Breastfeeding mothers may wonder if diet plays a role in causing gas in breastfed infants. The La Leche League International suggests that while no food has been specifically proven to cause gas in breastfed infants, mothers should consume a healthy, balanced diet and keep track of foods suspected of upsetting baby’s tummy for future reference. Some common foods, however, may cause or exacerbate infant gas in breastfed babies.
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If a breastfed baby has gassiness or symptoms such as skin irritation, runny nose, diarrhea or constipation, he may have a sensitivity or allergy to a particular food. The most common allergens are cow’s milk, soy, wheat, corn, eggs and peanuts. Symptoms will show up in the baby about four to 24 hours after breastfeeding with milk containing traces of the foods. If you suspect a food allergy, you may need to eliminate the food from your diet for two to three weeks before it’s cleared from your system. Check with your pediatrician for an effective elimination diet plan and further treatment for infant food allergy.
Vegetables and Legumes
Some mothers believe that vegetables high in fiber cause gas and fussiness in their breastfed infants, especially broccoli, peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and legumes. This is a controversial point, however: some lactation experts claim that traces of gas-causing carbohydrates from these foods pass into breast milk, while others say that they remain in the mother’s digestive tract and don’t get into milk. If you’ve noticed a link between high-fiber foods in your diet and your baby’s intestinal distress, try cutting out the foods temporarily and see if the gassiness improves.
The effects of caffeine are not necessarily associated with gas; however, caffeine can cause irritability in breastfed babies. Infants already suffering from gas or internal discomfort may feel additionally uncomfortable from consuming caffeine in breast milk. Many foods and drinks contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. While appropriate in moderation, caffeine-laden drinks should be limited to two 8-ounce servings per day during breastfeeding to reduce the chance of infant irritability and discomfort.
Garlic, cumin, curry and red pepper are common culprits for causing intestinal gas and upset in breastfed infants. Spices in general are widely used in different cultures of breastfeeding mothers. The California Pacific Medical System's Sutter Health organization notes there is no one specific spice or food known to cause gas in all babies, though some may be more sensitive to spices than others.
Foods high in acid content can cause infant digestive discomfort, as well. Citrus-based foods such as tomatoes, strawberries, oranges and grapefruit are highly acidic. Mothers should monitor their consumption of acid foods to see if breastfeeding after consuming these foods affects their babies.