Women in our culture are sometimes advised to avoid spicy or “gassy" foods when nursing. Or they are told that chocolate, citrus, carbonated beverages or dairy causes problems in all nursing babies.
As a breastfeeding educator, I often see women warning other Moms that they need to avoid certain foods while breastfeeding. There are also websites that give unproven breastfeeding advice that claim that women must eat a certain kind of diet in order to make quality milk for her baby. So what is the truth?
Does a nursing Mom need to restrict her diet? Are there foods that a Mom should avoid while breastfeeding?
Generally speaking, a nursing Mom does NOT need to restrict her diet.
Obviously, drinking heavily or excessive caffeine consumption (meaning several cups of coffee a day) is a no-no, but other than that, there is no reason for a breastfeeding Mother to assume that she needs to avoid any foods.
So called “gassy" foods do not affect the nursing infant because the undigested carbs that cause gas in Mom do not pass into breastmilk. It is literally impossible for “gassy" foods to cause gas in babies except in the rare case of an infant being allergic to one of these foods.
Interestingly, according to the La Leche League (considered the world's foremost authority on breastfeeding) website, “In Italy, mothers are often told not to eat garlic, cauliflower, lentils, and red peppers. In India most mothers eat all these things and breastfeed very happily. Actually, in parts of India they believe that garlic helps a mother to breastfeed successfully!"
There are even a couple of studies that showed that babies nursed longer and with more vigor when their Moms ate garlic.
The advice given to a nursing Mom varies according to local culture and the popular “old wive's tales". Women all over the world eating a wide variety of foods produce good quality milk and have thriving babies. There is not a shred of evidence that supports the idea that eating a special diet helps make breastmilk “richer".
Consequently, there is no one food that all breastfeeding Moms should avoid. Breastfeeding women should eat a variety of healthy foods, just as they did while they were pregnant.
The only exception would be if your baby has food allergies/sensitivies, which is rare but not unheard of. If your family has a strong history of allergy to a specific food (such as peanuts), you might consider avoiding that food while nursing and during pregnancy.
Enjoy nursing your baby!
Carrie Lauth publishes a free newsletter for Moms who do things the natural way. Get your copy plus free subscriber goodies at http://www.natural-moms.com