FOODS FOR THE NURSING PARENT
Are there foods that I should avoid while breastfeeding?
One of the concepts La Leche League is founded on is “Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.”
You don’t need to eat anything special while you’re breastfeeding. But it’s a good idea for you, just like everyone else, to eat a varied and healthy diet. The food any family chooses will depend on personal preference, climate, culture, and finances.
There are no foods you need to avoid while breastfeeding (unless you’re allergic to them of course!). Some strongly-flavored foods may change the taste of your milk, and many babies seem to enjoy a variety of breast milk flavors! Often the dominant flavors of your diet – whether soy sauce, chili, garlic or something else – were in your amniotic fluid during pregnancy. Before birth babies swallow amniotic fluid and are accustomed to these flavors before tasting them in your milk.
Many parents find they can eat whatever they like, and occasionally a baby will be fussy at the breast, or may be gassy, after you eat a particular food. If you notice that your baby reacts badly after you have eaten something, it may be best to leave that food out of your diet for a while. To test whether that food really was the cause, reintroduce it once and see if your baby reacts in the same way again.
If you are thinking of eliminating a whole food group (e.g. dairy) you can look at options with your healthcare provider, and check that you are not at risk of any nutritional deficiency.
What about allergies?
If you have a family medical history of allergy, discuss with your healthcare provider about avoiding or introducing known allergens during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What about peanut allergies?
If you’d like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts, such as peanut butter, while breastfeeding, you can do so as part of a healthy, balanced diet (unless, of course, you are allergic to them). There’s no clear evidence that eating peanuts while breastfeeding affects your baby’s chances of developing a peanut allergy. If you have any questions or concerns, you can talk to your healthcare provider about this.
Every culture has lists of foods that are “good” and “bad” for nursing parents. It happens very often that foods believed to be beneficial in one culture are considered to upset babies in others! For example, In Italy, parents are often told not to eat garlic, cauliflower, lentils and red peppers. In India, most nursing parents eat all these things and breastfeed very happily. Actually, in parts of India they believe that garlic can help increase milk supply! If you are concerned about the effect of a specific food, watch your baby and consult with your healthcare provider as needed.
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IS YOUR CONCERN OR QUESTION NOT COVERED HERE?
Please contact a local LLL Leader with your specific questions.
Medical questions and legal questions should be directed to appropriate health care and legal professionals.
Page updated January 2020
Resource partially adapted from LLLI materials.