10 Things Breastfeeding Mothers Should Avoid

Are you a new, breastfeeding mom? Wondering whether drinking coffee or eating spicy food will affect your baby? Here are 10 things you should avoid while nursing your baby.

By Shiny Surendran

10 Things Breastfeeding Mothers Should Avoid
Things to avoid if you are breastfeeding your baby

As a nutritionist, I often get frantic calls from new mothers as they are confused about what to eat and what not to eat after childbirth. It is important to note that the first six months to a year are vital for both you and your baby’s health. 

During this period, you must focus on eating wholesome nutritious meals and maintain regular mealtimes to ensure your baby’s proper growth and development. Also, weight-loss diets are not advisable as you need to meet your daily dose of nutrients. 

However, you can always start making healthy choices that do not negatively impact your baby. Further, whenever you eat something new, watch out for your baby’s reactions and check with your paediatrician if you have any concerns. If you are unable to completely avoid something food (coffee, tea) during the nursing period, at least try to limit your intake.

Here are a few foods to avoid while breastfeeding:

1. Coffee and breastfeeding:

You could be itching to get back to your daily stimulant – coffee. But it is best to avoid it when breastfeeding as the caffeine present in your coffee (and tea for that matter) could end up in your breast milk. Unfortunately, babies cannot process caffeine the way adults do, and it could interfere with your baby’s sleep patterns, cause irritation and make her cranky and fussy.

High amounts of caffeine can also lower the iron content in your breast milk and thereby decrease haemoglobin levels in your baby’s blood. So, think twice before you take that next sip from your coffee mug. Limit your intake to one cup a day, if you can’t avoid.

2. Alcohol and breastfeeding:

This one is a no-brainer. Ideally, it is advisable to stay away from alcohol. However, occasionally you may want to have a drink with your friends. In that case, it’s better to give it a miss till you wean your baby. This is because, like in the case of coffee, alcohol too can pass from mom to baby through breast milk and negatively affect your baby’s neurological development.

3. Peanuts during nursing:

Do you have a family history of peanut allergies? If yes, then it is wise to avoid peanuts as long as you are breastfeeding. The allergic proteins present in peanuts could pass into your breast milk and then to the baby. And if your baby has a peanut allergy, then as a reaction, your baby might develop rashes, hives or wheezing. 

Watch out for these allergic reactions if they occur and you feel they are related to your snacking on peanuts. Eating even a few peanuts used as a garnish for salad or any other dish can affect babies who are highly sensitive.

4. Spicy food and breastfeeding:

Relish spicy food? If yes, you might have to forego it until you wean your baby. Spicy food can easily irritate some babies and make them fussy. Even a dash of pepper is more than enough to result in a tummy upset for some babies.

Reduce the amount of spice in your food, if your little one is not comfortable with it. No need to eat bland food but use spices in moderation. Remember, spicy food can alter the flavour of mother’s milk as well as interfere with the baby’s tender and developing digestive system.

5. Milk and other dairy products:

When you eat dairy products or drink cow’s milk, your baby may not already have the lactase enzyme (an enzyme produced by the body that helps in breaking down lactose and digesting milk). If you observe symptoms like vomiting, skin issues, sleep issues and fussiness, chances are your baby is intolerant to cow’s milk.

This means you need to stop eating dairy products for some time and observe your baby. You could perhaps try curd or diluted buttermilk which is easier to digest. You could also drink lactose-free milk that is now readily available in stores.

Apart from watching what you eat while breastfeeding, you should also avoid the following:

6. Stress and breastfeeding:

Taking care of a newborn, coupled with sleepless nights and exhaustion, ngcan be quite stressful on you, we understand. However, it is important that you manage stress effectively, as anxiety can affect the quality and quantity of breast milk. 

To tackle this, you could turn to music, meditation and yoga, as these are some of the best ways to deal with stress. You could, maybe, even maintain a gratitude journal, as this will help you count your blessings instead of drowning yourself in misery.

7. Unsafe food during breastfeeding:

Ensure that the food you eat is prepared in hygienic conditions and safe food-handling procedures are maintained. The chopping boards, kitchen towels, knives, cooking utensils should all be clean. And, the person who cooks should follow good hygiene habits. These things matter when it comes to your baby’s health. 

Here’s a tip on the safe storage of food items, especially meat products. If you buy them in large quantities, store them in smaller boxes which can be consumed in a day (for example, 1kg meat can be stored as 250gm boxes for four days of consumption). You can avoid microbial contamination this way. Bear in mind that unhygienic and contaminated food contain harmful pathogens that are responsible for food poisoning. They can transfer to your baby when you nurse her.

8. Formula supplement and breastfeeding:

Is your breastmilk supply low? Don’t fret. Try not to introduce formula into your baby’s diet immediately as mother’s milk is the best. Instead, meet a lactation consultant to discuss your concerns. You could also change your diet to include healthier food. Keep yourself well hydrated, by drinking enough water before and after you feed. Also, do not take on unnecessary stress.

9. Self-medication while breastfeeding:

You may be tempted to self-medicate and take over-the-counter medicine, but always remember that your baby is dependent on you, and you need to take care of yourself. Self-medication for common issues like cold, flu and stomach upset may interfere with the milk production and quality of supply. Consult your doctor and follow his advice; take only prescription medication.

10. Ignoring your health during breastfeeding:

Take care of yourself, especially since you are breastfeeding. Have some ‘me’ time, even after the baby arrives. Go for regular health check-ups, as some illnesses can interfere with the milk supply. Eat nutritious food. Remember to consult your doctor before avoiding any foods while breastfeeding, so that you do not end up with nutritional imbalance. Also, keep an eye on your baby’s reaction to different foods you eat.

A good brisk walk in the morning or evening could help in ensuring your dose of fresh air, nature and sunlight. These will infuse a dose of positivity in you.

You may also seek professional advice from a nutritionist for your diet and exercise regimen, as bad choices in food and exercise could adversely affect your baby’s and your overall health.

Motherhood and breastfeeding may be whole new experiences for you. However, while you enjoy this new phase of life, pay attention to these simple tips. Make the right nutrition choices and stay in good health and spirits, for your baby’s benefit as well as yours!

The author is a well-known sports nutritionist and the first Indian to be certified with a Graduate Diploma in Sports Nutrition by the International Olympic Committee.

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