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Breast-feeding is a wonderful gift you can give your baby. And while you should always maintain a balanced diet, what you eat while you’re a nursing mom is especially important since the foods you eat are nourishing your baby as well.
So what should you avoid while breast-feeding? “There are no foods that mothers ought to avoid while breast-feeding,” says Dr. Nancy Brent, noted pediatrician, lactation consultant and medical director at the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh. “In fact, most mothers can eat anything they want while breast-feeding. However, if your baby is fussy and you’re noticing other unusual gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloody or mucus-y stools, try cutting out dairy and then soy.”
If you eat something and notice that two feedings later (about the time for that food to enter your breast milk) your baby is especially fussy, you might try cutting out that food and seeing how your baby responds. “Then, after two weeks, gradually add that food back into your diet and see if your baby tolerates it,” Brent advises. She’s quick to add, though, that without any gastrointestinal symptoms, infant fussiness is likely not the result of maternal diet, and can be a sign of overtiredness, colic or acid reflux.
Though foods mentioned above may or may not have an effect on your breast milk, there are certain things you should avoid while you’re breast-feeding to ensure your baby’s health.
First item on the list? Alcohol. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that an occasional drink for a breast-feeding mom is OK, and Brent agrees. “Generally, a woman can have one drink of beer or wine two to three times a week. She should time it immediately after a feeding. If she's feeling the effects, then the alcohol is in her milk. If she's still feeling a little drunk when it's time to nurse next, she needs to give a bottle of previously expressed milk or formula.” You can “pump and dump” the milk to avoid engorgement and clogged milk ducts. Either way, too much alcohol can harm your baby, and it’s important to monitor your intake.
Another thing to avoid while you’re breast-feeding is caffeine. While a morning cup of coffee is OK, experts say to limit your daily intake to no more than 300 mg a day. That’s generally one cup of fresh-brewed coffee, though actual amounts of caffeine may vary a little. If you’re like me and you just like the taste, feel free to go crazy on instant decaf — there’s only 2 mg of caffeine in a cup. Be watchful of other things that contain caffeine, such as chocolate or caffeinated tea. (If you’re unsure how much caffeine that certain food items have, check out this chart.)
Finally, trim your seafood intake while you’re breast-feeding, especially if white tuna, swordfish or mackerel is your thing. That’s because these types of seafood are known to contain high levels of mercury, which could potentially harm your baby’s nervous system in high doses. If you do like seafood, choose fish that are typically low in mercury, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Salmon is also high in omega-3s and protein, two essential nutrients for breast-feeding moms.
You don’t need to go crazy to avoid specific foods while you’re breast-feeding. Just be smart about your intake and feel confident knowing you’re doing the best you can for you and your baby. Happy nursing!
Related breast-feeding stories on MNN:
- What not to eat when you're pregnant
- More U.S. mothers breast-feeding, CDC says
- Breast-feeding mama gets happy surprise at restaurant