There are so many foods you cannot eat when you are pregnant, and it’s not always easy to know what food to avoid when breastfeeding.
In today’s blog, Lyon lactation consultant Elise Armoiry, answers the question that so many new breastfeeding moms want to know: what food to avoid when breastfeeding?
Here is the great news: after avoiding so many foods for 9 months, there is no need to avoid specific foods during pregnancy or to have a perfect diet!
However, there are some recommended restrictions while breastfeeding.
Recommended foods for breastfeeding moms
When a mom is breastfeeding, we usually suggest focusing on a nutrient-dense diet and avoiding ultra-transformed foods. Aim for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain bread and cereals, and foods rich in calcium and proteins.
What food to avoid when breastfeeding? None! But there are some you need to be cautions about
Usually, breastfeeding moms can eat what they like in moderation, including tomatoes, chocolate, garlic, or spicy foods, without effect on the baby. It will expose the baby to new flavors. And this will help later on when the baby starts discovering solids.
But depending on your culture, there are often foods that you will be told to avoid, for example, Hispanic women are told to avoid tomatoes and chili peppers. And in France, cabbage and cauliflower have a reputation to cause flatulence in the nursing baby.
Sometimes moms assume that their baby is gassy or fussy because of something they ate. But this is actually rare.
About 5 % of babies react to what their mom ate, and in western countries, it is very often cow’s milk. But sometimes the baby reacts to other proteins, commonly found in eggs, nuts, soy, etc.
Typically when a baby reacts to the mother’s diet, there is usually a history of allergy in the family. And in that case, the baby will have signs of pain and gastrointestinal or respiratory symptoms, like eczema, asthma, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, and blood in stools.
An elimination diet might help resolve the symptoms, and it will take a few weeks to improve. You should talk to your health professional if you are concerned.
If you’re suspecting that your baby has eczema, and you’re in the UK, I (Mariana) highly recommend reaching out to these associations: Allergies UK and Eczema Outreach Support. The diagnosis of eczema in babies can be a long process in England from personal experience (Mariana’s first son). The fastest way is to request your health visitor to refer to specialized help (versus asking your GP).
Caffeine, which is found in coffee and teas, cola, and chocolate, passes into breast milk in small quantities. But it takes more time for the baby to eliminate it.
Some babies might be more irritable and sleep for shorter periods if the mom drinks more than 2 or 3 cups of coffee.
If you do drink caffeine, try not to have more than 300mg a day (2). To give you an idea of what that looks like 1 mug of filter coffee = 140mg, 1 mug of tea = 75mg, 1 (50g) plain chocolate bar = up to 50mg
If you would like to eat peanuts or other nuts, and you are not allergic to them, you can as part of a balanced diet. There is no evidence that you should avoid them if you are breastfeeding.
In England, the NHS explains that It is good to include 2 portions of fish per week, but when you are breastfeeding:
- Limit swordfish, marlin, or shark to one portion a week. This is because of the high levels of mercury found in them
- Do not eat more than 2 portions of oily fish a week, such as fresh tuna – tinned tuna is fine, salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, and pilchards.
Alcohol is also a drink to be cautious about while breastfeeding. Because alcohol is present in your milk at the same concentration as in your blood, with a pick 1 hour after consumption and a decrease after 2-3 hours.
It is important to take into account your baby’s age because a newborn’s liver is more immature, and alcohol will take longer to be eliminated, depending on your weight and if you eat while drinking. Small amounts of alcohol are usually not a problem: an occasional drink is possible. But it is better to avoid giving the breast 2 or 3 hours after drinking alcohol.
What is a unit of alcohol? A small glass of wine (125ml), half a pint of beer, and a single measure of a spirit (25ml).
Here is some additional resources from La Leche League on drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.
Some foods have a reputation for reducing milk production. For example, parsley, mint, and sage are used during the weaning process and should be avoided during breastfeeding.
Are you a new mom learning about breastfeeding?
If you want to learn more about Elise’s work as a lactation consultant, you can contact her via email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 0749506782. You can also visit Elise’s website and follow her work on Instagram.
Check these other helpful resources on breastfeeding: