What Not to Eat When You're Breastfeeding

The Foods to Limit or Avoid

Cheeseburger with French Fries and Glass of Beer, Close Up
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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. Of course, it's only natural to worry about your diet now that you're making breast milk for your child. The good news is that there are only a few things that you have to be mindful of while you're breastfeeding.

What Not to Eat (or Drink) When You're Breastfeeding

Even though you can enjoy almost anything while you're breastfeeding, 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 until after you wean your child from the breast.

  1. Alcohol: When you drink alcohol, it travels through your body and into your breast milk. A glass of wine with dinner or a drink or two 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. ​​Repeated 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 while you're breastfeeding. 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 but continue to enjoy safer seafood options such as salmon, pollock, tilapia, flounder, catfish, shrimp, scallops, and crab approximately 2 or 3 times a week.
  1. 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 is another substance that goes into 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. So, if you have a few cups of coffee, a soda, and some chocolate, the caffeine can add up quickly without even realizing it. 
  1. 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. Plus, they can cause weight gain. It's certainly OK to have a little bit, but don't overdo it.
  2. Junk Food: Candy, sweets, and desserts taste great, but you should only have them once in a while. These treats are just empty calories. They're not the kind of healthy calories that you need while you're breastfeeding. You can enjoy chips, cookies, and ice cream every so often, but moderation is the key. You shouldn't be reaching for these as your go-to everyday snacks.
  3. Certain Herbs and Spices: Some herbs and spices are believed to decrease the supply of breast milk and help dry up the breast milk for women who aren't breastfeeding or those who are weaning. 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 dip in your milk supply.

A Word from Verywell

Women all over the world make quality breast milk for their children on all kinds of diets.

You don't have to eat perfectly to make a healthy breast milk supply. So, while you want to try to eat a balanced diet, don't beat yourself up if you aren't the best eater. Do what you can to get the calories you need every day and try to limit or avoid the above foods as much as possible. You can even continue to take your prenatal vitamin to help get those extra vitamins and nutrients you need. Of course, if you're concerned about your diet or you have any questions, talk to your doctor. 

 

Sources:

Eidelman, A. I., Schanler, R. J., Johnston, M., Landers, S., Noble, L., Szucs, K., & Viehmann, L. Policy Statement. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.

Section on Breastfeeding. 2012. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841.

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

Reece-Stremtan S, Marinelli KA, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM clinical protocol# 21: guidelines for breastfeeding and substance use or substance use disorder, revised 2015. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2015 Apr 1;10(3):135-41.

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

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