9 Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding
Love peppermint, parsley and red chili peppers? Baby probably won't
For nine months you were so disciplined. You didn’t touch alcohol, and the smell of coffee barely tested your resolve. Now your baby is here and you’re dying for that Thai iced tea to complement your plate of broccoli with peanut sauce.
But then you remember: The last time you ate broccoli, you noticed your baby was crying and kicking her feet for hours. Should you avoid it while breastfeeding?
Not necessarily, experts say. “We want moms to enjoy a well- balanced diet and feel like they can pretty much eat anything,” says Elizabeth Salsburg, MD, of Kiwi Pediatrics in Berkeley, California. “We recommend moderation and variety in moms’ diets to minimize food intolerances. And babies rarely have allergies to foods that moms eat.”
“But when they do,” she adds, “it’s really obvious.”
In these rare cases, you’ll notice signs of a food allergy in your baby. These include eczema, diarrhea, constipation, and cramping, often along with skin rashes, persistent gas and spitting up. A sore, red bottom, bloody stools and mysteriously low weight gain (caused by poor absorption of nutrients) are other tip-offs.
Related: Is Co-Sleeping With Your Baby Safe?
If food allergies run in the family, pay special attention to your baby’s reaction after you eat or drink cow’s milk, eggs or soy, which cause allergies in a small number of babies. Citrus, wheat, corn, tree nuts and seafood are other possible (but very rare) allergens.
If your baby appears to have a food allergy, try eliminating the suspected foods from your diet one at a time to find the culprit.
But here’s one of the amazing things about breastfeeding: It reduces the chance your baby will develop food allergies in general — even to the foods you’re allergic to.
Here are 9 foods and beverages to keep an eye on.
Beans and green vegetables are a great source of folic acid. Nursing moms should consume at least 400 micrograms of folate daily to ensure their baby’s normal development, and a cup of cooked broccoli will give you 84 mcg towards that goal.
But if you find your baby is unusually gassy and pulling up her knees, kicking and fussing every time you eat broccoli, she might be sensitive to foods that cause gas such as broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables.
Try to keep track of what you ate when you noticed all that fussiness. You can eliminate the culprit for now and introduce it again later when she’s a little older. In the meantime, be sure to get enough folate by eating plenty of other fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens such as spinach.
Related: Why Am I So Gassy?
Citrus fruits and juices are another excellent source of folate. Fortified orange juice also helps you consume enough calcium and vitamin D, which help keep your bones strong while breastfeeding.
Most experts currently recommend getting between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of vitamin C daily (and 1,300 milligrams for teenaged moms). One 8-ounce glass of fortified orange juice will give you at least 20 percent of the vitamin C you need each day, along with a healthy dose of calcium, vitamin D and folic acid.
In rare cases, though, you may want to avoid citrus if your baby is in pain and colicky — that is, if she cries for more than three hours a day at least three days a week for three weeks or more. (If she makes little fists, has a tight belly, kicks and turns bright red from crying, she’s probably in pain.) If so, you may want to look for your vitamin C fix in strawberries, raspberries, mangoes and other fruits as well as green veggies such as spinach and peas.
Coffee and tea
It’s hard to say no to that morning latte or cup of tea, and the good news is that you don’t have to. Experts say that you can enjoy caffeinated beverages in moderation — about 300 milligrams of caffeine a day, or the amount you’ll find in 16 ounces of brewed coffee.
But since about 1 percent of that caffeine winds up in your breast milk, your babe is imbibing it along with you. Any more than a cup or two a day and you may find your baby is cranky, irritable and not sleeping when he should be.
So watch your serving size size: An average 8 ounce cup of coffee can contain between 95 and 200 milligrams of caffeine, while a shot of espresso can pack up to 75 milligrams. (A cup of strong tea contains about 70 milligrams.) And avoid energy drinks: One 16-ounce can of Monster contains a whopping 320 milligrams of caffeine.
Can’t go a day without your chocolate? Chocolate, whose scientific name means “food for the gods,” is a less obvious source of caffeine — and your baby may have some fretful nights if you consume too much. A tiny cup (five ounces) of hot cocoa will give you 70 milligrams of caffeine, similar to a cup of strong tea. Just a small 1.5 ounce bar of chocolate can have 45 milligrams. If you’re a fan of both coffee and chocolate (and who isn’t?), keep track of how much you’re consuming while breastfeeding.
Fish high in mercury
Fish is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, even while nursing. Seafood is a great source of protein, and fish like salmon, trout, herring and sardines are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which boost the development of your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system. The Department of Agriculture recommends that nursing moms eat up to 12 ounces of cooked seafood each week.
The agency also advises pregnant or nursing moms to avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury, which can affect your baby’s nervous system as it develops. The fish you should never eat while nursing (or pregnant) are shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. The Food and Drug Administration also recommends limiting albacore, or white tuna (in cans or steaks) to less than 6 ounces per week.
You’re finally going out to dinner and thinking about that French place with the delectable 20-clove garlic chicken and garlic bread, or maybe the Indian restaurant with the chicken vindaloo and garlic naan. But while garlic and strong spices make our food taste delicious, they change the way your usually sweet breast milk tastes.
Essential oils in garlic and some spices may pass into breast milk and “occasionally, an infant objects to their presence,” say Ruth and Robert Lawrence, MD, in their tome "Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional." The Lawrences further caution that some vegetables and fruits, including garlic, onions, rhubarb and prunes, may cause a bout of 24-hour colic in some infants.
Red chili pepper
Do you love Kimchi or very picante (hot) salsa? Whoa Nelly! Your baby may not share your attraction. Peppers that contain capsaicin have been known to cause a skin rash lasting 12 to 48 hours in breast-fed infants within an hour of nursing. Also look for rashes on your baby’s bottom around the anus. In countries where people eat a lot of hot, spicy foods, such diaper rashes have long been seen in breast-fed infants.
Peppermint and parsley
Love tabouleh? Parsley is considered to have milk-suppressing properties if eaten frequently in large amounts, such as you’d find in tabouleh salads or a green smoothie where entire bunches are blended in. Peppermint and sage can also decrease milk production if eaten regularly in large amounts. LaLeche League recommends that you avoid breath mints that use concentrated peppermint oil. But if you sprinkle these herbs on food in food in small doses, it shouldn’t affect your milk production.
The March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to reducing preventable birth defects, recommends that you avoid all alcohol while nursing — zero alcohol is the only level considered “safe.” The USDA is a little less stringent: It recommends avoiding all alcohol consumption before your baby is 3 months old.
But if you do have that glass of wine after three months of nursing, be cautious: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if you have an alcoholic beverage, you should wait at least two hours (but four or more hours are better) before breastfeeding again. You can also express milk before having that drink and give your baby a bottle with the clean milk.
And don't forget...
While not a food, it’s good to mention tobacco. Some moms who are smokers may light up at the end of a meal rather than eating dessert, but it’s very risky. Secondhand smoke has been associated with respiratory allergies in babies and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It also may lower your milk supply (and of course, it’s not good for you, either). Salsburg emphasizes that limiting mercury, smoking and alcohol while nursing benefits a mom’s health just as much as it does the baby’s.