Some nursing moms find they can eat whatever they like. While it’s true that some strongly flavored foods may change the taste of your milk, most babies seem to enjoy a variety of breast milk flavors! Generally, the dominant flavors of your diet – whether soy sauce or chili peppers – were in your amniotic fluid during pregnancy.
Fetuses swallow a fair amount of amniotic fluid before birth, so when they taste those flavors again in their mother’s breast milk, they’re already accustomed to them.
Occasionally a baby will be fussy at the breast or gassy after you eat a particular food. If you notice a pattern, avoid that food for a few days. To test whether that food really was the cause, reintroduce it once and see if there’s an effect.
Foods to avoid while breastfeeding
Mothers report that babies most often object to these foods:
- spices (cinnamon, garlic, curry, chili pepper)
- citrus fruits and their juices, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit
- the “gassy” veggies (onion, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, and peppers)
- fruits with a laxative effect, such as cherries and prunes
A daily cup or two of coffee is fine, but too much caffeine can interfere with your baby’s sleep or make him fussy. Remember that caffeine is also found in some sodas, teas, and over-the-counter medicines.
It’s also okay to have an occasional alcoholic drink, but having more than one drink increases your blood alcohol level to the point that the alcoholgets into your milk. If you plan on having more than one drink at a time, wait two hours per drink before resuming nursing (or nurse, then have your glass of wine). There’s no need to pump and dump unless your breasts are full and it’s still not time to feed your baby.
Moderate or heavy drinking is definitely not recommended while breastfeeding. An old wive’s tale suggests that dark beer increases milk production, but recent studies suggest this is not true and that alcohol, in fact, reduces milk production.
If your baby has allergy symptoms (such as eczema, fussiness, congestion, or diarrhea), they may be caused by something he’s in regular contact with, such as soap, mildew, or foods he’s eating himself. Or he may be reacting to foods you eat that get into his system via your breast milk. It usually requires a bit of detective work to figure out exactly what’s causing the sensitivity.
If you think that something you’re eating is causing problems for your baby, it’s usually something you’ve eaten two to six hours before feeding. The most common culprits include cows’ milk products, followed by soy, wheat, egg, nuts, and corn or corn syrup.
Talk to your baby’s doctor before you omit any foods from your diet. If avoiding a food could cause a nutritional imbalance (for example, if you eliminate all dairy products), you may need to see a nutritionist for advice on substituting other foods or taking nutritional supplements. Continue taking your prenatal vitamin as long as your baby’s fully breastfed to cover any gaps in your own diet.
Editor’s note: For more information, see our chart on common breast milk interactions.