Other diet considerations while breastfeeding
Spicy or gassy foods
Spicy or gas-producing foods are common in many cultures. And these kinds of foods don't bother most babies. A few babies will get gas or seem uncomfortable when their mothers eat certain foods. But no certain foods create problems for all babies. Unless you notice that your baby reacts within 6 hours every time you eat a certain food, you don't need to stay away from any particular foods.
Vegetarian and vegan diets
Vegetarian, or mostly vegetarian, diets have been a key part of many cultures for centuries. A vegetarian mother's breastmilk is often just as nutritionally appropriate as that of other mothers. But some women on vegan diets may not get enough vitamin B12. They often need supplements of vitamin B12 or other vitamins and minerals so their breastmilk will have the right amount.
If you have any questions about how your diet is affecting your breastmilk, get help. Contact your healthcare provider, a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), or a dietitian who specializes in perinatal nutrition.
Coffee, tea, or sodas
You may have caffeinated drinks. But caffeine may make your baby jittery or grouchy. It can also make your baby have trouble sleeping. This is even more likely if you have too many caffeinated drinks, or drink too much very quickly. Have mainly caffeine-free drinks when breastfeeding. If you enjoy caffeinated drinks, limit your intake to about 2, 8-ounce servings per day.
It's best to limit alcohol when breastfeeding or pumping for milk. Alcohol can actually decrease your milk supply and change the taste of your milk for a while. Pumping milk after drinking alcohol and then discarding it (called pumping and dumping) does not make the alcohol leave your milk faster. As your blood alcohol level falls over time, the alcohol level in your breastmilk will also decrease. Breastmilk contains alcohol as long as alcohol is in your blood.
Smoking or tobacco use
Tobacco use often affects a woman's appetite and how many foods taste. It's best to not use tobacco when breastfeeding or pumping. The benefits of your milk outweigh the risks of limited tobacco use. But it's important to know that nicotine and its byproducts pass into milk. Tobacco use may cause a baby to have a more rapid heartbeat, be restless, jittery, or have vomiting or diarrhea. Babies should not be exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke increases the risk for many illnesses as well as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Smoking also has been known to increase a baby's reaction to caffeine. If you are a smoker, be very careful about your caffeine intake.
In addition to its possible effects on the baby, tobacco use can interfere with milk let-down (milk ejection reflex). And it may reduce the amount of milk you make. If you can't stop using tobacco products, think about using a low-nicotine variety. And smoke right after breastfeeding. The amount of nicotine in your milk decreases over 2 to 3 hours.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you want to use nicotine gum or patches. And don't combine the gum or patch with smoking while you are breastfeeding.
Health conditions affecting a mother's diet
In some cases a mother's health condition may have a direct or indirect effect on milk production. For example, some women may not get enough vitamin B12 because of a health condition. They often need supplements of vitamin B12 or other vitamins and minerals so their breastmilk will have the right amount. This includes women who:
Have had gastric bypass surgery
Have a condition called pernicious anemia
Have certain gastrointestinal disorders
Talk with your healthcare provider if you are concerned that your health condition may affect breastfeeding.
Get help if you ever have any questions about nutrition or healthy dieting when breastfeeding. Contact your healthcare provider, a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), or a dietitian who specializes in perinatal nutrition.