Is It Safe to Eat Garlic When You're Breastfeeding?

How It Affects Your Breast Milk and Your Baby

Bulbs of Garlic on a Wooden Surface
If your baby tolerates garlic, add a little to your everyday recipes. Multi-bits/Photolibrary/Getty Images

A Little About Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a commonly used ingredient found in many recipes all over the world. It's also been used throughout history for its medical benefits.

The actual origin of garlic is not known. However, the use of garlic dates back at least 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. It was found in King Tut’s tomb, and there are records of its use in ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese medicine.

Garlic has been used as food, a dietary supplement, and a medical herb. It was even believed to ward off vampires.

Garlic contains vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It is also made up of sulfur compounds, which are responsible for most of its beneficial health properties and, of course, its strong odor. Over the centuries, garlic has been taken to treat infection, swelling, and problems with digestion.

How Garlic Affects Your Breast Milk and Your Baby

When you eat garlic, it does travel into your breast milk, and it can change the smell and taste of your breast milk. Some babies like the taste of garlic and are not at all bothered by it. But, others may become fussy and irritated.

For infants that suffer from colic, garlic is one of the foods that may contribute to that condition. If you believe garlic is causing issues for your child, you may want to try eliminating it from your diet for a while to see if it makes any difference.

However, if you and your baby tolerate garlic well, then eating garlic in moderation can be very beneficial to your health and your breast milk supply.

Garlic and Your Breast Milk Supply

Garlic is believed to be a galactagogue, and it has been used for many years as an herbal treatment to stimulate breast milk production and increase the supply of breast milk.

When studied, it was observed that when nursing mothers consumed garlic, their infants stayed at the breast and breastfed longer. And, since an increase in breastfeeding can lead to an increase in the breast milk supply, this may be one of the reasons garlic is associated with making more breast milk.  

How to Use Garlic To Make More Breast Milk

You can easily add one or two cloves of garlic into your everyday diet through the foods that you eat. You can use it to flavor a variety of dishes including vegetables, meat, pasta, and seafood.

Just remember, like everything else, you should eat garlic in moderation. And, you should not take garlic supplements or high doses of garlic that are meant to be used for medical purposes unless it is prescribed by a doctor or knowledgeable herbal specialist.

The Health Benefits of Garlic

Lactation: In addition to helping increase the supply of breast milk for nursing mothers, it has also been suggested that babies who like the taste of garlic in the breast milk latch on and breastfeed very well.

Digestive Health: Garlic is beneficial for the digestive tract.

Heart Health: Garlic dilates blood vessels so it can help lower blood pressure. It is also used to lower cholesterol, thin the blood, and decrease the risk of heart attack.

Anti-Infective: Garlic has been used to treat bacterial and viral infections.

Anti-Fungal: Eating garlic might help prevent an overgrowth of yeast when taking a course of antibiotics. It may also give your immune system a boost to help you fight off thrush.

Other Benefits: Garlic may be useful in the treatment of colds, insomnia, asthma, and cancer.

Warnings and Side Effects of Garlic When You're Breastfeeding

  • Garlic can be dangerous if it is given directly to a baby. The only way your child should receive the benefits of garlic is through your breast milk.
  • Garlic can be irritating to some women and some infants. If you or your baby do not tolerate garlic well, stop using it.
  • Garlic can lower your blood sugar levels. If you suffer from hypoglycemia or diabetes, avoid using too much garlic.
  • The overuse of garlic can thin your blood. Be careful if you're taking anticoagulant medication (blood thinners).

Garlic: Summing It All Up

Garlic has been called the cure-all, and it is certainly an overall healthy addition to your breastfeeding diet. However, you should only consume garlic through the foods that you eat, and you shouldn't take garlic supplements unless you are under the care of a doctor or nutritional specialist.

Garlic is an ingredient in so many recipes that you'll probably get at least some garlic in your diet while you're breastfeeding. If you and your baby tolerate it without any issues, there is no need to try to avoid it. However, if you notice that your child develops colic-like symptoms after you have a meal that includes garlic, you may want to see if eliminating garlic from your diet is helpful. 

 

Sources:

Briggs, Gerald G., Roger K. Freeman, and Sumner J. Yaffe. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation: A Reference Guide to Fetal and Neonatal Risk. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2012.

Humphrey, Sheila, BSC, RN, IBCLC. The Nursing Mother’s Herbal. Fairview Press. Minneapolis. 2003.

Jacobson, Hilary. Mother Food. Rosalind Press. 2004

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior. Pediatric Research. 1993 Dec 1;34(6):805-8.

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