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What Are the Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?

Deanna Baranyi
Updated May 17, 2024
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In most cases, the list of foods to avoid while breastfeeding is short. Although typically found in beverages, most nursing mothers tend to limit the amounts of caffeine that they consume. In addition, alcoholic beverages should be avoided, unless the mother is planning on discarding the breast milk that is affected by the alcohol. Additionally, peppermint is believed to lower the supply of breast milk, so it should generally be avoided. Some babies do develop allergies as well, so when the allergen is discovered, those would be foods to avoid while breastfeeding.

Caffeine will not harm a nursing infant if it is consumed by the breastfeeding mother in limited quantities. Most breastfeeding advocates believe that a mother can safely consume about 2 cups (about 476 milliliters) of coffee per day without affecting the infant. If the mother drinks more caffeine than that, it may cause increased sleeplessness in the baby. Caffeine is found in many sources, such as coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate. Chocolate may seem harmless, but since it is found in many products, such as candy, pudding, cocoa, cookies, and frosting, it may push a nursing mother over the recommended limit for caffeine.

Although alcohol is not a food, it is often listed as one of the foods to avoid while breastfeeding. If a nursing mother were to consume several alcoholic beverages, it could cause serious permanent harm to an infant. Many mothers tend to avoid alcoholic beverages altogether, while others discard the breast milk that is affected by the alcohol. In the meantime, they may give the infant breast milk that they had previously pumped and stored.

Peppermint is often listed as an ingredient to be avoided during breastfeeding as well. It is believed to lower a mother’s supply of breast milk. As a result, a nursing mother should avoid peppermint teas, candy, cough drops, or foods made from peppermint oil.

Typically, most breastfeeding mothers can eat nearly any food product without harming her nursing infant. If a baby develops an allergy to a specific food, it may take time to discover what food is causing the problem. Some of the most common offenders include dairy, soy, wheat, nuts, and eggs. If a baby or her mother is not allergic to those products, there is no need to add them to the list of foods to avoid while breastfeeding.

Some babies also suffer from colic or gas. Although colic or gas can be a naturally occurring event, some people believe that it stems from foods that a mother has eaten. As a result, many mothers avoid foods such as onion, garlic, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, broccoli, and prunes. Sometimes avoiding these products reduces the symptoms of colic or gas, other times it makes no noticeable change. In addition, while avoiding beans may be common in some cultures, such as the United States, nursing mothers in other cultures, such as Africa, would never dream of avoiding such foods.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Deanna Baranyi
By Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her work. With degrees in relevant fields and a keen ability to understand and connect with target audiences, she crafts compelling copy, articles, and content that inform and engage readers.
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Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her...
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