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6 Types of Food to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Find out what food and drink you should avoid or be careful with during pregnancy to ensure that you and your baby are safe and healthy.

It isn’t difficult to find listings online for foods to avoid while breastfeeding.

As you might expect, the food types or specific food items found in these listings will vary somewhat from listing to listing.

The food you should definitely avoid may not show up on some lists, while other lists may contain a few food items that can actually be safe to eat while breastfeeding.

The main reason behind putting these lists together is, of course, to protect the baby. It probably goes without saying that most things that would be bad for the mother would likely be bad for the infant as well.

Some of the food items to avoid are somewhat obvious, but some may come as a surprise to you. Still, others might be considered to be somewhat borderline recommendations.

The majority of these foods are not harmful in the sense that eating them would expose the baby to a toxic substance that has been transferred through the mother’s milk, but there are nevertheless a number of foods that might be best for you to avoid completely as long as the baby is breastfeeding.

In Some Cases Trial and Error is Necessary

You might choose to take one or more of these lists and eliminate every single item listed from your near-term diet.

That may seem a bit drastic, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

On the other hand, some of these foods you only need to cut back on. Coffee is a good example. If you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, it will probably not cause the baby any problems.

If you drink several cups a day, it may still be harmless from the standpoint of toxicity, but the caffeine the baby ingests in its milk could cause it to have sleeping problems, or become irritable and fussy.

Some foods may cause gas, which can make a baby uncomfortable and again, fussy if you consume it in significant amounts. Alcohol is an item to be avoided and is just plain bad for a baby.

Just as you would plan a diet for weight loss, or for healthier living, it would make sense to plan a diet that will not create any problems for your precious baby while it is breastfeeding.

This diet might be built around dropping a few foods you usually eat, cutting back on a few others, and perhaps adding some that your infant and/or you will benefit from.


Planning a Baby-Friendly Diet

There are a couple of ways you can go about putting a baby-friendly diet in place.

One way, and perhaps the simplest way, is to go over a number of published lists of foods to keep away from while breastfeeding and drop the common denominators.

A second approach would be to investigate what it is about certain foods or food types that led to their being put on these lists in the first place.

This approach may take a little more time but could be worth the effort. Some foods containing allergens may affect some babies and not others.

In other words, for each food listed, attempt to find out what their potential side effects are. Mercury in saltwater fish is toxic, your baby may be allergic to shellfish, or the spicy foods you are eating could result in upsetting an infant’s stomach.

Be aware that garlic affects the odor and flavor of your milk, making it less enjoyable for the baby to drink.

Six Food Types That Can Cause Problems or Produce Side Effects

  • Citrus-fruit-drinks Citrus fruits

By and large, citrus fruits will benefit you and your young daughter or son, as they are rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin C. There are some substances in citrus fruits, however, particularly in oranges and tangerines that can act as irritants to the digestive tract if ingested by the baby when it is breastfeeding. Symptoms are generally are limited to a certain amount of fussing on the part of the baby, but in some cases can include diaper rash. Spicy foods, such as those containing a dash or two of jalapeno pepper, can sometimes have the same effect on your baby.

  • Broccoli Cruciferous Vegetables

Added to the list of foods to avoid would be most of the vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae family, including cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, since they contain compounds that, when ingested, can cause excessive gas in your baby’s stomach, which can often be very distressing for a baby. If you were to eat broccoli, for example, which is one of the healthiest of vegetables imaginable, your newborn would share in its nutritional benefits through your milk, but it could also become quite miserable from the effects of the gas it produces, effects which can include colic. It might be wise, therefore, to at least cut back on eating any members of this vegetable family, or eat them cooked, rather than raw.

  • Nuts Tree Nuts and Peanuts

If peanut or tree nut allergies run in your family, you might want to eliminate nuts from your diet while still breastfeeding. If you choose to eat nuts or any other foods that could possibly contain allergens, pay attention to whether or not your baby exhibits any reactions following a meal; such as hives, developing a rash, or wheezing. If there are any reactions, you may find yourself having to selectively cut back on what you eat until you find the source of the problem. It’s worth noting that some babies have allergies but do not begin to display symptoms until they are older, in which case there is little you can do except to avoid those foods that contain allergens.

  • Dairy Products

Some babies are allergic to dairy products or are lactose intolerant. If you eat dairy products while breastfeeding, your child could have an allergic reaction, with two of the more common side effects being eczema and colic. If you were to switch over to soy milk for a time, you might solve the problem, although some babies are allergic to soy as well. It is mostly processed soy, the type that you find in some power bars, that is likely to cause a reaction, however.

  • Caffeine

Caffeine can keep babies awake and also make them restless. Most pediatricians are of the opinion that a cup of coffee a day will do no harm, especially if it is decaf coffee. However, it would be better to breastfeed any baby just before you have your morning cup of coffee rather than just afterward. If you are a heavy coffee drinker, you should seriously consider cutting back and finding a substitute, or at least consider switching over to a decaffeinated blend. Chocolate contains caffeine as well, but not nearly as much.

  • Alcoholic-drinks

There’s nothing in alcohol that’s good for a baby, and if there is alcohol in your bloodstream it will eventually find its way into your baby’s milk. If you are one of those people who enjoy a glass of wine every day, especially red wine which is said to be healthy in smaller amounts, there’s probably no reason to change your habit. As is the case with coffee, it would only make sense to enjoy your glass of wine after breastfeeding, and not just before. If you drink more than a glass of wine a day, or if you drink hard liquor, or if you’re a heavy drinker it’s an entirely different story. If you can’t cut back on your alcohol intake, your infant would probably be far better off being fed from a bottle. As far as foods to avoid while breastfeeding is concerned, alcohol should be at the top of everyone’s list.

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Be Careful with Raw or Undercooked Foods

The above is not a complete listing but does address those areas in which you would be advised to choose your own meals carefully.

The foods you may need to avoid while breastfeeding is not all that large in number.

The biggest problem you may face lies with the foods that contain allergens, and you might not discover which those are until your baby gives some indication that there is something wrong.

Also worth mentioning are raw or undercooked foods, unpasteurized dairy products, or unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juices, any of which could contain salmonella, E. coli, or listeria, and are therefore food items you might consider avoiding.

With the exception of alcohol or excessive amounts of caffeine, many babies, and perhaps most of them, will do just fine if you continue to include citrus fruits, nuts, dairy products, or broccoli in your diet.

If you are on a healthy diet, you are most likely providing your son or daughter with one at the same time, and it will feel little need to complain about what you are eating.

Keeping a Food Log

Food-journal If you’ve been through the breastfeeding routine before, and your baby, or babies, have not experienced any problems, there is probably no reason to keep a food log.

If, on the other hand, your little one at times shows signs of discomfort while breastfeeding, or is developing poor sleeping habits, you might find keeping such a log helpful.

The only way you’re going to be able to influence your baby’s diet while it consists wholly or primarily of the milk from your breast would be to change your own dietary habits.

That sometimes means avoiding or lessening the amount of one or more of the foods you are eating until you find the possible source of the problem.

If you find what’s causing the problem, you may still be able to reintroduce a favorite food of yours in gradual stages.

The main benefit in keeping a log, besides reminding you of what you’ve been eating, is that when more than one food type is causing a problem, you have a log to refer to that can correlate symptoms or side effects your child is experiencing.

If you are nervous about breastfeeding, instead of stopping it completely and going with a bottle, follow the tips presented above and you’ll be off to a good start.

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