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What Not to Eat While Breastfeeding

What NOT to eat while breastfeeding 

Estimated read time: 13 minutes

Ever wonder what foods to avoid while breastfeeding? 

You’ve had a beautiful baby and you have started your breastfeeding journey. Congrats mama. We’re so happy for you.

When you’re pregnant, you spend so much time researching what to eat and what food to avoid while pregnant, and you’re always hearing advice from midwives, doctors, friends, and your Aunt Susan about what you should be including (and excluding) from your diet.

But, what about when your baby arrives? Are there foods to avoid while breastfeeding? What about food that could contribute to colic or allergies? And what about caffeine? Can you still guzzle down your favorite Starbucks order?

Don’t worry Milk Maker. We’ve got you. 

Let’s have a look at what foods not to eat while breastfeeding, and why you should avoid them if you can. 

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Does what I eat affect my breast milk?

It’s a myth that breastmilk is made directly from what you eat. 

Breastmilk is made in your breasts, and not from what you ate at dinner. The fact is when you eat or drink, what you consume is broken down into teeny-tiny components, which are absorbed into your blood. When these components get to the capillaries near your breast tissue, they move through the cells into your milk, which is called diffusion.

There are many factors that influence whether something enters your milk, or how much of it. Diffusion allows things like antibodies to go into your milk, but because breastmilk is a living substance that evolves to meet the needs of your baby, it contains a bunch of amazing nutrients and factors that cannot be replicated and can’t be changed based on your diet.

Now, it’s true that some foods can change the taste of your breastmilk, such as garlic, chili, or soy sauce. This can be a positive thing, as it helps your little one get used to new tastes before they start weaning, and some babies might already be used to these flavors through the amniotic fluid they would have swallowed while in your beautiful belly.

Foods to eat and enjoy while breastfeeding

OK mama. Before we look at what not to eat while breastfeeding, let’s take a look at the best foods to enjoy while you’re nursing on demand.

First things first. You don’t need to go on any special diet while you’re breastfeeding, but it is a good idea for what you’re eating to be nutritionally balanced.

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A healthy breastfeeding diet includes:

  • Lots of fruit and veggies
  • Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, cereals, and bread labeled “wholegrain,” “wholemeal,” or “wholewheat”
  • Potatoes
  • Cous Cous
  • Lean protein such as chicken and lean beef
  • Fish (low mercury)
  • Eggs
  • Pulses and lentils
  • Healthy fats including olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados
  • Oily fish 
  • Calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, sesame seeds, and leafy green vegetables

Vitamin D is an important nutrient as it’s essential for healthy bones (both for you and your baby). If you don’t get enough sun exposure, speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement. 

Remember Milk Maker, when you breastfeed, it’s totally normal to feel hungrier and thirstier more often. It uses up more calories than usual and raises your metabolic rate to become more efficient while nursing. 

This might mean you want to eat and drink everything in sight, but just be aware chowing down on calorie-laden foods, even when you’re craving them, could still cause you to put on a few pounds. If you’re feeling the hunger then fill up on healthy, nutritious food that will keep you fuller for longer and add extra vitamins and nutrients into your diet.

Keep a bottle or tumbler of water close by so you can quench your thirst whenever you need it. 

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What foods to avoid while breastfeeding

The good news is, you don’t need to eat special foods to breastfeed your little one. And you don’t need to eat any particular food to increase your supply as milk production is determined by the amount of milk removed from each of your breasts.

Think about cluster feeding. This tends to happen when a baby is going through a growth spurt and they never seem to get off your Boobies.

While this can be a real pain, they’re actually sending a message to your Titties to make more milk to keep up with their needs.

In general, no foods are off-limits, but you should stick to a well-balanced and varied diet to provide all the vitamins and goodness you and your baby need to thrive.

However, there is some food and drink you should try to limit or avoid while breastfeeding, so let’s take a look at those.

Here’s what’s not to eat while breastfeeding:

1. Fish high in mercury

While fish is a brilliant source of DHA and EPA (two types of omega-3 fatty acids that are important for brain development), there are some fish that are high in mercury. Mercury can be toxic, especially to those who are sensitive to mercury poisoning.  

Some fish that are high in mercury and should be avoided while breastfeeding includes:

  • Marlin
  • Shark
  • Bigeye tuna
  • King mackerel
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish 

If these fish are usually in your diet, try swapping them out with low-mercury fish.

2. Alcohol

While the CDC recommends abstaining from alcohol while breastfeeding, the occasional drink is unlikely to harm your little one.

The amount of alcohol your baby can get from your milk depends on how much you drink and when you drink it. Studies have shown that the amount of alcohol peaks in your milk between half an hour to an hour after your last drink, and it can stay in your system for up to three hours.

High levels of alcohol have also been shown to reduce your milky output by 20%, and frequent excessive alcohol intake has been linked to disrupted sleep and even cognitive delay later in life.

That’s why the CDC recommends limiting your alcohol intake to one standard drink per day and waiting two hours before you breastfeed. 

3. Highly processed foods

Highly processed foods are something what not to eat while breastfeeding. They are generally higher in calories, bad fats, and added sugars while being low in the good stuff such as fiber, minerals, and vitamins, so it’s a good idea to avoid these while nursing your little one.

There has also been some research that suggests what you eat while breastfeeding can influence your child’s food preferences as they grow up.

4. Some herbal supplements

When it comes to herbal supplements and teas, there is a lack of research on women who are breastfeeding, and herbal supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA.

As most herbal supplements haven’t been evaluated for their safety during breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements or herbal teas, just to be on the safe side. 

Speaking of herbs, try to avoid parsley and peppermint if you can as they come with the risk of reducing your supply.

5. Citrus

Although delicious and refreshing, citrus fruits, and some of the compounds found in them, can be irritating to your baby’s immature GI tract. This can cause some spitting up, diaper rash, and fussiness. 

Try chowing down on some pineapple or mango instead, which still contain lots of vitamin C.

Breastfeeding and Allergies

When it comes to allergies or intolerances, there isn’t really a way of knowing if your little one has them until they develop an obvious reaction.

If you find that your baby develops a strong reaction every time you have dairy or gluten, for example, it can be a good idea to eliminate it from your diet to see if it helps. Speak to your doctor about keeping a food diary to identify if a pattern of fussy behavior, colic, or other reactions emerges every time you eat a particular food. 

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Can I have caffeine while breastfeeding?

When you’re up all day and all night with a hungry, snuffly newborn, caffeine can seem like your best friend.

Soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate are all sources of caffeine, and when you guzzle them, some caffeine can wind up in your milk. Although the amount passed onto your baby is generally too small to have any adverse effects, there are some babies who are more sensitive to caffeine, including preemies and newborns. 

So, how much caffeine can you have while breastfeeding?

Don’t worry Breastie, you don’t have to quit your favorite latte cold turkey. The CDC recommends consuming no more than 300mg of caffeine per day when breastfeeding, which is about two or three cups of coffee. 

If you notice that your baby is more fussy, irritable, hyper, or wide awake after you’ve had your morning coffee, it might be a good idea to cut back and see if you notice an improvement.

How long after drinking coffee can I breastfeed?

Try timing your coffee or tea consumption so you’re not drinking it right before you nurse or pump. According to La Leche League, it takes about one to two hours for the caffeine to pass through to your baby through your milk, so enjoy a cup right after you’ve fed your little one. This way, the caffeine will have worked its way out of your system before you have to Whip a Titty out again.

 

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Have your cake and eat it too mama

The most important thing to remember when breastfeeding is to feed yourself well. Eat the food that you want but fill up on delicious (and nutritious) meals and snacks that will keep you satisfied and give you and your little one all the goodness you both need to thrive and feel your best. 

But now you know what not to eat while breastfeeding, and what’s OK to have in moderation, you can enjoy eating while your little one enjoys your magic milk. 

So eat up mama. Eat well, live well, and keep on Boobin’!

 

At Titty City Design, we believe that every boobie is beautiful, and that should be celebrated. We are a female-owned and operated, small business here to spread self-love and body positivity with our line of boob apparel, boob accessories, and boob-themed decor and products for the home. A portion of our proceeds goes to help support postpartum people and breast cancer patients.

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