Breastfeeding - Foods to Avoid

Have you noticed that certain foods affect your breast milk? What are they, and how does your baby react?

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Should certain foods be avoided while breastfeeding?

Some babies appear to be sensitive to certain foods in the mother's diet, while other babies never appear to have negative reactions to foods. A baby may become fussy, may have trouble sleeping, or may develop gas after the mother eats certain types of foods with strong flavors. Some of the most common triggers of fussiness in babies include chocolate, spices, citrus fruits, and gas-causing vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli. However, not all babies will have a reaction to particular foods.

Most experts recommend limiting consumption of caffeine while breastfeeding, since high levels of caffeine can make the baby fussy or disturb the baby's sleep patterns. Having more than one alcoholic beverage is also not recommended, since two or more alcoholic beverages at one time can increase blood alcohol levels to a point where the alcohol enters the breast milk. If a nursing mother consumes more than two drinks, she should wait at least two hours until nursing the baby to allow for elimination of alcohol from the body. If the breasts become engorged, it is fine to pump and discard breast milk while waiting. Studies have also shown that alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to "let down" (enable the free flow of breast milk) during breastfeeding.

Symptoms of allergy in a nursing baby may or may not be due to something eaten by the mother. If an allergic reaction to mother's food is present in the baby, it usually develops two to six hours after the mother consumed the offending food.

Because of concerns about mercury poisoning, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that nursing mothers limit their exposure to mercury in fish. The FDA and EPA advise eating no more than 6 oz. (about one serving) of canned albacore or "white" tuna a week and limiting intake of canned "light" tuna and other cooked fish to about 12 oz. (about two servings) per week. Nursing mothers should completely avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (also called golden or white snapper) because of potentially high levels of mercury.

Return to Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)


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