Mythbusting: Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Mythbusting: Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding

It’s been said that you are what you eat. If you’re a breastfeeding mama, then you aren’t only what you eat – what you’re eating is what your little one is eating, too!

Old research, myths, and unfounded science have led many breastfeeding mamas to swear off certain foods and drinks altogether. Fortunately, it turns out that many of the foods you may have been avoiding while breastfeeding can be enjoyed either in moderation or in greater amounts than you thought. Here is the latest on what foods you can enjoy and which you should avoid while nursing your child.

Sushi: Avoid or Enjoy?

Answer: Enjoy!

Sushi lovers, rejoice! It turns out that having sushi while breastfeeding is A-OK if it is consumed in moderation.

The key here is to visit a reputable sushi restaurant and to enjoy sushi that doesn’t contain high-mercury fish (more on that in a moment). Eating low-mercury sushi while nursing is fine as long as it is kept to two to three servings (a maximum of 12 ounces) per week.

Caffeine: Avoid or Enjoy?

Answer: Enjoy!

For decades mamas avoided tea, coffee, and caffeinated beverages because they were afraid it would keep their babies awake during nap time, wreak havoc with their digestive system, or have other negative effects on their well-being. It turns out that having some caffeinated drinks in moderation (no more than three cups a day) shouldn’t have an adverse effect on your little one.

With that said, some babies may be sensitive to caffeinated beverages, particularly if they are below the age of three months. If your baby seems to be irritated within an hour or two of nursing and the time you had a caffeinated beverage, consider cutting back or choosing a low/decaffeinated version of your drink.

Alcohol: Avoid or Enjoy?

Answer: Enjoy!

Now is not the time to shotgun a six-pack of beer. But you can enjoy a small amount of alcohol while breastfeeding your little one. This is because only a small amount of alcohol passes through to the breast milk if you drink in moderation.

One to two boozy beverages a week are fine. Just keep in mind that this the serving sizes are a 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine, or a single ounce of hard liquor.

Fish: Avoid or Enjoy?

Answer: It depends

Ideally, if breastfeeding (and pregnant) mamas want to enjoy fish, it should be fish that is organic and caught in the wild, and that does not contain a high amount of mercury.

Fish generally thought to be safe for breastfeeding mums by both the USDA and FDA include:

  • Salmon
  • Pollock
  • Shrimp
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Flounder
  • Light tuna (canned)

Fish which should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding are:

  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish
  • Shark

Chocolate: Avoid or Enjoy?

Answer: Enjoy!

This is a welcomed answer for those who love a bite or two of chocolate as a treat. It’s important to keep in mind that chocolate can and often does contain caffeine, so if you are drinking tea, coffee, or sodas, you should include your chocolate’s caffeine levels into account. This is particularly true if you are eating dark chocolate as it usually has more caffeine than milk and white chocolate.

Foods to Keep an Eye On

Food tolerances vary from mama to mama and baby to baby. One baby may be fine with a mum who loves to eat a lot of garlic, but the next baby may avoid breast milk after mum has had a particularly garlicky meal.

Apart from garlic, monitor how your baby reacts after eating the following foods:

  • Parsley
  • Peppermint
  • Sage
  • Beans
  • Cruciferous veggies

As always, be mindful of the medications you take while breastfeeding. Make sure your doctor knows that you are breastfeeding your little one so they can prescribe medications that are safe for both you and your baby.


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