What foods can I eat while I am breastfeeding ?

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    This is a question I get asked at every breastfeeding class I teach and I think it is because during pregnancy there are dietary restrictions and women wonder if they apply to breastfeeding. However, luckily for us, the breasts are much more efficient at filtering toxins etc… than the placenta is so there are no specific dietary restrictions, the runny cheeses and raw eggs etc.. are all back on the menu.

    I encourage breastfeeding mums to eat what they like, obviously to have a well balanced diet etc… but there is no need to be avoiding foods. This makes sense from a biological standpoint because as a species we are meant to be breastfeeding for a long period of time (longer than the nine months of pregnancy) so it would be a major of a design flaw if women had to maintain a complicated diet for a up to 2 – 3 years while they are breastfeeding!

    However in the 10 or so years that I have been helping mums with breastfeeding I have picked up a few thoughts and ideas about food and breastfeeding and I thought I would pass them on. Unfortunately the first one is about chocolate (sorry!). Often a breastfeeding mum feels like the gloves are off when it comes to calories and this is pretty much true but chocolate taken in copious amounts can irritate a breastfed baby and make them cranky, so moderation is advised. Or as one of the women in my breastfeeding class said "I better eat loads now while I am still pregnant", you go girl!.

    Also if you have not been taking caffeine during the pregnancy then re-introduce to the diet slowly as your baby is not used to it. Now let’s de-bunk a few myths; there is plenty of advice suggesting eliminating spicy foods or foods that could cause wind such as onions, broccoli, beans, brown bread or citrus fruits but in my experience I don’t believe these cause problems for the majority of babies. Besides if you end up eliminating all these foods you are left with precious little to eat, and there is one thing that is definite about breastfeeding – you get really hungry!!

    I also hear about women drinking copious amounts of milk in order to make milk, this is not correct at all, your body will make milk regardless of what your diet is.

    However if your baby is showing signs of colic; long periods of crying, distended abdomen, difficulty in passing wind then it is possible that the baby is sensitive to something the mum is eating. If the baby is having these symptoms this is when it is important to assess the mother’s diet and do some food elimination.

    The most common food sensitivity that babies have is to dairy products and it may be worth eliminating dairy products from your diet for 5-6 days to see if the symptoms improve. A lot of babies find dairy products in the mother’s diet difficult to cope with and if a mother contacts me with these colic symptoms this is the first step I advise. If it improves then it is possible that the baby has either a food sensitivity to dairy products or possibly even an allergy to it. This can be evaluated more thoroughly when the baby is about 6 months with skin tests. If the baby’s symptoms don’t improve then I recommend the mother eliminate wheat products from her diet as well as dairy and again for the 5-6 days. If there is improvement then the baby is either sensitive to wheat or sensitive to wheat and dairy, so then next thing to do is put dairy back into the mothers diet and see what happens. If the baby reverts back to colic symptoms then it is most likely that it is both the wheat and dairy. If the baby doesn’t revert to the colic symptoms then it is just the wheat.

    The reason I am describing this process is because it demonstrates that eliminating food from a mother’s diet shouldn’t be done at random because then you don’t know what is working or not. It is also to illustrate that not every mother/baby pair needs to eliminate foods from the diet, it only needs to be done if the baby is showing food sensitivity symptoms. And figuring out a food sensitivity is a bit of a detective game and it can take a while to get to the root of the problem.

    So back to the original question: Are there any foods I should avoid when breastfeeding? The short answer is NO, eat everything you want to and then if your baby is having colic then we can look at the diet, but most babies do just fine with their mother’s milk just the way it is!!!
    Hope that helps and happy breastfeeding to all!!
    Clare Boyle, BSc, RM, IBCLC


    Good to know.
    When I was breastfeeding I stopped because I was at a wedding and wanted to drink few glasses of wine (3, 4 max) and did not know, when and for how long the alcohol would be in my milk.
    If I knew then, I would have express and throw it, until milk safe again, but did not know and gave up breastfeeding all together. Baby was about 9 months.



    Great advice!!!


    I ate what anything i wanted, i never ate peanuts while bf, but everything else was fine… i did try to eat high protien foods to fatten up my milk

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