When a woman is pregnant and breastfeeding are the few times that everyone seems to think they are an expert. From pregnancy, you hear different things that you’re not supposed to do, and when you do have the baby, the unsolicited tips continue. Truthfully, some of those tips are quite helpful but a lot of it are simply hogwash. Just because a mom experienced it doesn’t mean another mom would, but all the same, it will be passed on as though it was gospel truth.
I was a dumping ground for advice and tips the first time I was pregnant and breastfeeding. There were quite a number of foods that my mom frowned at me eating.
For instance, on the Monday after my first set of twins were born, my husband brought some salads to the hospital for my mom and I. Having been drinking tea and ogi for most of the day, my taste buds craved something else and I dug in before my mom arrived on the scene. She wasn’t happy about the fact that I was eating salad just hours to my first attempt at breastfeeding…and breastfeeding preemie babies at that.
I had been told earlier that we would try out breastfeeding with the girl twin later that night, as she didn’t seem to have as much breathing issues as her brother.
That was my first introduction to the world of avoidance of certain foods while breastfeeding. After that time, I have since gone on to abstain from certain foods of my own choice, because of its effects on me, while breastfeeding, but mostly as a result of the effects on my babies.
Firstly, it’s important to understand how breast milk is made. As the evidence-based breastfeeding site Kellymom.com explains, not everything you consume passes into your breast milk. “Breast milk is made from what passes into mom’s blood,” explains Kellymom, “Not what is in her stomach or digestive tract.”
So, as Kellymom describes, many of the things that are purported to make babies fussy — like garlic, beans, and other gassy or spicy foods — just don’t make it into a mother’s milk.
It’s the same for acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits — despite what you may have heard, they’re not an issue for breastfeeding babies. Even with this assertion, listen to your body and of course, baby.
However, there are some things that do pass into your milk and affect your baby in some instances. These include foods that a baby can have an allergic reaction or sensitivity to, or substances that affect babies negatively if consumed in large quantities.
Thus, any mom, who seeks to breastfeed, would do well to abstain from them. Even if they are your favourite foods, you might want to give them a miss, or reduce the quantity in which it is consumed while you breastfeed.
Here we go:
Why is coffee topping the list? It is because of the caffeine content in it. Some amount of caffeine in the coffee (or tea, soda, energy drinks and over-the-counter medicines) ends up in your breast milk.
So what? Unlike adults, babies cannot excrete caffeine efficiently. And you know the aftereffects of caffeine on you, so imagine irritation, sleeplessness, and crankiness, those are what your baby feels after you get your dosage of caffeine.
High amounts of caffeine can lower iron levels in breast milk and decrease haemoglobin levels in the baby. Hence the best solution is to cut down on coffee.
I know how often my mom warned me off oranges, saying it causes a running stomach for the baby. It was true in my own case.
Citrus fruits are a source of vitamin C, but their acidic components can irritate little tummies. Their immature gastrointestinal tract will not be able to deal with these components, thus resulting in diaper rash, fussiness, spitting up and more.
If you decide to cut out citrus fruits such as limes, grapefruits, lemons, and oranges, look for replacements like other vitamin C-rich foods like papaya, pineapple, strawberries or leafy greens and mango.
I know that that not many people eat the local peppermint but there are so many packaged foods where it is used and that counts in no small way.
High doses of peppermint have been known to inhibit milk production. In fact, peppermint is a herb that is sometimes used by moms who are ready to stop breastfeeding and want to dry up their milk supply.
But don’t worry about the occasional cup of peppermint tea; you could probably even eat your fill of your favourite peppermint snacks before you’d notice any adverse effects. But if you notice your supply dropping off after you’ve ingested a bunch of peppermint, it’s best to lay off for a while.
While most moms wouldn’t think of drinking alcohol while pregnant, the temptation to drink can be stronger when you have given birth.
The urge to have an occasional beer or glass of wine will come on after months of abstinence, and that’s totally fine. It’s even okay to nurse your baby after you’ve had one glass of wine or beer (but, really just one). The golden rule is if you can safely drive a car, you can breastfeed.
Personally, I would prefer you didn’t bother.
However, if you’ve had even a bit too much, wait until the alcohol has cleared your body before breastfeeding. If your breasts get uncomfortably full, you can pump and dump the milk. Otherwise, there’s no need to pump and dump; the alcohol won’t accumulate in the milk in your breasts (contrary to popular belief). By the time your blood is free of alcohol; your milk will be too.
Diary products (cow’s milk)
When a baby is exhibiting signs of allergy of sensitivity, cow’s milk is usually the most common culprit.
It’s not the lactose in the milk, but the dairy protein that is known to pass into breast milk and cause issues for certain babies. If you suspect your baby is reacting to dairy, you need to eliminate it for at least a week or two to see results (and read labels: dairy is in everything!).
Some moms need to eliminate it completely, but others do fine just cutting back on it. The good news is, most babies outgrow this sensitivity in a few months, unless they have a true allergy.
Garlic’s smell can get into the milk too! Some babies like it. Some do not. If you find your baby at discomfort while nursing, check if garlic is the reason. Some babies may grimace or fuss at the breast if they encounter garlic’s strong aroma.
Spicy foods can irritate some babies, while others are perfectly fine with it. A dash of pepper is more than enough to hurt a few babies. They remain fussy for a long time. Reduce the spices in your food, if your little one is not comfortable with it.
This is a list of foods which have been proven (almost universally) to be bad while breastfeeding. If you can’t avoid, then it is wise to reduce consumption, especially if you baby reacts to it.
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