10 Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Foods Avoid Breastfeeding

While you were pregnant with your baby, you may have avoided certain foods, such as unpasteurized cheese or sushi. What you may not realize is if you’re breastfeeding, it may still be a good idea to say no to some foods. Here’s what to leave off your plate.

Alcohol

It was a no-brainer to avoid alcohol during pregnancy. It’s still a good idea when you’re nursing. Alcohol enters your breast milk in similar quantities to blood alcohol content. Babies don’t process alcohol as effectively as adults, so feeling “buzzed” or not doesn’t necessarily indicate whether or not your baby will be affected.

The good news is that, like with blood, alcohol metabolizes out of your breast milk in time. As long as you’re allowing two hours per alcohol unit before nursing or expressing milk, there’s no need to “pump and dump” to make the milk safe for your baby.

Coffee

It’s a little unfair that in the sleepless newborn days, you may need to avoid caffeine! Like alcohol, caffeine makes its way into your milk. While it’s not necessarily harmful, it can make your baby cranky or jittery. Unlike with alcohol, your baby’s ability to metabolize caffeine improves considerably after the first 6 months, so you may have better success combining coffee and breastfeeding when your newborn’s a little older.

High-Mercury Fish

While avoiding some foods is a matter of watching your baby’s tolerance, we can all agree we don’t want our babies ingesting harmful substances. Fish that are top predators have the highest mercury levels, since they’re consuming mercury-containing fish all down the food chain. Steer clear of shark, tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel. Limit tuna to a few servings a week, and look for lower-mercury fish options.

Mint, Sage, and Parsley

Besides their use to flavor food, some herbs have traditionally been used for various medicinal reasons. Peppermint, sage, and parsley are said to have milk-suppressing qualities. A cup of peppermint tea or sprig of parsley with (low-mercury) fish shouldn’t affect your milk supply, but watch the quantities. Fans of Lebanese tabbouleh salad, with its fistfuls of parsley and mint, for example, may want to hold off for awhile.

Rhubarb, Star Anise, and Ginseng

Some herbal supplements are potentially harmful for pregnant or nursing moms and babies. Just because a remedy or supplement is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone. Consult your doctor and pediatrician before starting on any herbal supplement.

Allergenic Foods

Moms breastfeeding allergy-prone babies may need to adapt their diet more drastically than others. The most common foods that cause a reaction in infants are wheat, milk, egg, soy, nuts, and shellfish.

If your pediatrician recommends cutting one or even all of these food categories from your diet, it’s understandably overwhelming. Don’t worry–there’s still plenty you can eat. Browsing Paleo or hypoallergenic diet recipes can help you plan meals. Load up on fruits and vegetables, meat, and rice and whole grains. A fruit smoothie blended with rice milk and avocado or coconut milk can be a satisfying sweet treat.

Cruciferous Veggies

Cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli are healthy choices in your diet. They can also have a tendency to make some babies gassy. Keep an eye on your baby for the next few feedings after eating cruciferous vegetables. If the baby’s crying more or having painful gas, try swapping in other veggies.

Onion and Garlic

Another common offender for crankiness. Many babies tolerate traces of these foods in their breast milk just fine. For others, either the strong flavors or sulfuric compounds can be tough to stomach.

Hot Sauce

Chili peppers and hot sauce can add an unwanted spicy kick to your breast milk. Watch your baby for signs of stomach aches or crankiness, and adjust the heat accordingly. Don’t want to give up spicy food? Try ramping up little by little so your baby acclimates to your love of jalapeno poppers.

Artificial Food Dyes

Eating healthy during pregnancy and breastfeeding is a good choice for both you and your baby. There’s not a lot of information available on the effects of food dyes on breast milk, but some research has shown links between food dyes and irritability or poor sleep in some children with ADHD. Overall, limiting artificial food dyes can help you cut down on processed food, which is a good idea in most diets.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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