Breastfeeding: Should you avoid certain foods?

I have heard that certain foods can give my baby gas. What should I avoid eating while nursing?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Most mothers do not need to change their healthy diet while breastfeeding (andreally there aren't any "good" or "bad" foods that you should worry about). A lot of this 'food debate' is cultural rathern than medical in nature. For example, Indian moms are told that garlic will be beneficial to breastfeeding, while American moms are cautioned to avoid it.

However, if you have a family history of allergies, including asthma and atopic dermatitis, you may want to avoid dairy products, as well as any other foods you are allergic/sensitive to while breastfeeding. Check with your doctor before making dietary changes, to be sure that all your nutritional needs are being met.

Some babies are indeed sensitive to foods in their mom's diet, but don't arbitrarily limit your diet unless you have reason to suspect a particular food is bothering your baby. If your baby shows feeding-related sensitivities, this is most often due to a foreign protein in mothers' milk. In this case, try eliminating the food, which is the most likely culprit for at least one week. (Remember to read all labels.)If you do not see an improvement, you can add this food back into your diet and try another food to see if it is the offender. Keeping a journal with foods eaten and your baby's behavior may be helpful.

Dairy products in a mom's diet can cause sensitivity -- but this condition isn't at all related to lactose intolerance. Other foods that may cause a reaction include eggs, peanuts and other nuts, wheat, soy, corn, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, berries, nuts, spices, pork, seafood, citrus fruits and juice and chocolate.

Basically, while breastfeeding, it's best to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet of around 1800-2000 calories per day (check with your doctor regarding your own weight and calories). Choose foods that are close to their natural state, making sure to include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Skip processed foods when you can. If you find it difficult during your busy day to eat as nutritiously as you should, cut up some fruits and vegetables the night before. Having easy-to-grab snacks is important for new moms, who are often too tired to prepare anything for themselves. Foods that constitute a good diet for life also make a good diet for breastfeeding.

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