Most nursing mothers don’t need to routinely avoid any specific food, according to “The Nursing Mother’s Companion,” but some mothers find that eating certain foods prior to breast feeding makes their babies unusually fussy or gassier than normal. If you suspect your nursing baby is sensitive to something you're eating, eliminate that food from your diet for two weeks. Reintroduce the food back into your diet once your baby's symptoms have subsided to find out if it was the cause of your baby’s reaction.
Caseins, the main proteins found in dairy milk, pass through your bloodstream and enter your breast milk. Because infants can't digest these proteins, they might spit up more than usual, or become gassy or fussy after consuming breast milk that contains caseins. Dairy in the mother's diet is one of the most common culprit of digestive sensitivities in nursing babies. If you regularly consume cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream or any processed foods containing dairy and you suspect your infant is reacting to it, eliminate all dairy from your diet for two weeks to see if there’s a difference. Because it’s important for you to get enough dietary calcium while nursing, ask your health care provider to recommend the best alternative sources of calcium.
Chocolate and Spices
Many nursing mothers report that their babies seem fussy after they eat chocolate, according to BabyCenter.com and “The Nursing Mother’s Companion.” In some cases, it’s the quantity, not the food itself, that’s the problem. If eating an entire chocolate bar seems to cause or exacerbate fussiness or gassiness in your baby, you might find you're able to eat a small piece of chocolate before nursing without effect.
Spicy food can also upset your baby’s stomach. While most babies tolerate and likely enjoy the subtle flavors certain spices impart to breast milk, spices can also cause younger infants to experience various degrees of indigestion. The usual culprits include garlic, curry, chili pepper and cinnamon.
Fruits and Vegetables
Eating citrus fruits — including oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and grapefruit — can cause temporary digestive disturbances in nursing infants. The strong acids found in these fruits, along with those in pineapples, strawberries and kiwis, can irritate a baby’s intestinal tract. Cherries and prunes can also cause digestive disturbances in sensitive nursing babies.
Gas-producing vegetables, including cucumbers, bell peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, broccoli and cauliflower are also capable of producing temporary digestive issues in nursing babies. Onions in particular seem to cause consistent adverse reactions in babies who are sensitive to them, even if their mothers only ingest a small amount.
Soy, Wheat and Corn
Soy, wheat and corn are common allergens in older children and adults, and can also cause reactions in nursing babies who are sensitive to them. If you suspect your baby is sensitive to any of these foods in your diet, you might have to eliminate a majority, if not all, of the processed foods you eat. Most processed food contain some form of soy, wheat or corn, and it’s not uncommon for all three ingredients to appear in one product. If allergies to certain foods are common in your family — even if you don’t have any food allergies yourself — it’s possible that your nursing infant is sensitive to those same foods. It’s important to maintain adequate nutrition while nursing, so talk with your health care provider before eliminating several foods from your diet at once.
- “The Nursing Mother’s Companion”; Kathleen Huggins, R.N., M.S.; 2005
- “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”; La Leche League International; 1997
- BabyCenter: Are There Any Foods I Should Avoid While Breastfeeding?; Karen and Gale Pryor
- BabyCenter: Breast Milk Interaction Chart; April 2010