Last Updated on February 9, 2023
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “You are what you eat,” but it rings true when breastfeeding. If your diet is filled with foods that can harm your baby, they will also get into your breast milk and pass it to the child through nursing. It’s important to limit some specific foods while breastfeeding because they could affect the quality of milk production and even cause a decrease in milk supply. This article talks about 10 foods to avoid when breastfeeding. So, check it out!
1. Cow’s milk/Cow’s milk protein
Dairy foods are the first ones which should be eliminated from your diet while breastfeeding. Cow’s milk protein and lactose (a type of sugar found in dairy products) can cause food allergies in a breastfed baby, which could be life-threatening if not treated immediately because they negatively affect the baby’s immune system.
Nut milk is the best substitute if you need a suggestion to have a healthy diet without consuming cow’s milk. Different types of nut milk are available on the market these days, and they are easier to find in any supermarket. As you may know, they are almonds, hazelnuts, cashew nuts or macadamia. Unlike cow’s milk which has high protein and fat content, nut’s milk is made of water, nut pulp (almonds), natural sweeteners and flavourings like vanilla extract and coconut nectars.
It should be noted that it does not contain lactose, so you can drink as much as you want without causing constipation in newborns and risk of allergies. Nut milk is also an excellent option for vegan mothers since it contains no cholesterol and can be used in cereal or by itself.
2. Peanut-based foods
Peanut is one of the top food allergens around the world. If you are breastfeeding, there is no harm in avoiding peanut-based foods to reduce/prevent food allergies for your baby. This is even more critical if breastfeeding mums know somebody in her family suffers from this problem.
The substance in peanuts that causes food allergies is called Ara h. This substance is not absorbed into the digestive system; it goes directly into the mother’s milk. When a baby consumes this Ara h through breastfeeding, he/she might develop a peanut allergy later in life. Only consider eating peanuts if you know the two latest generations of your family don’t have any allergic reactions.
3. Energy drinks
Energy drinks are not recommended for breastfeeding mums because of artificial sweeteners and other harmful ingredients like erythritol and aspartame. These things are known to have adverse effects on the mother’s health and also cause damage to the baby through the mother’s breast milk. For example, artificial sugar is not food for babies, so it can’t be digested properly by them, which can lead to excessive crying in infants.
If you are craving sweet drinks, think of citrus fruits and their juices. They are one of the best breastfeeding foods which are beneficial to the baby’s body. These citrus juices like orange, pomelo or grapefruits carry a high amount of fibre and vitamins, which help mothers stay away from dehydration and constipation while giving a good energy boost at the same time.
The amount of caffeine intake varies depending on the types of drink you have. Coffee, soda, water or strong green tea are the ones you should limit to maintain a balanced diet. You might have had two or three cups of coffee or tea before, but you should reduce that amount when breastfeeding a newborn. For better breast milk production and quality, try to replace them with herbal teas full of calming ingredients like chamomile, peppermint, ginger, lemongrass or lavender.
In case you find it too hard to give up on delicious and addictive cups of latte or cappuccino, you can always have decaffeinated filter coffee or instant coffee if possible! That way, you’ll still be able to drink your favourite beverage, but it won’t affect your milk production and quality as much as before.
5. Spicy foods
Traditionally, there are certain foods to avoid while breastfeeding, and spicy foods are one of them. To a breastfeeding mum, spicy food can irritate the stomach and intestine lining, which could lead to bowel problems like diarrhoea. Having this kind of food too much may cause gas and bloating that could affect your milk supply as well.
If you find yourself constantly dealing with a runny nose while eating some particular food, the high chance is that they are spicy dishes. For example, spicy chilli peppers can trigger the release of histamines in your body, resulting in an oncoming stuffy or runny nose. Chilli peppers are not the only spicy foods to avoid while breastfeeding. You should be cautious of certain dishes like wasabi and horseradish that also contain a lot of capsicum, which can cause similar symptoms when consumed too much.
Although they are not too dangerous for either mother or child, it certainly isn’t great for baby growth. Babies could suffer from food intolerance, tummy pain or even disease like asthma. Besides the common spicy dishes, there is nothing wrong with serving healthy veggies and legumes in your breastfeeding diet. Your baby may find the breast milk is tastier.
6. Highly-processed foods
Your healthcare professional will advise you to limit all highly-processed foods to support your baby’s development. You should not take any canned or processed meat products like canned tuna or meat because they usually contain high levels of sodium which will be dangerous for both mother and baby’s health. In addition, canned food is high in preservatives and has very low nutritional value.
The ultimate way for breastfeeding mothers to get enough vitamin D, A, B, C and other essential minerals is by having a varied diet full of fresh veggies, wholegrain cereals and meat, which are more friendly for infant development.
7. High mercury fish
If breastfeeding mums eat fish like mackerel, tuna, cod or swordfish, they should consider cutting them off. You should avoid high-mercury fish because they can cause damage to the baby’s brain and nervous system.
In general, the bigger the fish, the higher amount of mercury it contains. Some low-mercury fish recommended are sardine, salmon or herring, which can provide a good amount of Omega-3 fatty oils, proteins and other nutrients. These are all great food that a breastfeeding newborn needs for brain development.
8. Strongly-flavored foods
The mother’s diet has an impact on the baby’s health, which can lead to weight issues, allergies and certain diseases. It is important that the baby gets only breast milk for at least six months after birth; therefore, it is necessary to watch out for what the mother eats in order not to deprive the baby of nutrients needed for proper growth.
Due to cooking habits, there is frequent exposure to strongly-flavoured food in your daily meals that you may not even notice. Too much garlic, onion or spices in curry is the most obvious example of making breast milk taste bad. The sign of food intolerance, in this case, is you may have a “toilet date” after a few hours of eating. So better avoid these ingredients when breastfeeding a newborn.
There are plenty of delicious recipes with neutral flavours like soups, salads or roasted meat and veggies, which you can prepare without using spices and other strong ingredients.
9. Alcoholic drinks
While tracking pregnancy, doctors not only tell you how much alcohol you could have as an occasional drink but also suggest giving up on it. There is no exception when you are breastfeeding.
Alcoholic drink contains a lot of calories but mostly carbohydrates and sugar, which mums should avoid while breastfeeding because they will be putting on weight instead of losing the extra baby fat that is very important for your health and self-confidence during this period. In addition, the baby’s health system will find it hard to deal with and cause problems like upset tummy and diarrhoea. For your baby’s long-term health benefits, do not drink alcohol.
10. Unhealthy fats
They are quite rampant in the modern diet and are found in some pretty surprising places. They are found in fried foods such as French fries or onion rings because of their high frying temperature requiring a longer deep fry time at lower temperatures. They are also often added to baked goods like muffins, cakes, and doughnuts.
Foods high in unhealthy fats can make your milk taste bad and may cause irritation to the baby. Saturated fatty acids in butter or coconut oil are good for baby brain development but should be consumed in limited quantities because they could cause digestive problems due to their strong flavour.
A safer oil to eat while breastfeeding is olive oil. It contains good fats with a mild taste better accepted by babies than saturated ones. Other foods that contain good fats are nuts like walnuts, almonds and macadamia. They are a good addition to your salads or smoothie bowls. If your toddler is getting solid foods as well as breast milk, and it is hard for you to find baby products with good fat, try some avocados and oily fish.
For mothers who are breastfeeding, there is no doubt that the food they eat is very important. However, women in different cultures have different habits about what to eat when breastfeeding and what to avoid.
Some women prefer not to drink milk, while others love it so much that they might even go back for seconds or thirds. Some people can’t handle chillies, but others love to sprinkle some on their stewing beef. There’s no one-size fits all answer on whether you should be having rice with your meal or pasta instead because everybody reacts differently to certain things like fats, carbs, and sugars. etc.
If in doubt, just ask your health visitor if you have any further questions. They will provide the medical advice and nutrition knowledge that you need.
Sources and References
- 5 Foods to Limit or Avoid While Breastfeeding – healthline.com
- Breastfeeding Nutrition: Tips For Moms – mayoclinic.org
Sophie is a former primary school teacher and passionate about parenting. She enjoys writing, reading, cooking, and making memories with her family.