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Does What You Eat Affect Your Breast Milk?

by
author image Ann Wolters
Ann Wolters has been a writer, consultant and writing coach since 2008. Her work has appeared in "The Saint Paul Almanac" and in magazines such as "Inventing Tomorrow" and "Frontiers." She earned a Master of Arts in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota.
Does What You Eat Affect Your Breast Milk?
A mother's diet affects the flavor and composition of her milk. Photo Credit oksun70/iStock/Getty Images

What a mother eats may affect the taste as well as the composition of her breast milk. Generally, eating a variety of foods with a variety of flavors is beneficial and may influence a child to be a more adventurous eater. When infants are exposed to the foods first in breast milk, they tend to be more likely to want to eat the food in solid form once that is introduced. Breast-feeding mothers should primarily focus on eating a balanced diet, for the benefit of themselves and their babies.

Trans Fat

Does What You Eat Affect Your Breast Milk?
Mothers who consume high amounts of trans fats may be passing those trans fats along to their babies in their breast milk. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Mothers who consume high amounts of trans fats may be passing those trans fats along to their babies in their breast milk. A study in the November 2010 issue of the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" reports that breast-feeding mothers who consumed more than 4.5 grams of trans fat a day doubled the chances that their infants would have high levels of body fat. Trans fat is often in margarine and shortening, fried foods and commercially baked goods. A large serving of French fries at some restaurants may contain 5 grams of trans fat.

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Caffeine

Does What You Eat Affect Your Breast Milk?
The mother should limit her caffeine consumption to fewer than 300 mg per day. Photo Credit Vision SRL/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Usually less than 1 percent of the caffeine you consume ends up in your breast milk. But the body of a newborn baby can’t easily break down the caffeine, so it may accumulate in your baby’s system. Some babies may be more sensitive to caffeine, but for the average baby, the mother should limit her caffeine consumption to fewer than 300 mg per day. A 1.75 ounce- bar of dark chocolate contains about 31 milligrams of caffeine, a cup of coffee contains 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine,and a typical cola soft drink contains between 35 and 40 milligrams of caffeine.

Herbs and Spices

Go ahead and enjoy that bowl of chili or that spicy curry. Typically, such foods won’t adversely affect breast milk, though the seasonings may flavor the breast milk for up to eight hours. One study found caraway seed and licorice flavors appeared strongest in breast milk about two hours after a mom ate them, while mint peaked in milk about six hours after ingestion. The herbs in foods should be distinguished from herbs in medicinal doses, which may not be safe for nursing mothers. Consult your health care provider before taking any herbal supplement while breast-feeding.

Dairy Products

Does What You Eat Affect Your Breast Milk?
If your baby displays signs of a food allergy, you may want to eliminate dairy products Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

The food a mother eats is usually not the cause of a baby’s digestion problems or gas, but there are rare instances where the baby may have a food allergy. In such cases, changes to the mother’s diet may help alleviate the problem. One of the more common culprits is dairy protein. If your baby displays signs of a food allergy, such as a rash, diarrhea, gas, fussiness, cough, congestion or runny nose, you may want to eliminate dairy products

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