Nutrition for Breastfeeding Moms

If you’re breastfeeding, chances are you’ve been given plenty of advice. How much of it is hooey?

Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
5-minute read
Episode #55

In observance of World Breastfeeding Week, I'm going to take a look at what breastfeeding moms should and shouldn’t be eating, with a special look at some cherished myths.

Nutrition Advice for the Nursing Mom

So, you’ve brought your bundle of joy home from the hospital. Before being discharged, a lactation coach may have looked in on you to help you get more comfortable with the strange and wonderful new skill of breastfeeding. I’ll bet you’ve also gotten a whole slew of well-meaning advice from friends, sisters, your mother-in-law, and the nice lady who rode down in the elevator with you on your way out.

Foods That Cause Colic

In particular, you’ll probably get a lot of advice about foods that you should avoid while nursing because they will give your baby gas. All babies get gas--and some get more than others. Unfortunately, the dietary connections are anything but clear-cut.

Most new mothers are advised to stay away from cabbage, broccoli, garlic, and anything else that tends to cause you gas on the grounds that it will give your baby gas, too.

And at least one study did find that babies were more likely to suffer from colic when their moms ate cruciferous vegetables. But many women find that they don’t cause any problems whatsoever.

Common allergens, such as the proteins found in milk and other dairy products, are a much more likely cause of gas in babies than Mom’s broccoli habit.

To a certain extent, each mother needs to discover--through trial and error-- which foods, if any, are bothering her baby. Keep in mind, however, that a baby’s digestive system is developing fast and the rules will probably continue to change.

Turning Up the Heat

Moms are also usually told to avoid spicy food. These foods may indeed affect the flavor of breast milk in a way that Baby will notice. But take it from millions of Indian, Asian, and Latin-American moms: spicy food does not negatively affect the quality of your breast milk.

Your baby becomes accustomed to your customary diet. If you’ve been eating a very bland diet and then suddenly indulge in a big plate of Buffalo wings, your baby may indeed register his or her disapproval the next time you nurse. If on the other hand, you’re in the habit of eating kim-chee for breakfast every day, Junior likely won’t bat an eyelash.

Interestingly, the foods you eat while you’re nursing-- and even during pregnancy-- affect how your baby comes to perceive flavors and can affect his or her preferences and food choices later in life.