When you're pregnant, you might become obsessed with eating well for your baby. Once she's born, that preoccupation with your diet might continue if you're breast-feeding, especially if your baby is gassy and fussy, as many are. While what you eat can affect your baby, the foods that make you gassy and uncomfortable won't necessarily have the same effect on her. Although some vegetables appear to contribute to colic, lettuce and spinach aren't among them.
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Babies and Gas
As many as 28 percent of babies develop colic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Colic symptoms include periods of inconsolable crying that start between 3 and 6 weeks of age, often occur in the evening and are accompanied by physical signs such as drawing up of the legs and passing gas. As tempting as it is to relate every gassy or fussy episode to what you ate, bottle-fed babies -- who eat the same thing every day as newborns -- have gassy periods just as frequently as breast-fed babies. Even if your baby doesn't have colic, his immature digestive tract and his inexperience with the sensations of gas can lead to fussing. Air swallowing from crying or eating too fast can also contribute to gas.
Effects of Maternal Diet
Foods that make you gassy have this effect because they contain fiber or other components that your digestive system can't break down. Fiber passes through the stomach undigested into the intestines, where bacteria tries to break it down further, creating gas. The fiber in foods that cause gas doesn't enter your breast milk, so it doesn't have this same effect on your newborn. Components of foods that you eat reach your breast milk in anywhere from one to 24 hours, with an average of between four and six hours, lactation consultant Anne Smith reports.
One study published in the January 1996 issue of the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" on the effects of certain cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, as well as onions, did show a correlation between maternal ingestion of these foods and colic in infants. Cruciferous vegetables contain both fiber and a difficult to digest sugar, raffinose. Neither lettuce nor spinach belong to the family of cruciferous vegetables. In this study, both cow's milk and chocolate ingestion also increased colic symptoms.
If your baby has a lot of gas or has colic, your doctor might suggest eliminating certain foods from your diet, but lettuce and spinach probably won't be on the list. Dairy products are the most common source of infant digestive woes related to mom's diet in breast-fed babies, causing allergy symptoms including digestive upsets in between 2 and 7 percent of infants, Smith explains. A study published in the November 2005 issue of "Pediatrics" assessed crying and fussy periods in infants whose mothers consumed a low-allergen diet, which eliminated the most common allergens -- dairy products, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and fish -- for 1 week. Researchers reported a 37 percent reduction in crying episodes. Talk to your doctor before eliminating foods from your diet.