I remember being so relieved after giving birth to my first daughter. Finally, no more heartburn! Finally, I could eat what I wanted! Or so I thought.
As it turns out, when youâre breastfeeding, you still need to be mindful of what you eat to help nourish your baby. Those nutrients youâre getting pass through the milk to nourish your baby. And you know what else does too? The flavors of the food!
While formula has the same flavor every time, breast milk varies in flavor based on what you eat. When my breastfeeding coach had told me that, I thought that was amazing.
If you look around the internet, youâre bound to find bunches of articles about âwhat not to eatâ from other moms. Iâm not going to do that to you because, well, itâs just not true. There are some things to be mindful of, yes, absolutely. But there isnât a list of things that will harm you or your baby if you eat them while breastfeeding.
I get this from both Medical News Today and La Leche League, each entity explaining that there is no one food to avoid while breastfeeding. There is nothing special you need to eat or avoid though what you need to be doing is ensuring youâre eating healthfully as much as possible.
The better you eat, the better nutrients you and your baby get. You need to build your bodyâs strength back up after the trying process of having a baby. You may want a chocolate sundae (geez, donât we all?!?) and thereâs nothing wrong with that on occasion, but for the most part, you should be making healthy selections when youâre eating.
Ketogenic diet is a trend and I have already discussed whether you should try this or not.
There is a big âbutâ in all of this though, so keep reading to find out more!
Table of Content
When You Should Avoid Certain Foods
Most breastfeeding moms wonât find a problem at all with much of what they eat or drink. But others may notice a gassy baby or that their colicky baby seems extra irate after the consumption of a few things, which Iâll get to in a second.
Before I forget, I want to touch on some of the foods you should limit while breastfeeding. It has nothing to do with upsetting your baby. In small amounts, these items are fine:
Seafood with mercury
Eating seafood, especially if you love it, is great for your breastfeeding baby. However, make sure you know where itâs coming from. High levels of mercury arenât good for you or your baby. Sourced properly, you have nothing to worry about.
Love coffee? Go ahead and enjoy it, but be careful! Keep an eye on how your baby acts. If she seems difficult to put down for naptime or bedtime, you might need to cut back on your consumption.
Thereâs a lot of misinformation out there about consuming alcohol while breastfeeding. During pregnancy, itâs dangerous because it goes through the placenta. But while breastfeeding, only the amount of alcohol that has gone into your blood will be a factor. In other words, enjoy that glass of wine, Mama. You deserve it. But drink like youâre at a frat party? Not a good idea.
I drank while breastfeeding both of my daughters. Iâve mentioned my dad is a doctor and he said it was fine as long as I wasnât getting loaded or doing it every single day.
Elimination Diet for Breastfeeding Moms
Most breastfeeding moms will eat what they like and have no problems. Some though will notice a pattern after they eat something and then nurse their babies.
If you find that every time you nurse your baby after having a glass of cowâs milk, eating yogurt, or indulging in cheese, it could be cowâs milk protein intolerance (CMPI).
If your baby is sensitive, this could be something that affects him. How will you know? You may notice colicky symptoms develop. He could also vomit, have diarrhea, wheeze, be constipated, or break out in a rash. Youâll likely panic all the way to the pediatrician (who wouldnât?) and be asked to eliminate dairy from your diet.
Yes, that would mean no more ice cream or finding an alternative (like vegan versions) to try instead. This phase wonât last forever though. Your baby will be able to handle cowâs milk later on. Just be cautious if you do determine that cowâs milk is causing the problem. Some items have hidden sources of dairy in them which is why itâs so important to read labels.
What causes gas in babies being breastfed?
Other things may seem to cause your baby to be gassier than usual. Cruciferous vegetables, particularly broccoli, seem to agitate sensitive babies. If you notice your baby seems highly annoyed breastfeeding after youâve eaten broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage, cut back on those foods to see if it makes a difference.
Ultimately, eating a well-rounded healthy diet for yourself and for your breastfeeding baby is what counts here. If you notice your baby acts differently after you eat certain foods, simply avoid those foods.
How Do You Know?
One thing I found very helpful, thanks to my breastfeeding coach, was to write down what Iâd eat every day. I did this primarily for my fitness to get back in shape after my first child, but I also did it because she was a bit of a colicky thing, driving us mad for about 2 months every night.
Vivien wanted to see if we could find a pattern in what I was eating to see if that might help soothe our girl. Turns out, when I ate a LOT of dairy food, she became more agitated. When I ate small amounts of it, she was fine.
Other friends of mine at gobs of dairy without incident. Even with my second daughter, nothing I ate ever bothered her when she was breastfeeding. Each baby is different, so keeping an eye on what you eat and when, how much of it, and all the pertinent info will help you identify if thereâs a problem and what youâll need to eliminate to set things right.
Food Rumors â Finding the Truth in Breastfeeding Foods
Hopefully, Iâve been opening your eyes to the world of misinformation out there on the internet about foods you can and canât have. There are a few other foods we need to talk about though too.
First up, allergens. Are you allergic to anything?
If so, itâs probably very obvious for me to tell you not to eat it. BUT, and you know I love âbuts,â knowing if there are any allergies on your side of the family or your husbandâs side is also important. Because itâs easy to know whether or not you can eat something. But does anyone in your family have a nut allergy? Best to make sure of that now and have a conversation with your pediatrician.
Speaking of nuts, unless you are allergic or the allergy runs in your family, itâs fine to have nuts. One thing that drove me nuts (pardon the pun) was hearing how many people had nut allergies in the states. During both my pregnancies, I ate tons of nuts. Chinese people use peanut oil for most of their dishes. I never once in all my years there even heard of anyone with a nut allergy.
That should tell you something right there. In fact, experts believe that eating it (as long as youâre not allergic that is) helps build a tolerance to it. Thatâs basically with all foods too.
Iâd also like to touch upon the cultural aspect of foods while breastfeeding. Every country seems to have their own little codes of conduct with food. Either they think you should eat a certain food to boost breastmilk (more on that shortly) or they think you should avoid it. La Leche League points out how new Italian moms are told not to eat garlic, lentils, or cauliflower while in India, itâs encouraged.
In China, I was told to eat a soup of millet, which they call Xifan. I was told it would bring in more breastmilk and make me healthier. I havenât found anything to prove or disprove it, though Medical News Today specifies good grains and millet is a good grain.
Additionally, you shouldnât worry about eating spices. Look at other cultures. I ate tons of spicy foods while in China. My kids seem to have a higher tolerance for spicier items. That means I can put out a platter of chips and salsa using the spicier version and they gobble it up. They got used to it in the womb and still tolerate it fairly well. Though spiced as spicy as my husband likes things? Weâre still working on that!
Do Any Foods Increase Breastmilk?
If you are getting the proper latch, your baby should be getting enough milk. Keeping an eye on how many soiled diapers (either urine or feces) will tell you if your baby is eating enough. And if the scale keeps tipping to the heavier side, heâs definitely eating enough.
Still, that doesnât stop well-meaning people from trying to tell you that you can make more milk by eating certain foods. There is research to back it up, BUT (thereâs that âbutâ again), you must be having your baby suckle at your breast and/or using your breast pump to stimulate your bodyâs hormones to keep producing milk.
These foods are known as galactagogues, and youâll find them in every culture around the world. In South Korea for example, the women are made to eat a seaweed soup for a month while they recover, and itâs supposedly good for breastmilk production. And Iâve already told you about Xifan. My mother-in-law would force that upon me with every meal. I just wanted bacon and eggs but nope. I got a big bowl of soup for breakfast with a hardboiled egg. At least she meant well.
Of the galactagogues that have been researched most, fenugreek seed and goatâs rue top the list. Oatmeal is also said to help.
Regardless of the research, these foods do help keep you healthy, and thatâs really the bottom line. You could have 5 kids and they all might never respond adversely to anything you eat while others could have 2 kids that both have different food triggers.
Essentially, itâs a crapshoot, but follow my advice and keep that food journal. Not only will you see when you need to cool it on the donuts, but youâll also see what youâre eating and how that correlates with how your baby acts.
A one-off incident could merely be a cold, but keeping tabs on it will give you hard evidence so youâre not cutting out foods all willy-nilly with no actionable plan. In short, eat your fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins. Be moderate with caffeine and alcohol. Watch where your seafood comes from too.
Oh yes, and if you were upset about not being able to eat sushi while pregnant, now you can! Just follow the mercury rule and youâre good to go!