July 13, 2021
The nutrients consumed by a breastfeeding mother are passed on to her baby. And it’s more than just calories — breastmilk is packed with key nutrients like proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates that are key to a baby’s healthy growth.
But just like healthy nutrients, any harmful substances consumed will also make their way into a mother’s milk. For this reason, there are a number of foods, drinks, and substances that should be avoided while breastfeeding:
Avoiding alcohol completely is the safest option for mothers who are breastfeeding, but consuming a moderate amount of alcohol (one standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the baby. When alcohol is consumed, it’s recommended that the mother waits at least two hours before breastfeeding her infant. Consuming more than one drink in a day can negatively impact an infant’s growth, development, and sleeping schedule, so it’s important to adhere to the recommended consumption levels or avoid drinking alcohol entirely.
It’s safe to drink some coffee or caffeinated tea while breastfeeding — only about one percent of the caffeine ingested makes it into milk. However, even one percent can be a lot for a newborn and too much caffeine can leave a baby irritated. Keep it to under three cups of coffee (or the equivalent) spread across the entire day, and cut back even more if your baby is especially fussy.
While fish is a great source of lean meat and omega-3 fatty acids, the mercury levels in some fish can cause nervous system damage in babies. You may want to limit your consumption to varieties of fish that are lower in mercury and avoid fish with high concentrations like swordfish, shark, mackerel, and marlin.
There has been no comprehensive research on the impact of cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on newborns that are breastfeeding, but it has been confirmed that the chemical can remain in breastmilk for up to six days after use. THC may affect a newborn’s brain development and could result in poor cognitive function. The impact of CBD is less certain, but due to other contaminants, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration expresses caution until more research is done.
Infants may have a reaction to what their mother eats or drinks whether or not those items appear on this list. For example, some babies may have sensitivity to dairy products. While breastfed children typically experience fewer food allergies than those who aren’t breastfed, they should still be monitored for diarrhea, vomiting, or unusual stool, rashes, excessive crying, or coughing after breastfeeding. If any of these symptoms are observed, speak with you baby’s doctor about removing certain foods from your diet.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.