Are There Any Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding?
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Are you worried that what you eat may affect your baby? Let’s take a look at some of which foods to avoid while breastfeeding and what better alternatives there is!
In This Guide
For nine months, you carefully avoided deli meat, sushi, hot dogs. unpasteurized cheese and alcohol(and all the other non-pregnancy-friendly foods) to keep baby safe and healthy.
There were so many things you had to steer clear of while your baby was growing inside you, so it’s normal to wonder if there are foods to avoid while nursing. After all, molecules from the food you eat can make their way through your breast milk and into the baby’s system.
But here’s the good news: There really isn’t a list of foods to avoid while breastfeeding.
While there may not be a strict list of breastfeeding foods to avoid completely, there are a few things you may want to cut back on while nursing to keep your milk production levels up and ensure baby is happy and healthy.
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!
Let’s take a look at some of which foods to avoid while breastfeeding and what better alternatives there is!
Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding
As in pregnancy, what you eat while breastfeeding, is key to your baby’s nutrition. So it’s important to continue making healthy choices. Maintaining healthy eating habits while breastfeeding will not only keep you and your baby well nourished, it will also support her developing taste for healthy foods.
However, because a breastfeeding mother is no longer at higher risk for contracting foodborne illnesses, and because your physiology and babies are not nearly as connected as they were when she was in utero, you can now enjoy many of the foods regarded as risky during pregnancy.
Some of the foods a nursing mother can now enjoy include:
- Raw or undercooked eggs, fish, meat, and poultry
- Deli meats, charcuterie and hot dogs (be mindful that these foods are often packed with sodium and nitrates)
- Pâté, meat spreads, smoked seafood and mayonnaise-based salads made in a store, like egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad or seafood salad
- Unpasteurized dairy products, ciders, and store-bought unpasteurized juices
- You can also continue to eat honey, even though your young baby cannot.
Very little of what you eat passes through your breast milk to your baby. However, let’s look at the short list of foods you should avoid, and the reasons why you need to do so:
1 Mercury-Laden Fish
Fish is an essential part of a healthy diet and should be included in your meal plans. That said, you do need to be careful which fish you choose.
Methylmercury is found in foods that certain fish eat and remains in the fish’s body after it is eaten. When a breastfeeding woman then eats these fish, some of the methylmercury passes into her breastmilk and can cause harm to the baby’s developing nervous system and brain.
The larger the fish, the more mercury they are likely to have accumulated, like shark, white tuna, swordfish and king mackerel (source).
The safer choices while you’re breastfeeding include wild salmon, canned light tuna, shrimp, tilapia and sardines. You can now eat a lot of fish that you weren’t allowed to eat while pregnant. This handy chart from the FDA gives you some guidance on which fish you can eat (source).
2 Caffeine And Herbal Drinks
For the coffee lover out there, you’ll be pleased to know you can still get your coffee on, but in moderation. No more than 200-300 milligrams per day, or about 2 or 3 cups of coffee, which is the same restrictions as for when you were pregnant (source).
A small amount of the caffeine can pass to the baby in your milk and they might not tolerate it well. If your baby is wide-eyed, active, alert or fussy, she may be over-stimulated from caffeine.
Remember it’s not just coffee that contains caffeine. Other drinks like hot chocolate, soda, non-herbal teas, medications (like certain headache and migraine medications), and energy drinks contain caffeine as well.
Caffeine begins to affect your body very quickly and reaches a peak level in your blood within 30 to 60 minutes. So it might be worth timing your caffeinated drink to have after you finish a breastfeeding session. That way, after a few hours, when you are ready to breastfeed again, the caffeine in your system will be less (source).
When it comes to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, it’s best to err on the side of caution. We are not going to encouraging you to drink while breastfeeding, but the occasional intake of alcohol in moderation is okay.
The keywords here are “occasional” and “moderation.” If you do enjoy alcohol, know that it clears your breastmilk at the same rate it does your blood. It takes one hour for one unit of alcohol to disperse from your system (source).
A general rule of thumb is to wait 1-2 hours for each drink consumed before resuming breastfeeding. While current research suggests that having 1-2 occasional drinks does not seem to harm the nursing baby, consistent use of alcohol while breastfeeding has been linked to less milk intake by baby, and possible delays in motor skill development at one year (source).
In the past, new moms have been told they should drink Guinness — the dark, Irish beer — to boost their production of breast milk and nourish their newborns. Some studies have drawn a link between a polysaccharide, and an increase in prolactin, the hormone that aids the production of milk from breast tissue (source).
Just the same, alcohol-free beer can have the same effect which may be a better choice if you want to have a drink.
WANT TO REMEMBER THIS?
If you suspect your breastfed baby is reacting to something in your diet, keep a food log to note what you are eating and drinking and along with and any symptoms your baby may have.
A detailed food log will help you identify patterns, and it will help your healthcare provider give you better guidance.