What Not to Eat When You're Breastfeeding

The Foods You Should Limit or Avoid

Close-Up Of Served French Fries And Beer
Try to limit the amount of alcohol and fried, fatty foods you consume. Vulcain David Vincent / EyeEm / Getty Images

What Shouldn't You Eat When You're Breastfeeding?

As a breastfeeding mom, you can pretty much eat anything you want. If you have an overall healthy, well-balanced diet, then you don't have to stop eating any of the foods that you enjoy just because you're breastfeeding. However, there are some things you should limit while you're nursing your baby. Here are six types of foods you should limit or avoid altogether when you're breastfeeding.

#1. Alcohol

When you drink alcohol, it travels through your body and into your breast milk. A glass of wine with dinner or one drink with your friends is fine if it's once in a while. However, if you're having more than just an occasional drink, not only can it decrease your supply of breast milk supply and affect your let-down reflex, but it can also reach your baby through your milk. Exposure to alcohol through breast milk can be very dangerous to your child's health and development.

#2. Seafood That's High in Mercury 

If you consume too much mercury in your diet, it can cause problems with the development of your baby's nervous system. Mercury is found in fish, and some fish such as shark, swordfish, albacore tuna, and king mackerel contain greater amounts of mercury than other fish. 

However, just because there's more mercury in some fish than others, it doesn't mean that you should avoid eating fish entirely.

Fish and other types of seafood are an important source of protein, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and omega-3 fatty acids. So, avoid the ones that have higher concentrations of mercury and continue to enjoy safer seafood options such as salmon, pollock, tilapia, flounder, catfish, shrimp, scallops, and crab approximately 2 or 3 times a week.

#3. Foods and Drinks With Caffeine 

It's OK to have one or two cups of coffee or other beverage that contains caffeine each day. But, keep in mind that if you're taking in too much more than that, it can cause a drop in your supply of breast milk. Caffeine also enters your breast milk, and excessive caffeine could cause jitters, irritability, sleep issues, and symptoms of colic in your baby. It's not just coffee, either. Caffeine can be found in tea, soda, and chocolate, too. 

#4. Fatty Meats and Fried Foods

Bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deep fried foods, and cold cuts are high in saturated fats and salt. These foods don't give you the nutrients you need while you're breastfeeding, and they can cause weight gain. Have a little bit, but don't overdo it.

#5. Junk Food 

Candy, sweets, and desserts taste great, but only have them once in a while. These treats are just empty calories, not the kind of healthy calories that you need while you're breastfeeding. You can enjoy some chips, a cookie, or some ice cream every so often, but moderation is the key.

You shouldn't be reaching for these as your go-to everyday snacks.

#6. Certain Herbs and Spices 

Using a little bit of the following herbs and spices to flavor your food will not cause any issues. But, if you use sage, rosemary, thyme, spearmint, peppermint, and parsley in large amounts, you may see a decrease in your supply of breast milk.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Little RE., Anderson KW., Ervin CH., Worthington-Robers B., and Clarren SK. Maternal Alcohol Use During Breast-Feeding and Infant Mental and Motor Development at One Year. New England Journal of Medicine. 1989; 321: 425-430.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nutritional Needs While Breastfeeding. ChooseMyPlate.gov. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/moms-breastfeeding-nutritional-needs. Updated January 7, 2016. Accessed June 17, 2016. 

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