What Foods Should a Breastfeeding Mom Avoid?

Chopped cabbage and cucumbers
Sliced cabbage on a cutting board. (Image: Svetl/iStock/Getty Images)

Breast milk is known to provide significant benefits to babies, including the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals a baby needs, and protection against allergies and illnesses such as diarrhea, lower respiratory illnesses and ear infections. The primary complication of breastfeeding is that certain foods can cause colic, or excessive fussiness, and/or an allergic reaction in babies. Because of this, a breastfeeding mother should screen certain foods to see if they cause a reaction in the baby; if they do, the mother should avoid them completely while breastfeeding. Colic may not be caused by food, so it is important for mothers to link colicky behavior to a food before eliminating it completely.

Dairy Products

Dairy products, including milk, cheese and yogurt, are some of the most colic-causing foods in breastfed babies since approximately 2.5 percent of people are allergic to cow’s milk. If a breastfed baby demonstrates fussiness, excessive spitting up, vomiting, a rash or persistent congestion approximately 12 hours after its mother has eaten dairy, he may be allergic to dairy. The mother should remove dairy from her diet for several days, then consume dairy once more to confirm whether or not dairy is the culprit of the baby’s colic. If indeed it is, dairy should be avoided completely during breastfeeding.

Caffeine

Caffeine found in coffee, tea and caffeinated carbonated beverages can cause colic in babies. The mother can observe the baby for fussiness one hour after the caffeine is consumed. Mothers should also keep in mind the fact that caffeine is a stimulant, which gets passed via breast milk to the child. So, in addition to causing fussiness, caffeine can cause a baby to be especially wakeful and have trouble falling asleep.

Gassy vegetables

Gas-inducing vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, onions, green peppers and tomatoes can cause babies to develop stomach pain and/or colic resulting from gas. These vegetables may not need to be avoided completely, however, they should be eaten in moderation and cooked, which renders them less likely to cause gas during digestion.

Nuts

Nuts, especially peanuts, are a common allergen, and can cause colic or eczema in breastfed babies. Breastfeeding mothers should check babies' behaviors to make sure they do not demonstrate an allergic reaction to nuts. An allergic reaction in babies can manifest as fussiness, excessive spitting up, vomiting, colic, a rash or persistent congestion.

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