Last updated January 7th, 2021
I’m sure your OB/GYN must have given you a list of food items to eat and particularly avoid during your pregnancy and now when you’ve finally delivered your beautiful baby, you must have been craving for 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 be harmful to your baby.
Breast milk provides the most nutrition to your baby until they are 6 months of age. When you’re breastfeeding, you don’t have to go on a special diet but eat a well-balanced diet. But, there are certain foods that you should eat in moderation while you’re breastfeeding like fish high in mercury, alcohol, herbal supplements, caffeine, peanuts, peppermint, parsley, herbal supplements, high processed food, cow’s milk, dairy products, and garlic. There are certain signs that show that your diet is affecting your baby like-if your baby is having eczema, constipation, vomiting, bloody stools, hives, congestion, wheezing, excessive gas, unusual irritability. You should eat food that is high in fibre, vitamins, and proteins to keep yourself healthy so that it doesn’t affect your body and your milk supply.
Foods that you should limit or avoid while breastfeeding
No one says certain foods are completely off-limits while you’re 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-
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.
What you need to remember is 1 drink takes 1-2 hours to metabolize, so it would be better if you consume 1 glass of drink after nursing and putting your baby to sleep. This way, by the time your little one wakes up, the alcohol would’ve 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.
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 is just going to 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.
Fish high in mercury
Fish is a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids which is great for the brain development in infants, and when baked or broiled, it tastes amazing. But, there are certain types of fish that are high in mercury, a heavy metal that can be toxic, especially in infants and children, that should be limited in your diet.
Certain 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 extremely 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…
- Delayed speech
- Fine motor skills
- Visual-spatial awareness
Fish that you should avoid are…
- Big eye tuna
- King mackerel
- 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…
After multiple midnight nursing session, 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 of the common sources of caffeine. Increased intake of caffeine can cause sleeplessness and irritability in babies because some of the caffeine passes through the breast milk to the baby.
Babies have a hard time getting rid of the caffeine from the system and can cause extreme irritability and fussiness. But Doctors usually recommend starting having caffeine in moderation after the baby turns 3 months old.
According to Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) recommends breastfeeding mothers to have not 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 it, so keep that in mind if your little one is more sensitive to caffeine.
Some 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 it. 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 doctor before you do it. Women intake herbal supplements to increase breast milk supply; it would be better if you stick with reliable brands for now and consult your lactation consultant.
If your family has a history of known peanut allergies, it is best if you don’t introduce your baby to peanut or foods containing peanut such as peanut butter in your diet, until you wean them. The allergic proteins can pass through breast milk, and research suggests that children can have life-term peanut allergy if they are introduced peanuts at a very early age.
Consult your doctor immediately if your little one develops wheezing, hives or rashes immediately after breastfeeding. But, there is no strong research that suggests that avoiding peanuts while breastfeeding can prevent allergies in babies.
High processed foods
You might have avoided junk food throughout your pregnancy to stay healthy. Similarly, it’s better if you limit your intake of high calorie, unhealthy fats and sugary food while breastfeeding.
Not only it’s unhealthy for your body, 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 are
- Citrus fruits
- Peppermint, parsley and sage
- Increased intake of garlic
- Spicy foods
- Dairy products
- Cow’s milk
- Cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
If your baby is not accustomed to the taste of spicy foods while being in the womb, they may likely not like the taste of your breast milk containing that flavor. The same goes for foods that you avoided during pregnancy, but you end up having it in more amounts during breastfeeding.
How to tell if your breastfed baby is affected by your diet
You should consult your doctor before deciding certain foods completely 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 that 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 doctor 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 did 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 receptive in 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, 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 doctor before making any extreme dietary changes.
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 running after her kid, Kelin is busy reading, travelling, and 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’.