Story by: Sara Sidery on June 13, 2022
It’s important to avoid certain foods when breastfeeding. Your diet can affect your breast milk and the nutrients that are passed on to your baby. Making healthy choices can fuel milk production and support your little one’s growth and overall health.
“You don’t need to go on a special diet or be overly restrictive in order to breastfeed, but you should be intentional about your nutritional choices and be aware of foods to avoid when breastfeeding,” said Elizabeth M. Doyle, M.D., lactation consultant and internal medicine physician and pediatrician at Norton Community Medical Associates – Shepherdsville.
Seafood contains traces of mercury or other toxins, and even though fish is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, seafood that is high in mercury (including swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish) should be avoided. Too much exposure to mercury is bad for babies and can affect the development of their nervous system. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is safe to eat seafood that is low in mercury a couple times a week, including salmon, tuna and shrimp.
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Highly processed foods
When babies get all of their daily nutrients through your breast milk, eating a healthy and balanced diet is imperative. Highly processed foods should be avoided when breastfeeding because they lack fiber, vitamins and minerals and often contain too many calories, added sugars and unhealthy fats. Avoid consuming too many sugary drinks, prepackaged foods, frozen meals and desserts.
Caffeinated drinks should be limited to no more than 16-24 ounces per day. Caffeine can cause sleep disruptions and cause the baby to become overly fussy. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate.
Any amount of alcohol in breast milk is considered unsafe. If you know you are going to have a drink, pump breast milk ahead of time. Otherwise, wait for the alcohol to pass through your system before breastfeeding. As a rule of thumb, wait at least three hours after drinking one alcoholic beverage.
Some herbal supplements
Most herbal supplements are not FDA-regulated. Talk to your provider before taking optional medications, such as herbal supplements, vitamins or herbal teas. Seasoning food with kitchen herbs and spices is OK while breastfeeding. Your provider may recommend a specific type of multivitamin to aid in milk production.
Focus on a balanced diet that includes lean meats, eggs, dairy, beans, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Varying the types of food you eat can change the flavor of your breast milk, which exposes the baby to different flavors before introducing solid foods.
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