caffeine, remember that chocolate-flavored drinks, decaf coffee, and soda have some caffeine in them, so keep that in mind if your little one is more sensitive to caffeine.

4. Some herbal supplements

A jar of herbal supplements

When it comes to certain herbs, it is not considered safe to ingest while breastfeeding as there is not enough research done on them.

Also, some herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). So, it’s best to stay away from herbal teas and supplements.

If you’re still planning on drinking that herbal tea, then consult your baby’s pediatrician before you do it.

Women intake herbal supplements to increase breast milk supply; it would be better to stick with reliable brands and consult your lactation consultant.

5. Peanuts

A bowl of raw peanuts

If your family has a history of known peanut allergies, it is best to not introduce your baby to peanuts or foods containing peanuts, such as peanut butter in your diet, until you wean them.

This is because the allergic proteins can pass through breast milk, and research suggests that children can have life-term peanut allergies if they are introduced to peanuts at a very early age.

Consult your baby’s pediatrician immediately if your little one develops wheezing, hives or rashes immediately after breastfeeding. But, no strong research suggests that avoiding peanuts while breastfeeding can prevent allergies in babies.

6. High processed foods

Various processed foods are shown like chicken wings, onion rings, and french fries

You might have avoided junk food throughout your pregnancy to stay healthy. Similarly, please limit your intake of high-calorie, unhealthy fats, and sugary food while breastfeeding.

Not only it’s unhealthy for your body, but it also influences the baby’s preference for foods. Highly processed foods are deficient in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Even though you don’t have to completely abstain from it, once in a while, just for the pleasure of it, you can indulge in an occasional cheeseburger.

Other common foods that are known sometimes to cause a reaction in babies:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Peppermint, parsley, and sage
  • Increased intake of garlic
  • Spicy foods
  • Dairy products
  • Cow’s milk
  • Cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
  • Soy
  • Nuts

If your baby is not accustomed to the taste of spicy foods while in the womb, they may not like the taste of breast milk containing that flavor.

The same goes for foods you avoid during pregnancy but end up having more amounts during breastfeeding.

How to tell if your breastfed baby is affected by your diet

A toddler boy is shown with a rash on his face, possibly from his mom's diet, which came to him as a result of breastfeeding

You should consult your baby’s pediatrician before deciding on certain foods entirely from your diet while breastfeeding so that it doesn’t create a nutritional imbalance.

Look out for these signs to know that the food you ate hasn’t set well with your baby:

If your baby shows any of these signs after breastfeeding that it might indicate that your baby is allergic or intolerant to them.

If you think that certain food you took has affected your baby, then note it down, and you might be advised to cut it down completely for 2 to 4 weeks to see the difference.

Consult your baby’s pediatrician immediately if any of the above symptoms worsen.

Remember that, even if they may be intolerant to a certain food in your diet as a baby, they might accept these foods later when they get older.


Every baby is different, so it’s not necessary that your baby will react the same way to food as her sibling or your nephew/niece.

All in all, breastfeeding is challenging in the first few weeks and especially for new mothers. So it can happen that you might not take care of yourself and your nutritional intake because of stress.

Don’t let that happen; breastfeeding women require an additional 200 to 300 calorie intake per day.

You should eat a variety of foods as your baby will be exposed to different breast milk flavors daily, which can result in your baby being receptive to eating solids later.

The bottom line is no food is off-limits for you, but foods like fish that are high in mercury, alcohol, junk food, added sugar, and some herbal supplements should be consumed in limited amounts.

If you’re still worried about certain foods or how your baby will react to them, it is best to talk openly to your pediatrician before making any extreme dietary changes.

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Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid,  you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best'.

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