Breastfeeding mamas actually need to eat a variety of foods in order to stay nourished and keep up their milk supply. I am a huge proponent of eating highly nutrient dense while breastfeeding, and limiting processed foods with very little nutritional content. Eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and lean protein is really really important. I am a mom of 4 and nutrition expert. I've been helping new mamas lose weight while breastfeeding through nutrition for years, and I am also a Pre/Post Natal Fitness Speclialist. My expertise is in nutrition while breastfeeding, and I work hard to provide all the information I can on what a healthy diet for breastfeeding looks like. That being said, there are also some foods I recommend avoiding while breastfeeding, even though some of them may seem healthy. It is a really good idea to review this list of foods, so you know exactly what to eat and what not to eat, so your milk supply stays strong.
I also am the founder of Milk Dust Lactation Protein Powder, and I created Milk Dust as an amazing, nourishing, plant-based protein powder that is formulated to increase milk supply, supply important nutrients for breastfeeding moms, and also stop sugar cravings to help breastfeeding mamas lose weight after pregnancy. It has all the essential vitamins and minerals you need to keep your milk supply up and meet your nutritional needs as a postpartum and nursing mother. I highly recommend adding Milk Dust to your diet, so you can ensure you have everything you need to support your breastfed baby!
"Milkdust saved my postpartum season!!! I saw ads and took a chance because I was desperate. I started working out consistently and eating very clean at 6 weeks postpartum (second kid) but I kept gaining weight instead of losing it! I was so discouraged and ready to try anything…so I bought milkdust protein powder and the metabolism boost. I started using it as a meal replacement because I wasn’t scared my supply would suffer and in one month I lost 5 pounds and the weight keeps coming off! My supply is great and I am so thankful I found milkdust. It will forever be in my postpartum essentials!"
Let's get into the foods you want to avoid, and then I will also give you some of my favorite foods for breastfeeding. These are the foods you want to fill your diet with every day.
17 Foods You Must Avoid While Breastfeeding:
Caffeine (you can have some coffee!):
High caffeine intake can make some babies fussy or irritable. Limit your caffeine intake or watch for any signs of sensitivity in your baby.
Caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some medications, can transfer from a mother's bloodstream into her breast milk. This means that if you consume caffeine, your baby may be exposed to it through breastfeeding. Baby's sensitivity: Some babies are more sensitive to caffeine than others. They may experience irritability, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, or digestive discomfort if they consume breast milk with higher levels of caffeine. Caffeine can affect a baby's sleep patterns and make them more alert or fussy. This can be challenging for both the baby and the breastfeeding mother, as it may result in less sleep for both. Potential long-term effects: Excessive caffeine intake during breastfeeding may have potential long-term effects on the baby's developing nervous system, although research in this area is limited and inconclusive.Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it can increase urine production and potentially lead to dehydration in both the mother and the baby if not consumed in moderation. The good news, many healthcare professionals agree that moderate caffeine intake, typically equivalent to 2-3 cups of coffee per day (about 200-300 milligrams of caffeine), is unlikely to have a significant impact on most breastfed babies. That means you can have a little coffee!
There are many reasons to avoid any alcoholic drink while breastfeeding. You can "pump and dump" if you ave a special occasion where you will be consuming alcohol, but it is definitely best to avoid it on a daily or regular basis. Here are the issues with alcohol.
Transfer to breast milk: Alcohol can pass from a mother's bloodstream into her breast milk, and the concentration of alcohol in breast milk is similar to the concentration in the mother's blood. This means that if you consume alcohol, your baby will be exposed to it through breastfeeding.
Impact on infant development: Babies have immature livers, which means they metabolize alcohol much more slowly than adults. The presence of alcohol in breast milk can potentially affect the baby's developing brain and central nervous system, leading to adverse effects on their cognitive and motor development.
Sleep disruption and irritability: Alcohol can disrupt a baby's sleep patterns and may lead to increased fussiness and irritability. Babies who consume breast milk with alcohol may have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or may wake up more frequently during the night.
Decreased milk production: Alcohol can interfere with the hormones that regulate milk production. While small amounts of alcohol are less likely to have a significant impact on milk supply, excessive alcohol consumption can potentially decrease your milk production over time.
Safety concerns: Alcohol can impair a mother's ability to care for her baby, potentially leading to safety issues. Impaired coordination and judgment can make it challenging to handle a baby properly and ensure their safety.
Legal and cultural considerations: In many places, it is illegal to operate a vehicle or engage in certain activities while under the influence of alcohol. Consuming alcohol while breastfeeding may lead to legal consequences if a mother's alcohol consumption impairs her judgment or actions while caring for her baby.
While the occasional drink or glass of wine is generally considered safe if you wait for the alcohol to clear from your system before breastfeeding (typically 2-3 hours per standard drink), it is essential to be cautious and moderate your alcohol consumption while breastfeeding. Some mothers choose to express and store breast milk before consuming alcohol and use it to feed their baby during the period when alcohol might be in their system. Others opt to avoid alcohol entirely while they are breastfeeding to minimize any potential risks.
Spicy foods can sometimes cause digestive discomfort in babies, so consume them in moderation and observe your baby's reactions. Fish like Salmon are amazing for consuming essential fatty acids, and salmon is lower in mercury. Fish that have high levels of mercury are typically large predatory fish that have accumulated higher levels of mercury through their diet over time. Mercury is a toxic metal that can be harmful to humans, especially to the developing nervous systems of fetuses and young children. Here is a list of foods high in mercury:
- King mackerel
- Tilefish (from the Gulf of Mexico)
- Orange roughy
- Bigeye tuna
- Ahi tuna
- Bluefin tuna
- Gulf tilefish
- Spanish mackerel (king mackerel)
These fish are at the top of the food chain, and they tend to have higher mercury levels due to their consumption of smaller fish that may also contain mercury.
Garlic and onions:
These foods can sometimes cause breast milk to taste different, and some breastfed infants may not like the flavor. Onions can contain compounds that may lead to gas and digestive discomfort in both the mother and the baby. Some mothers may observe increased fussiness or gassiness in their infants after consuming onions. Garlic can also cause the mother's sweat and breast milk to take on a garlic-like odor. This is a temporary effect and usually not a cause for concern, but some mothers may find it bothersome. If your baby is not sensitive to garlic, it actually has a lot of great health benefits:
Antimicrobial properties: Garlic is known for its antimicrobial properties, which may help protect both the mother and the baby from infections.
Health benefits for the mother: Garlic is rich in antioxidants and may have cardiovascular benefits for the mother.
Flavor and variety: Including garlic in your diet can add flavor and variety to your meals, making your overall diet more enjoyable.
Despite being a great source of vitamin c, some citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits can be acidic and may cause digestive discomfort in some babies. In rare cases, the consumption of citrus fruits by breastfeeding mothers may contribute to diaper rash in their infants due to the acidic nature of the mother's breast milk. This one is very rare, and most babies do fine with citris fruits, but if you notice diaper rash or anything unusual after eating citris fruits, it may be a food to avoid.
Peanuts and tree nuts:
If you have a family history of nut allergies or notice any allergic reactions in your baby, consider avoiding nuts while breastfeeding. An allergic reaction to peanuts or tree nuts can be scary in babies, so if there is a potential for a reaction, it could be good to avoid peanuts and tree nuts. Your health care provider may advise mothers to be cautious about their peanut consumption during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In such cases, it is advisable to discuss dietary recommendations with a healthcare provider or allergist.
Cow's milk and dairy products:
Some babies may be sensitive to cow's milk proteins. If you suspect this, try eliminating dairy from your diet or consult a healthcare professional. Lactose intolerance can affect both infants and adults. If a breastfeeding baby has a lactose intolerance, it may be necessary for the mother to reduce or eliminate dairy products from her diet temporarily. However, lactose intolerance is relatively rare in babies. Small amounts of cow's milk proteins can pass into breast milk. In some cases, these proteins may irritate a baby's immature digestive system, leading to symptoms like fussiness, gas, or digestive discomfort.
In rare cases, babies may be sensitive to wheat proteins. If a breastfeeding baby is suspected to have a wheat allergy, a healthcare provider may recommend that the mother eliminate wheat from her diet to see if it alleviates the baby's symptoms. Symptoms of a wheat allergy in infants can include digestive issues, skin rashes, or respiratory symptoms. If a breastfeeding mother has celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten-containing grains like wheat, it is crucial to avoid wheat and other gluten-containing grains to prevent adverse health effects. If the mother has celiac disease and is breastfeeding, she should follow a strict gluten-free diet.
Soy products contain compounds similar to estrogen, and some babies may be sensitive to them. Some babies may be sensitive to soy protein, which can lead to digestive discomfort or other adverse reactions. In such cases, the mother may choose to eliminate soy from her diet to see if it improves her baby's symptoms. Symptoms of a soy allergy in infants can include digestive issues, skin rashes, or respiratory symptoms.
Occasionally, babies may have an egg allergy or sensitivity. If a breastfeeding baby is suspected to have an egg allergy, a healthcare provider may recommend that the mother eliminate eggs from her diet to see if it alleviates the baby's symptoms. Symptoms of an egg allergy in infants can include digestive issues, skin rashes, or respiratory symptoms.
Shellfish allergies can occur in both adults and babies, so be cautious if you have a family history of shellfish allergies. If a breastfeeding baby is suspected to have a shellfish allergy, a healthcare provider may recommend that the mother eliminate shellfish from her diet to see if it alleviates the baby's symptoms. Symptoms of a shellfish allergy in infants can include digestive issues, skin rashes, or respiratory symptoms.
Some gassy foods and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can produce gas in both you and your nursing baby, which can be uncomfortable. In rare cases, babies may experience increased gassiness or digestive discomfort after their mothers consume broccoli or other gassy vegetables. Broccoli has a strong flavor and aroma, which can potentially affect the taste of breast milk. Some babies may be sensitive to changes in the flavor of breast milk and may not like the taste if their mothers have recently consumed large amounts of broccoli.
Excessive sugar and processed foods:
A diet high in sugar and processed foods can affect your overall health and may not provide the nutrients you and your baby need. I always tell new mamas to completely take these foods out of their diet. A mother's diet needs to be full of nutrient-dense foods to support nourishing both mama and baby. It is really important to get in all the essential nutrients, and it is really hard to do this when you eat a lot of processed foods.
Extremely spicy foods:
These can alter the taste of your breast milk and potentially affect your baby's preference for breast milk. Spicy foods, such as those containing hot peppers or strong spices, can sometimes cause digestive discomfort or irritation in infants. Some babies may be more sensitive to the compounds responsible for the spiciness, which can lead to fussiness or discomfort.
Some mothers have reported that mint can reduce their milk supply, so consume it in moderation. Some anecdotal reports suggest that excessive consumption of mint may have a slight drying effect on breast milk production in a small number of women. However, this effect is typically mild and not a concern for most breastfeeding mothers. If you suspect that mint is affecting your milk supply, consider moderating your consumption and monitoring your milk production.
Cabbage and sage:
These herbs may have a slight drying effect on breast milk production, so use them sparingly. Cabbage, especially when consumed in large amounts, is believed by some to have a slight drying effect on breast milk production. However, this effect is generally mild and is not a concern for most breastfeeding mothers. If you find that cabbage seems to affect your milk supply, you can moderate your consumption and monitor your milk production. Sage has been traditionally used for its potential to reduce milk supply. Some mothers have reported a decrease in milk production when they consume large amounts of sage or use it in the form of sage tea or supplements. This reduction in milk supply may be due to the thujone content in sage, which has been suggested to have a mild drying effect on breast tissue.
Luckily, if your baby does not have any food allergies, most of these foods you can still eat while breastfeeding. I encourage breastfeeding mamas to eat plenty of eggs for example as a great protein source when breastfeeding. I do suggest eliminating dairy products on my clean eating plans, mostly because dairy can have a lot of added hormones, and it does spike blood sugar in some individuals. Cheese is high in fat and calories, so eliminating cheese alone can really help reduce caloric intake. You can replace cheese with foods like nuts, which offer healthy fatsand more plant-based nutrients.
The best foods to eat while breastfeeding:
I have a long list of foods I love while breastfeeding. I wrote a blog post on the best foods to increase your milk supply, and that is a great resource. I also have some amazing meal plans you can follow that help guide you on how to eat healthy for your milk supply, yet still lose weight at the same time. Here's a list of my favorite foods to eat while breastfeeding.
Oats: Oats are an excellent source of fiber and provide complex carbohydrates, which can help sustain energy levels. They also contain iron and are known to support milk production.
Salmon: Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for both the mother's and the baby's brain development. It's also a good source of protein and vitamin D.
Leafy greens: Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are packed with essential nutrients, including calcium, iron, and folic acid. They are also a source of folate, which is essential for the baby's development.
Milk Dust Protein Powder: a plant-based, breastfeeding protein powder that helps nourish lactating mothers while also increasing milk supply. It offers a lactation blend that increases milk supply (herbs like red raspberry leaf, fenugreek and fennel), a blood sugar balance blend to stop sugar cravings (chromium, magnesium, turmeric and cinnamon bark) plus amazing nutrients from powerful foods like chia seed protein, pumpkin seed protein, chlorella and spirulina).
Whole grains: Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread provide complex carbohydrates and fiber. They help maintain steady energy levels and support overall health.
Dairy or dairy alternatives: Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium and vitamin D. If you're lactose intolerant or prefer plant-based options, choose fortified dairy alternatives like almond milk or soy milk.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They provide essential nutrients and help maintain energy levels.
Berries: Berries like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. They add a sweet and nutritious touch to your diet.
Colorful vegetables: A variety of colorful vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They support overall health and help meet daily nutrient needs.
Water: Staying well-hydrated is crucial for milk production and overall health. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Make sure to check out the 28-Day Clean Eating Breastfeeding Diet Plan. This will transform your milk supply and help you lose weight postpartum at the same time. Lot of recipes and guides for you to master your nutrition while breastfeeding.