Throughout your pregnancy, you worried a lot about the food you ate and avoided foods that could potentially put your baby at risk. Now that your baby is here, it’s perfectly natural for these concerns to be heightened by what you consider as potential threats to your baby’s health. You’re probably wondering whether there are certain foods to avoid while breastfeeding your baby. I’m here to tell you though that there are no foods that you absolutely have to avoid.
Different babies react to the same foods differently, so what doesn’t work for one baby doesn’t mean that your little angel will reject it too. Most mothers can keep eating what they normally eat and there wouldn’t be any bad effects on their babies. This doesn’t mean that you should eat everything. It’s important for breastfeeding mothers to maintain a well-balanced diet with the kind of nutrients that are especially useful in making milk and nourishing their bodies.
Generally, breastfeeding women can eat and drink any food they like to their full satisfaction. God knows their bodies need the calories to have the energy to take care of their babies and to continue nursing them. Even though the amount of milk you make is not directly dependent on what you eat, you will still find yourself a lot hungrier during this time.
Also, there’s usually no reason to cut back on a certain type of food unless you encounter a problem either in you or in your baby. This is why it’s important to watch your baby’s reaction to the food that you eat. With the wide variety of foods available to us today, you should be careful with some foods that may end up in your baby’s tummy and cause symptoms. We hope that the list below will help you make informed choices about certain foods and food products that you need to limit. Additionally, we provide some tips and advice on the best diet that a breastfeeding mom should have.
This page talks about
- Foods to avoid while breastfeeding
- Foods to avoid while breastfeeding a gassy baby
- Strong-flavored foods to avoid while breastfeeding
- Common causes of allergies while breastfeeding
- Monitoring your baby for adverse reactions
- Breastfeeding diet
- Essential supplements for breastfeeding mothers
- Healthy diet, healthy baby
Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding
As a new mother, you may be asking many questions about the food you eat, wondering if you can eat that last slice of cake or that tantalizing plate of your favorite cheesy fries. You might be worried about how it could affect your baby or that it might even be harming your baby as we speak. The truth is breastfeeding mothers don’t really need to excessively worry about every little thing they eat or want to eat.
You should know instead what types of foods you should be careful not to consume too much when you’re breastfeeding your baby. We’ll also let you know how these foods could affect your child’s health and your milk supply. Some of the foods on this list should be totally avoided, but most are okay to consume in small servings. As is frequently advised, moderation is the key in everything in life—including your breastfeeding diet.
With all the late nights and early mornings feeding your baby, you may be in serious need of a cup of joe, but you’re probably thinking that all that caffeine can’t be good for your baby. The short answer is yes—and no. Newborn babies have a low tolerance for caffeine, but only a small amount gets into breast milk. Caffeine is okay to ingest as long as you keep it in moderation. Having 2 to 3 cups of a caffeinated drink each day should be okay. It’s also a good idea to observe your baby whenever you drink coffee. Is he extra fussy? Is he not sleeping well? It might be a sign that the caffeine is affecting them; if so, consider cutting back on coffee or if possible remove it completely for a while. Alternately, you can try drinking coffee only after breastfeeding your baby.
Remember that caffeine is not just in coffee. It’s also present in beverages like soft drinks and tea as well as in over-the-counter drugs like cold and flu medicine. Try not to drink energy drinks as well as they tend to have high caffeine content.
2. Herbs: Sage, Parsley, and Peppermint
Be careful not to consume too much sage, parsley, and peppermint as they are proven to reduce a mother’s milk supply. Mothers who want to stop producing milk even drink peppermint tea. In case you’ve eaten these herbs, make sure to monitor the amount of milk you’re making. This is especially crucial when you’re baby is experiencing a spurt in growth—he’ll need all the milk he can get.
While you’re breastfeeding, it’s not advisable to drink alcohol heavily or even moderately. People used to think that drinking would help make more milk, but science shows this is a false belief and that alcohol can even slow down a mother’s milk production. It might be okay to have an occasional drink but know that alcohol can spill into breast milk after having more than one drink. According to studies, alcohol is evident in a mother’s milk 30 to 60 minutes after a drink, but it gets out of her system quickly. Women with an average weight of 120 pounds can get rid of the alcohol in their milk 2 to 3 hours after drinking a glass of wine or a can of beer. For mothers who don’t want any trace of alcohol in their milk, it’s best to drink after breastfeeding the baby.
You also don’t have to pump milk out of your breasts just to get rid of alcohol. You should only do this if you feel engorged and it’s not yet feeding time. As alcohol leaves your bloodstream, so do the alcohol levels in your milk. If you happen to have a stronger drink or more than one glass, the alcohol also takes longer to leave your body.
4. Mercury-laden Fish
Fish is an excellent source of protein and, for some fish like salmon and tuna, they could be a good source of omega-3 too. There are certain fish, however, that contain high doses of mercury and other toxins, which can contaminate your milk supply. You don’t have to avoid all fish but you have to be careful not to eat those that are known to be high in mercury. This could seriously harm your baby and affect his development.
Just like when you were pregnant, observe the same rules when it comes to seafood. For one, you can have cooked seafood two times each week with a maximum serving size of 6 ounces, as large as two decks of card. Eat the types of fish that typically have lower concentrations of mercury such as trout, salmon, and tilapia. Avoid swordfish, bluefin tuna, tilefish, marlin, and king mackerel as they tend to have high levels of mercury. Don’t exceed two servings of fish per week even with canned tuna.
This is one common problem for breastfed babies. If you notice that your baby is extra fussy, has skin problems, has trouble breathing or sleeping, and other symptoms after breastfeeding, you should talk to your pediatrician to rule out other possible causes. It’s rare but if you find blood in your baby’s stool, then it might be a reaction to the milk that you drink, such as cow’s milk. It might be time to consider an elimination diet to see if milk is the culprit.
It might be hard to go completely dairy-free at first, but you should try to avoid drinking milk for a few weeks. For some mothers, eliminating milk in their diet helps get rid of the extra gas that causes their babies discomfort. If you see an improvement after doing this, then it’s most likely a dairy allergy that caused your baby’s problem. Take note that this is not the norm; most babies are perfectly normal even with a milk-drinking mother.
Chocolate is a source of caffeine just like coffee. Monitor your baby’s demeanor. In some cases, chocolate has a laxative effect on babies so check if your baby has a watery poop. If this happens, you will need to cut back on the sweet treats or avoid them totally.
7. Citrus Fruits
Some babies may have gastrointestinal problems with citrus fruits. Their digestive system is still not fully developed so citrus may irritate them internally and cause all sorts of problems like irritability, vomiting, or a diaper rash. To avoid such problems, you can steer clear of citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes. Get your daily dose of vitamin C from other sources like strawberries, mango, pineapple, papaya, and leafy veggies.
Some babies can also be gluten-intolerant. This means that they have allergic reactions to any food that contains wheat. They may appear fussier, suffer from stomach aches, and may even produce bloody poop. In cases like this, it’s best to follow an elimination diet. This allows breastfeeding mothers to eliminate common irritants like wheat. When doing this, you should try to avoid wheat-based products for 2-3 weeks. If the symptoms disappear, you can gradually reintroduce wheat to your diet to test your baby’s level of tolerance to wheat. If the symptoms were severe before eliminating wheat, then do not reintroduce it. Talk to your physician for alternatives. In general, you should avoid wheat-containing foods like bread, baked goods, chips, chocolate, cereals, and pasta.
Drinking tea may harm your baby’s breastfeeding experience. For one, tea has caffeine, which can keep your baby awake. If you sip tea drinks like black or green tea while eating iron-rich foods like lean meat, fortified cereals, and dark green vegetables, it may lessen your body’s absorption of iron as compounds in tea act as inhibitors for iron.
Beans are a good source of protein, but they are generally considered as gas-inducing food. Not only could they have a gassy effect on you, but they can also cause gassiness in your baby. If this happens a lot when you’ve had beans, consider eliminating them from your diet.
Corn allergy is also common among infants, who may suffer discomfort and rashes because of corn. If your baby is not reacting well to your milk after you’ve consumed corn, consider removing it from your diet.
Your baby’s digestive system is still immature and it cannot properly digest complex carbohydrates yet. Veggies like cabbage and asparagus contain raffinose, which is a form of carbohydrate that may cause gassiness in babies.
They are nutritious and widely favored as a dessert. However, they sometimes cause allergic reactions and gassiness in newborns, so a lot of new mothers keep them out of their grocery list.
14. Sweet Potatoes
These are considered good for making milk but they can cause excess gas in your baby’s tummy. If your baby reacts negatively to your eating sweet potatoes, you may have to stop eating them for a while—at least until you wean your baby off.
15. High-fat Dairy and Meat Products
Some foods may not be directly wrong for your baby but wrong for you. Because keeping yourself healthy while breastfeeding is imperative, you should try to avoid high-fat products like animal fat, which store chemicals and pesticides used in farming. If you do want to have some dairy, meat or poultry, try to opt for lower-fat varieties or organic dairy and meat. Organic farmers do not use growth hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides in raising their animals.
16. Sugary Beverages
You’ll get thirsty very often while breastfeeding. Whenever it happens, take care not to drink soft drinks (soda or fruity) as they give you lots of sugar without any health benefits. Drink lots of water instead.
17. Herbal Medicines
Most herbal teas are okay to drink while breastfeeding. These are teas that contain ingredients that are also safe for cooking, such as chamomile and peppermint. Herbal medicines are a different story. There’s not enough research on the impact of herbal drugs on breast milk. Consult your doctor or a pharmacist before taking this kind of medication.
18. Processed Foods
Always check the labels of the food you buy. Try your best to avoid processed foods as they contain a lot of additives that may harm your health and your baby’s.
19. Certain Sugar Substitutes
One artificial sweetener you should avoid is Sweet ‘n Low as it’s made from saccharin, a compound linked to certain types of cancer. There are other options such as Equal (Nutrasweet), Stevia, Splenda, Whey Low, and Sunett which you can safely add to your food and drinks while breastfeeding. Do consume in moderation though and stop using if you or your baby has phenylketonuria or PKU.
20. Bad food
Always make sure that you store the food properly. If you think that your food has gone bad, do not eat it so as to avoid food poisoning. If you’d like some help with proper food storage, you can follow this link:
Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding a Gassy Baby
Your baby gets a whole bunch of nutrients from your breast milk. It helps them fight diseases and develop their bodies. But it might also bring some gas with it and make your baby gassy. Now, it’s common for babies to be gassy from time to time with worse bouts during nighttime. Their immature digestive system makes it easy for gas to build up in their little tummies, and yes, usually, this doesn’t relate to the mother’s diet. However, if there’s anything experience taught us, it’s that a gassy mommy can lead to a gassy baby. Foods that induce gas in mothers may also affect their babies. This is especially true when you’ve eaten too many gassy foods. Gas from certain foods can get into your breast milk and start to show in your baby two hours after you eat.
This is why the basic rule when eating during your breastfeeding period is to have slow-cooked meals that are both nourishing and warm. Avoid cold foods that release gas in your stomach and into your baby’s delicate gut. Being careful with your diet starts by knowing the common irritants that can make you and your baby gassy. Here’s a quick list to guide you:
21. Dairy products
A lot of babies are sensitive to dairy, with one common symptom being excessive crying. It’s widely considered as the number one culprit for colic in babies as the protein in milk gets absorbed into breast milk and passed on to the baby. If you think that your baby is reacting badly to the milk in your diet, try to avoid dairy foods like cow’s milk, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, or any food that contains milk, whey, or sodium caseinate, the very protein that can cause allergies in lactose-sensitive babies.
If you think that your baby is allergic to milk, remove dairy in your diet for 7 to 10 days. If you don’t see any improvement, you can reintroduce these foods, but if you notice that your baby got better after your elimination trial, you should consult your doctor for non-dairy sources of calcium, such as sardines, oranges, figs, leafy greens, and calcium-fortified non-dairy foods like cereals.
22. Certain Vegetables
You may have to hold off on some leafy greens as they are also known to cause gassiness in moms and babies. Some mothers report that certain veggies upset their babies and even cause colic. Too much gas buildup in the stomach causes extreme discomfort in your little one. It’s normal to bloat, burp, and pass gas, but if you notice that your baby is doing a little too much of these, it’s best to avoid vegetables like broccoli, beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower while you’re breastfeeding. Even a non-green veggie like carrots can make your baby extra gassy.
Generally, fruits are acidic and as such, they cause upset stomachs and gassiness in moms and babies. If you think that your baby is being extra fussy, try to avoid fruits for now. These include grapes, oranges, and strawberries. They may be packed with vitamins, but if they’re causing allergic reactions in your baby, then they’re not worth it. You can go back to a fruity diet after weaning your baby.
24. Grains and Nuts
Foods rich in fiber are common culprits for gassy babies. The fat from grains and nuts may be good for your baby’s skin, but sometimes they cause mild colic in infants. The most common foods that cause this problem are wheat, corn, seeds, olives, avocados, soy, and peanuts. In addition, starchy foods like pasta and potatoes can also produce gassiness.
25. Caffeine and Carbonated Drinks
Aside from being the number one food for breastfeeding moms to avoid, caffeine-rich products like coffee, tea, chocolate, and cold remedies could lead to colic, especially when a mother consumes large amounts of said products. Consider drinking caffeine sources moderately or skipping them entirely.
Carbonated beverages like soft drinks and energy drinks contain air bubbles that get into your system and into your baby through breastfeeding. Many mothers who give up these drinks notice significant relief in their babies’ gas problems.
Eating gassy foods makes babies gassy. If you notice that your baby is not reacting well after you’ve had any of these foods, you may have to think about removing them from your breastfeeding food choices in the meantime.
Strong-flavored Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding
Some mothers believe that foods with strong flavors should be avoided while breastfeeding. Many cultures all over the world flavor their dishes abundantly—in fact, there are breastfeeding mothers who enjoy garlicky and spicy dishes without harming their babies. There’s no definite rule on what to avoid when it comes to strong flavors. It largely depends on whether your own baby likes the taste or not.
It’s generally beneficial for babies to get a taste of different flavors. This way, your baby is exposed to certain compounds in food that he’ll get to eat later in life. Instead of getting fussy, he may become more open to a wide variety of flavors when he starts eating solids. Most likely, he has also been exposed to the taste early in life through your amniotic fluid. Still, it’s important to be aware that strong flavors change the taste of your milk, so even if they’re okay for some babies, this may not be the case with yours. Here are two that moms avoid:
The smell of garlic can go into your milk. They may improve your recipes, but your baby’s taste buds may not be accustomed to garlic’s strong odor. If your baby was exposed to the taste during pregnancy, then there’s a big chance he’ll like it. Otherwise, he’ll reject it by grimacing or making a fuss. If your baby shows discomfort while breastfeeding, try to recall if you put garlic in your lunch or dinner. It may be the reason why.
27. Spicy Foods
A lot of babies can take the extra spice in your milk, but if your baby is not reacting well and is getting colic or diarrhea, then it’s time to stay away from hot sauce and other spicy treats.
Cumin, red pepper, and curry are common ingredients to avoid.
Common Causes of Allergies While Breastfeeding
Generally, it’s recommended not to dismiss any food from a breastfeeding mom’s diet to make the baby more tolerant of a wide variety of foods. However, it’s also true that you shouldn’t include any food that causes you or the father of your baby allergies as it could also act as an allergen to your baby.
Now, your baby’s fussiness doesn’t always have to be attributed to the food you eat as it’s a normal part of your baby’s growth. In time, it will pass. It’s a different issue altogether if your baby is being fussier than normal. Some common symptoms that can be linked to allergies are excessive crying, rashes, cold-like symptoms, and wheezing. In addition, babies who are having allergic reactions to food may not gain weight, vomit frequently, have diarrhea and produce loose, watery poop that may be bloodied, and may have skin breakout and nasal discharge. There are some foods known to be frequent allergens to babies.
28. Cow’s milk
Milk is one of the most common causes of allergies in babies. This type of allergy, cow’s milk allergy (CMA), is mostly seen in babies that just started drinking formula milk or started eating solid food, but it can also manifest in breastfed infants. Some of the usual symptoms for CMA are:
- swelling of the face, eyes, and lips
- skin reactions like having a red rash
- stuffy or runny nose
- stomach aches, colic, constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting
It’s also possible that a baby is lactose intolerant, which is a temporary condition. During this period, a baby cannot digest the lactose, or the natural sugar, in milk. This usually passes and doesn’t mean he’ll be allergic to milk for life. Some common signs are vomiting, gas problems, diarrhea, and tummy aches or sounds.
There’s no definite finding yet if the peanuts in a mother’s diet would put her baby at risk of a peanut allergy. However, if you have a family history of a peanut allergy, it’s safer to avoid consuming peanuts while you’re breastfeeding your baby. There are compounds in peanuts and tree nuts like almonds and cashews that can get to your baby through your milk and cause allergic reactions in them. To check if your baby is sensitive to nuts, see if he develops rashes, hives, or trouble breathing after you breastfeed them.
Wait until you’ve weaned your baby before returning to your favorite peanut diet.
Again, if someone in your family is allergic to certain seafood, then you should avoid them. Shellfish like scallops, for one, may contain marine biotoxins, which are naturally occurring chemicals found in fish and shellfish. This makes them a usual suspect for a food allergen. For more information on scallops, check https://www.fsai.ie/content.aspx?id=10729.
Egg allergies do occur. If there’s a family history (either on your side or the baby’s father) of being sensitive to eggs, err on the side of caution and stop eating eggs. Commonly, people are allergic to the egg whites.
In sum, you should carefully observe whether common food allergens are affecting your baby. If you think that your family has a history with any of the allergens above, ask your doctor about possible changes in your diet. If your baby develops any allergic reactions, seek immediate medical attention.
Monitoring Your Baby for Adverse Reactions
Most babies drink their mothers’ milk without any problems, while there are little ones who are natural-born picky eaters. If someone told you that your baby has a food allergy, you’re probably wondering if you could still breastfeed your baby. The answer to this in most cases is yes, but there have to be some modifications.
Keep in mind that your baby is not necessarily allergic to your milk. He’s most likely reacting to something in your diet. The American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that only 2 or 3 babies out of every 100 who are exclusively breastfeeding show an adverse reaction to their mama’s food intake and most of the time the cause of problems is the cow’s milk in their mothers’ diet. When this happens, the baby shows signs that are beyond the usual fussiness or gassiness.
If you think that your baby is sensitive to any food or drink, it’s imperative that you monitor what’s in your diet and observe your baby’s symptoms. Here are steps you can take:
Keep a Food Diary
If you suspect that something in your diet is causing your baby a problem, it’s important that you monitor what you eat. At first, you will most likely experiment or do trial and error, but it will help you find out the root of the problem. Keep a list of the foods you eat and see if they affect your baby. Usually, your baby will show signs within 2 to 4 hours after you consume a certain food or drink.
Consult a Doctor
Before you avoid any foods during your breastfeeding period, you should talk first to a health practitioner. You have to make sure that any changes you make in your diet won’t cause you nutritional deficiencies. What you should do is to watch your baby and observe his reactions to certain foods.
- If your baby has symptoms like rashes, a stuffy nose, or diarrhea after breastfeeding, ask your doctor before deciding to avoid a particular food.
- Avoid food that is affecting your baby, but only when you observe that eating it changes your baby’s behavior. Stop eating or drinking it for one week and see if things get better.
- To further pinpoint the problem food, try to avoid processed goods as they contain additives and preservatives that are generally bad for your baby. Additionally, stay away from foods high in saturated and trans fat as they are generally unhealthy and may cause obesity.
Observe Elimination Diet
If you think that a certain food upsets your baby, eliminate it from your diet for a while. Know that it can take up to 14 days for a specific food to stop influencing your breast milk after you’ve eliminated it. This means you shouldn’t decide after just 24 hours.
Start Reintroducing this Food
One other way to be sure is by reintroducing the eliminated food in small portions. If your baby shows any problems like being gassy or fussy, you can stop reintroduction for now and attempt again later. Your aim is to create tolerance in your baby and not to totally get rid of these foods. For most babies, they are able to tolerate problem foods as they get older. Try to reintroduce the food every 2 to 3 months until your baby is okay with it.
At this point, you may be wondering what you can actually eat after all those restrictions. Keep in mind that if everything is going well, you don’t have to follow a specific diet. You can eat whatever you like if your baby doesn’t show any allergic reactions to what you’re eating. In general, having a healthy, varied diet is helpful to you and your baby. It helps give your baby everything he needs from your breast milk and it provides you the much-needed energy to take care of your baby. Research shows that mothers who eat different kinds of food have an easier time weaning their baby and transitioning them to solid food. The diverse flavors in your diet increase their chances of adopting an equally varied diet later on.
Try not to skip any meals. You’ll need every calorie you can get. In the first six months, your baby will increase his birth weight. You will be using the fat stored during pregnancy to cope with the energy required by breastfeeding in addition to the extra 500 calories you have to eat every day. It’s important to eat good food so here are a few reminders about your breastfeeding diet:
Eat When Hungry
Research has shown that your metabolism during your period of breastfeeding is doubly efficient than at any other time in your life. This means that even if you don’t get the extra calories, your body will still produce enough milk by burning your fat stores. Just make sure that you eat every time you’re hungry. If you’re a physically active person, you’ll probably need to eat more often.
Drink to Thirst.
Don’t get us wrong. Regardless of the amount of water you drink, your body will still be able to make enough milk for your baby. Research hasn’t shown a direct link between milk production and fluid intake. Don’t think that your baby has less milk whenever you’re thirsty. It’s more about keeping you hydrated.
The rule of thumb is to drink when you’re feeling the thirst. Keep a bottle of water conveniently within reach at the spot where you breastfeed your baby. If you think you’re not getting enough water, just check the color of your urine. If it’s a pale, straw color, you’ve had enough water. But if you’re feeling lethargic and your pee is dark yellow and smells strong, you should drink more water.
Eat More If You’re Underweight.
Often, a mother can still have a steady milk supply even when she’s underweight, but if a mom is extremely underweight or malnourished, her milk may have low levels of important nutrients and fat. If that’s the case, you will need to eat vitamin-rich foods to increase the vitamins in your milk. You may also need to raise your calorie intake.
Have Some Guidelines before You Lose Weight.
If you are planning to lose your maternity weight while breastfeeding, it’s best to approach weight loss slowly and safely. The fact is breastfeeding results in natural weight loss as your body burns your fat stores. Producing milk burns about 200-500 calories a day, so even if you don’t go on a diet you’ll shed those pounds. Still, it’s best if you go about weight loss gradually.
In general, losing something like 500g to 1kg or 1-2 pounds per week is not a problem and doesn’t affect milk production. However, it’s still advisable to wait until two months after giving birth before you go on a diet. Even then, try not to lose the pounds too fast. If you go below 1,800 calories a day, it may have an effect on your milk supply. Skip extreme diets like all-liquid fasts, low-carb diets, and body cleanses.
Remember that most breastfeeding mothers need 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day to maintain their stamina and milk supply. Be careful not to wear yourself out as it may impede your recovery and cost you a lot of energy. This is especially true if you’ve had a C-section or a difficult birth.
Discuss with your doctor the best way to lose weight in a healthy way. Ask them about local support groups of mothers who may be going through the same thing.
A High-Fat Diet May Increase Fat in Your Milk.
There are differing opinions about the relationship between food fat and milk fat. The fat content of breast milk mostly comes from the mother’s fat stores, which developed during pregnancy. Now, when it comes to the food you eat, it’s still widely debated whether the type of fat you consume also affects your milk’s calorie levels. Some researchers maintain that a low-fat diet could lead to low-fat milk and a high-fat diet can increase your baby’s energy intake.
Being Overweight May Cause Problems.
Mothers who have a BMI above 26 before pregnancy are considered overweight and they may develop milk later than usual. They may also have lower milk supply mainly due to a weaker prolactin response, not to mention the risk of having nutritional deficiencies due to a poor diet.
Of course, it’s possible to manage your weight and counter these effects with proper diet and lifestyle changes. Get additional help from your doctor or a certified lactation consultant.
Grab a Quick, Healthy Snack
It’s important to keep your energy levels high. Here are some simple snacks that are rich in the nutrients you need:
- vegetable and bean soups
- sandwiches packed with grated cheese, salad, cold meat, and mashed salmon
- baked potato or baked beans
- dried apricots, figs or prunes
- milk or a 150ml glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice
- fresh fruits
- hummus with bread or vegetable sticks
- yogurts and fromage frais, made of soft, creamy fresh cheese
- fortified unsweetened breakfast cereals and other wholegrain cereals with milk
If a snack has a potential allergen (e.g. milk and nuts), remember to watch how it affects your baby after you’ve had your snack.
Essential Supplements for Breastfeeding Mothers
If you are eating a well-balanced diet, then your body is getting all the minerals and vitamins that you need to make milk. These are naturally passed on to your baby. However, if for whatever reason you’re not getting enough nutrition from the food you eat, you have to make sure that you get it from other sources because you need the same level of nutrition as when you were pregnant. Remember also that as a breastfeeding mother you need more calories per day now than ever before.
Your baby also needs vitamins as part of his daily nutritional requirement. This helps him avoid nutritional deficiency disorders and achieve his developmental milestones. While he’s exclusively breastfeeding, your milk is your baby’s only source for these vitamins. When he starts eating solids, he still needs the nutrition brought by your milk, so make sure that you are taking enough vitamins. Here’s a quick list of all the essentials
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial in building bones and teeth. You can get this vitamin from exposure to the sun and from your diet. But a lot of people are vitamin D deficient because they stay indoors a lot. This is why it’s important to take a daily supplement of 10 mcg of vitamin D from sources like cod liver oil, oily fish, selected mushrooms and fortified foods.
2. Vitamin B12
When babies have vitamin B12 deficiency, they tend to be lethargic, developmentally delayed, or anemic, which is a serious problem for babies. Some vegan and vegetarian diets restrict a mother’s intake of vitamin B12, so they need to take supplements to ensure their babies don’t miss out on this important vitamin.
Iron supplements won’t necessarily increase the level of iron in breast milk but iron-deficient mothers tend to have low milk supply. For mothers 18 years old or below, they need 10 mcg of iron every day. For those 19 years and above, they can have a lower intake of 9 mcg per day. Some of the common sources of iron are egg yolks, dried fruits, seafood, dried beans, meat, and poultry.
4. Omega-3 (DHA)
Another essential nutrient is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in seafood like fatty fish and algae. It’s particularly beneficial for your skin, eyes, and nervous system. It is crucial for your baby’s brain development, and many formulas add DHA to help improve a baby’s eyesight. If you’re low on DHA, your milk will also have low DHA.
Cereals, grains, and seafood are some of the common sources of iodine, a trace element that’s responsible for the hormones in the thyroid. Doctors recommend daily iodine supplements for nursing mothers as some diets are low in iodine. Smoking also affects iodine levels in breast milk and increases a mother’s chance of brain damage linked to iodine deficiency.
The level of iodine is correlated with the level of iodine in the soil. Some places have specific recommendations for iodine supplementation among lactating women. You should talk to your health practitioner for guidance on whether your area has its own recommendations as well.
6. Other vitamins
There are other vitamins you should consider taking, namely:
- Vitamin A. The best sources of vitamin A are organ meats, eggs, carrots, dark leafy greens, and sweet potatoes.
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): fish, pork, seeds, bread, and nuts
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): oily fish, nuts, eggs, cheese, red meat, and almonds
- Vitamin B6: banana, dried fruit, seeds, nuts, fish, pork, and poultry.
- Selenium: seafood, fish, Brazil nuts, whole wheat, and seeds.
- Choline: peanuts, eggs, beef liver, chicken liver, and fish.
Healthy Diet, Healthy Baby
Don’t ever think that you cannot breastfeed your baby just because he’s sensitive. As we’ve discussed, eating a well-balanced diet is important in making sure that your baby gets all the nutrition he needs. Keep in mind that your baby is different from other babies in that what makes him fussy or irritable is not necessarily the same issue as another baby. It may not even be your diet. But if it is, what upsets your baby cannot be measured by what irritates other babies.
The best thing to do is to consult your doctor before removing any foods from your diet. Ask them if eliminating a certain food would cause a nutritional deficiency and if there are substitutes or supplements that you could take.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t always eat the right food though; what gets to your baby is only a small amount of what you eat. But do remember that improving your diet also improves your overall health and helps with your baby’s development. Moderation is the key to everything and knowing the foods to avoid while breastfeeding will help you make better decisions in your breastfeeding diet and lifestyle. We do hope that you’ll put our recommendations to use and that your baby will be happier and healthier as a result.