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Diet,  Health Concerns

The Facts on What Not to Eat While Breastfeeding

A pregnant mother suffers from two things: diets and cravings. Pregnant women are faced with possibly the most rigorous dieting they have ever attempted. This time, something (or rather, someone) is clearly at stake: for a healthy baby, dieting is of paramount importance.

Unfortunately, the end of pregnancy is not a green light to abandon your diet for your normal 10 cups of coffee, 3 bars of chocolate, and everyday sushi set. You still need to think of what goes through your milk and into your baby’s body. Because of this, it is important for you to know exactly what not to eat while breastfeeding.

The Facts on What Not to Eat While Breastfeeding

There are two reasons that a mother should regulate the kind of foods she is taking in while breastfeeding. The first is for nutrition reasons. The wonder of mother’s milk is that it automatically has certain levels of nutrients it gives to the baby no matter what the mother is taking in. It even regulates most vitamins so that a mother can raise her vitamin levels without endangering her baby’s intake.

According to Dr Katherine Dettwyler, breast milk quality is not dependent on what the mother is eating at the moment. Breastfeeding mothers all over the world give practically the same qualities of milk, no matter the differences in the diets.

Of course, there are some requirements. A mother should be eating a well-balanced diet, so she will not need any extra supplements. There are also some foods that should not be over-indulged in because the content can be harmful to the baby. The kind of fat contained in the milk, for example, needs to be watched by the mother.

The second reason for a mother to regulate her food intake is her baby’s comfort. Some babies react badly to foods their parents (or close relatives) have a history of allergies to. Some babies are sensitive to caffeine, to citrus fruits, to certain vegetables, and so forth. Mothers who avoid these foods do so for peace of mind.

What should mothers absolutely NOT do while breastfeeding? Go on a diet (reduce their calorie intake). If a pregnant mother eats for 2, a breastfeeding mother needs to eat at least 200 calories past that. The body is working 24/7 to produce milk for the baby, and it needs to constantly synthesize fluids and nutrients for that purpose.

What Not to Eat While Breastfeeding

For Baby’s Health

For baby’s health, research your family’s medical backgrounds. If there are any foods either of the parents’ families are traditionally or historically allergic to, avoid those. The last thing you need is for your baby to have an allergic reaction even if neither of his or her parents are allergic to that food. Some common allergens are found in peanuts and dairy products.

Another food breastfeeding mothers need to be careful around is fish. This holds whether the fish is in sushi form, grilled, smoked,  fried, or canned. As fish grow older, they have a longer time in which to accumulate mercury in their bodies. That mercury content is eaten with the fish, and cannot be flash-frozen or fried out of it.

Mercury in high amounts becomes a neurotoxin, causing mercury poisoning. The neurotoxin may cause tingling all over the body, loss of feeling in some extremities (fingers, toes, arms, legs), and some losses in the senses of hearing and sight. Fish to avoid are swordfish, mackerel, tilefish, and tuna.

If you are thinking of taking vitamins A & E through supplements instead of food, beware that these supplements are fat-soluble. In other words, they will distribute themselves wherever there is fat content in your body. The breast is one of those places. If too much of these vitamins find their ways into breast milk, they may harm the baby.

For Baby’s Comfort

Unless the food is an allergen you know about, unfortunately you cannot know what your baby might or might not react to. However, there are some basic culprits you can immediately check for if your baby becomes fussy or has a bad reaction after breastfeeding.

Chocolate Products

For some reason, some babies strongly object to this food. Although the caffeine content is minimal and the sugar content slight (in dark chocolate), it can make babies restless. In some cases, the babies are unable to sleep at their normal times.

Strong Spices

Babies are also sensitive to spices that, to them, are strong-tasting. These include chili peppers, garlic, curry, cinnamon, onions, and ginger. When mixed with food, these spices enter the mother’s body and then the breast milk in trace amounts. The baby may respond through restlessness, or even through vomiting or diarrhea.

Certain Vegetables

These vegetables have a tendency to cause gas in those who eat them. They include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, and different kinds of pepper. Babies may also get restless and react badly to these vegetables.

Certain Citrus Fruits

While they are good sources of vitamin C, citrus fruits are slightly acidic as well. Oranges, limes, grapefruits, lemons, and their direct extracts (juices) can cause restlessness and reactions in the breastfeeding baby.

How Can You Know What Your Baby Reacts To?

Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb on what not to eat while breastfeeding. After all, the foods outlined are basic spices or often make up the staples of a balanced diet. The best advice would be to stay aware of your baby’s reactions. If he or she seems to be reacting badly after breastfeeding, trace back the food you ate and lay off for a few weeks. You can then test the food to see if it was the reason, and adjust your diet accordingly.

Why Ask A Lactation Consultant What Not To Eat While Breastfeeding?

Lactation consultants are equipped to provide clinical expertise and advice on any and everything related to breastfeeding. That is, after all, their specialty. If in doubt, consult your local IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) on which foods would best suit your baby’s health and development. IBCLCs can also advise you on when and how to enjoy the foods you like without stressing your baby.


  • Kimberly

    I’m sorry, but as an IBCLC this article is upsetting to me. You’ve just listed a lot of foods for moms to worry about unnecessarily. In general, moms do not need to restrict their foods at all. There are no studies to show this foods should be limited. Please research before posting such a long list of foods to avoid. Articles like this deter moms from breastfeeding, because limiting all of these things is not realistic for mothers. It’s just false.

  • Dominique

    Well you just gave moms one more reason why they shouldn’t breastfeed. Who is going to take the time to restrict their diet unnecessarily? Please proved the EVIDENCE for your blog post.

  • Shannon

    Please stop this nonsense. Babies are just little people, and there are many reasons why they may be fussy or unsettled, but there’s no evidence these foods are ever the culprits. Provide evidence based information if your goal is to help future LCs.

  • Jan

    Julie Menella, who has done a lot of research on foods/breastfeeding, found that babies actually took more milk when the mother ate garlic. Much of what is here sounds like the olde tales from back in the day — you’ve taken it a step further than I heard about over 40 years ago! No chocolate? In all the women I have counseled — many thousands in 30+ years — I had ONE mom, just one, whose baby was sensitive to chocolate. And that mom ate a lot of it.

    She should eat whatever she wants to eat when she is hungry, and drink whatever she would like when she is thirsty, and unless the baby is having issues — THEN the IBCLC can explore dietary concerns with her. And generally, the first question that should be asked is, “Are there any foods you crave and eat a lot of….”