Should Breastfeeding Mums Avoid Some Foods?

It has been said that breastfeeding mothers need to avoid foods such as soda, beans, cabbage and broccoli among others because they worsen colic in newborns. The aforementioned foods have been said to increase gas in a baby and should the baby be colicky, the resultant gas from foods such as soda, cabbage and broccoli will make the situation worse. And you know how babies cry when they are colicky.

Foods containing caffeine (coffee, some teas and soda) have also been discouraged because caffeine, when ingested via breast milk, is said to keep the baby awake. Garlic and onions are also said to be bad and thus should be avoided because their strong, pungent smell will discourage babies from breastfeeding.

Based on who you ask, the list of foods to be avoided or limited in intake while one is breastfeeding could be longer than the one above but, should breastfeeding mothers be avoiding some foods? Dr Sabrina Kitaka, a paediatrician, says she does not know of any food that breastfeeding mothers should be avoiding, not even when that food triggers allergic reactions in a baby.

“The food a mother eats is converted into breast milk; it is not [the same] food,” Kitaka says implying that food a baby is allergic to will not trigger an allergic reaction in a baby when breastfed.

What to eat

Dr Diana Nasike says that no food ought to be avoided by breastfeeding mothers. Instead, a mother should concentrate on balancing her diet.

“No special diet is required for breastfeeding mothers. They should eat the way ordinary people do; a balanced diet is key,” Nasike says.

She adds: “They should, however, drink a lot of fluids because it takes a lot of water to make breast milk and they need to replenish their sources.”

A glass of water after breastfeeding or eight glasses of water a day are recommended. According to, breastfeeding mothers should be wary of sugary drinks as these can lead to weight gain. The American Paediatrics Association, according to, makes the following dietary recommendations for breastfeeding mothers: vegetables (including the ‘not-to-be eaten cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers and beans because they cause gassiness in babies’), complex carbohydrates (whole grains – whole wheat bread, brown rice), proteins, fat (vegetable fat, mayonnaise) and fruits.

Calcium intake, found in foods such as milk, yogurt, sesame (simsim) seeds and broccoli is highly recommended for breastfeeding mothers.

What to limit or avoid

Foods whose intake should be limited include caffeine as an overload of caffeine causes irritability, nervousness, edginess and insomnia. You should not consume more than three cups of caffeine a day. Alcohol intake should be limited, and where possible avoided as some studies have shown that alcohol in breast milk has a detrimental effect on motor development.

If you choose to drink alcohol, you should take it two hours before nursing, according to, because it takes at least two hours for alcohol to be eliminated from the body. Smoking is not recommended during breastfeeding because not only does nicotine and the chemicals in cigarettes end up in breast milk exposing the breastfed baby to illnesses but according to, smoking has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

You should, however, note that adverse effects from smoking, on infants, have not been reported, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and so even if smoking is discouraged while a mother is breastfeeding, mothers who fail to quit smoking are encouraged to breastfeed, nonetheless.

Smells putting babies off food

Do pungent-smelling foods like garlic put babies off breastfeeding and should mothers be avoiding them? Some mothers have said that their babies have been put off breastfeeding because they ate garlic and so they have taken it out of their diet. While recommends that foods that put babies off breastfeeding or cause fussiness are taken out of one’s diet, some doctors say that a diet rich in a variety of foods introduces a baby to different tastes, which they will recognise and enjoy once weaned.


Some medicines, however, Kitaka says, can harm the breastfeeding baby and so it is important to seek the doctor’s or pharmacist’s guidance, on whether one should continue breastfeeding or not, while using a certain medicine.

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