What to Eat & What to Avoid While Breastfeeding

what to eat while breastfeedingBefore my son was born, a friend forwarded me a “+/-” list of foods to enjoy more or imbibe less when lactating. The email was a forward of a forward, and the list was credited to a woman named Helen Gordon. I’ve searched the internet high and low and cannot find a definitive Helen Gordon to whom the list may have belonged. Additionally, it included foods such as parsley and turnips on the “eat more of” side, which I know are incorrect recommendations. (Parsley can affect milk supply and turnips can cause awful gas–for baby AND mom!)

Coupled with my own research, I took the idea of the “+/-” list and compiled a reference for breastfeeding mamas. Keep in mind that not all of the “Eat Less” foods may cause issue forever (or at all!). Also remember that there is no guarantee that the “Eat More” foods are perfectly fail-proof, but it’s a good place to start 🙂 This list is meant to address the idea that in the early days of nursing, certain foods may cause an issue for baby or mama’s digestion. There are plenty of resources available for foods that can increase/decrease supply. THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM. Also note: this is a reference guide for what to eat MORE of or LESS of; I do not mean to imply that these are the ONLY foods a mama should eat!

I created a Postpartum Meals List for myself based upon this list. The only time food caused an issue for Bear was when I had coffee coconut ice cream after he was a few months old (what was I thinking?!). This list worked for us; maybe it can help you, too.

I hope you find the list useful!* Please pin it!

You may also like my recipe for Peanut Butter Lactation Cookies 🙂

*Please read my follow-up post to this list. Comments have been turned off on this post.

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27 Responses to What to Eat & What to Avoid While Breastfeeding

  1. Sarah May 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    The only food I ever had a problem with during breastfeeding was cabbage. I know lots of babies have adverse reactions to dairy and soy in mama’s diet while bf-ing, so you may consider adding those. My advice to bf-ing moms is to drink lots of water and eat when hungry! Peppermint tea can reduce supply. And probably the worst offender for lost milk supply is restricting calories to try to lose the “baby weight” too fast after giving birth. The low-carb/no-carb diets are the worst for that.

    • HealthfulMama May 9, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      Sarah, you know, I wanted to put dairy on there, too, but because I have such strong feelings about most dairy (it’s not good for you!) I figured it was just my bias showing! 😉 You make a really good point about both dairy and soy, especially if Mom is consuming large amounts of each. Thank you for the tip about peppermint!

      I should probably amend my post to include my reasoning behind the “more” and “less.” It has more to do with acid on the “Eat Less” side.

      Thanks for your comments! 🙂

  2. Tracy The UnCoordinated Mommy May 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    Brocolki was definitely a fussy food for my little guy. And also orange juice and dairy, even just milk with cereal in the AM could bother him in the first month. Oh and most Italian foods with tomato based sauces. My pediatrician, who was a lactation consultant and somewhat homeopathic, suggested a probiotic for me and a non-dairy probiotic for my son and if I ate anything that I thought might bother him I could take a digestive enzyme and it would break up most of the bad stuff before it reached my milk. We were finally able to put away the mylicon once we started that!!

  3. Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama May 14, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Thanks for an excellent resource! Pinned and tweeted.

    I didn’t avoid spices when breastfeeding my son, and at 22 months, he now loves Mexican and Indian food. I always wonder if it’s because of his exposure to the tastes in my breastmilk.

  4. Heather May 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    I don’t avoid anything. When I Baby B was tiny, I limited my coffee intake. He is now five months old, and I just can’t keep away from coffee for my own sanity, I need it. I gave it up cold turkey while pregnant and only twice did I feel the need to have a cup of decaf, but that was late in pregnancy and I felt it was ok since I had obstained from coffee almost the entire pregnancy. The biggest thing about coffee for those pregnant and breastfeeding is it can block nutrients from prenatal vitamins or food you eat. So if you drink coffee in the morning, do not take your prenatal vitamins at that time, take your vitamins at night. I also drink mother’s milk tea twice a day. It will help you keep up your supply. With my little one, he did have his boughts of gassy fussiness but he has grown out of them and I can pretty much eat anything now, but I need to avoid eggs and green chili in conjunction because that combination totally keeps him up at night. I do want to emphasize that while I need my coffee these days, I limit it to the morning hours and just 2 cups. 😉

  5. Heather May 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Also just a tip with the mother’s milk tea, not only does it help your supply, it helps with baby’s reflux if you take it regularly. 😉

  6. Brenna July 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    I ate whatever I wanted when I breastfed both kids for one year each. The only problem I had was finding out that they were both allergic to oats and would get eczema if I ate oats. I only really figured this out by elimination and actually aveeno body wash (oatmeal) finally made me realize what it was. My ped immediately assumed milk but after cutting it for two weeks and using cortisone to clear up the skin, aveeno broke him out like a red tomato! So, I had to avoid that but otherwise nothing else and luckily both kids outgrew their oat allergy!

    • HealthfulMama July 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

      Wow, Brenna! I’ve never heard of an oat allergy (besides gluten-intolerances from contaminated oats)!

  7. Jill July 21, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I have tried not to cut anything out completely, but I’ve definitely limited intake of onions, peppers, garlic, cabbage, broccoli (gassy), dairy, & caffeine. I still drink soda and eat chocolate but I try not to overdo it 🙂 Also, just a tip to moms…watch when you try anything new. My ped recommended fenugreek to me to help with limited milk supply…I ended up with a huge allergic reaction, so just be cautious if you are trying new teas, foods, or herbal supplements that you haven’t had before.

    • HealthfulMama July 21, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Good tip, Jill!

  8. Alissa Imler July 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    I didn’t restrict anything because sometimes the “eat less” side was literally all I wanted sometimes (cabbage, cauliflower, berries) my little man didn’t have a problem. What really hurt my milk production was I let my mother-in-law convince to get the flu shot and it took me so long to get my milk production back up to par…I’ve always been a healthy eater and if I tried a more common allergy food I paid very close attention to my baby. He was 20 months before he ever had a diaper rash (worse thing I have ever experienced with him), and I credit that feat to breast feeding.

  9. lactation consultant July 25, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    you should be ashamed of yourself posting a list like this. YOU are part of the reason why so many women give up on breastfeeding. There is no legit research stating what you eat can can actually effect the baby through the breast milk. Also, barring any EXTREMELY rare disorders, the vast majority of women will only have supply issues because they are not breastfeeding on demand. If you feel like your supply is low, simply breastfeed more. It’s all about supply and demand. The more you breastfeed, the more milk your body makes. It’s as simple as that. Once you start adding bottles into the mix, you are sabotaging your breastfeeding relationship. If you ever have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding, kellymom.com has the most up-to-date scientific research. In regards to all this rubbish about foods getting through your breast milk, read this before you spread any more lies: http://kellymom.com/parenting/parenting-faq/gassybaby/

    • HealthfulMama July 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Hi there, “lactation consultant.” We can never truly be sure what we read on the internet is truth, eh? I never meant for this list (nor this blog, for that matter) to be taken as medical advice. Please refer to my Welcome page; I have a pretty clear disclaimer about my intentions here: http://healthfulmama.com/welcome/

      KellyMom *is* a great resource, but by no means a place of medical certainty. KellyMom is a blog, too. Just a really popular [and trusted] one. I shared this list because it worked for me. I’ve amended the original post to include a statement about that in an effort to be more clear. Nowhere in this post did I say that this was a tried-and-true method to which all mamas should adhere, but thanks for assuming.

      I like the link you’ve shared, but I will say that, despite the evidence, what I ate DEFINITELY affected my breastmilk. Perhaps the food doesn’t directly “go through” to mama’s milk, but *something* happens. And until I’m a paid scientific lab researcher (and before you are, too), all we can do is trust our health practitioners, our knowledge gleaned from experience and individual research, and, most importantly, our guts. I have no intention of “spreading lies,” as you so imprecisely describe what I do here. I’m just a mom sharing my experience and opinions. It just happens to be public and “public” has NEVER meant “hard and cold fact.” Maybe this list is a load of bullshit, but this particular brand of bullshit is the kind that fits my philosophies about health.

  10. Leslie July 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Do you have any scientific basis/literature for any of the items on this list? I agree with lactation consultant….lists like this are RIDICULOUS. Let’s make breastfeeding more difficult, more complicated and just more of a pain in the butt (or chest, hehe) than it already is….

    The right side pretty much looks like my normal diet, and I’m currently BF’ing my second happy baby. It’s summer! As if I’m not going to gorge myself on berries and stone fruits and fresh tomatoes!

    Before you post ‘health’ advice like this, it would be a good idea to ensure some citations (i.e., actual scientific research, not other blogs/message boards).

    • HealthfulMama July 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

      Hi Leslie, I think I answered some of your questions/concerns in my reply to “lactation consultant” above. This is a blog based on experience and opinion. I am not soliciting any type of advice whatsoever.

  11. joy July 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    I had three healthy children and never breastfed. I feel it is a choice, those who want to should, and those who don’t want to shouldn’t be made to feel guilty. I couldn’t have had any healthier children growing up, while my friend who breastfed all her kids, had kids with colds all winter and allergies, which didn’t run in the family, so there ya go.

  12. Megan July 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    I am a fortunate mama. I was able to eat anything I wanted during breastfeeding and nothing seemed to bother my little guy. He was put on meds to aid his digestion due to an umbilical hernia causing problems for him, but other than that I was able to eat anything I wanted. Someone once told me not to eat chocolate while breastfeeding, but they didn’t have a reason, so I ignored it. Also, my lactation consultant recommended eating oatmeal to boost supply.

  13. Chantel July 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I did not modify my diet, other than to avoid caffeine for the most part. And I didn’t drink alcohol. But there are enough things to worry about with our children without questioning every single thing that goes into my mouth. I will not be paranoid this time, either. If my child starts having an obvious problem, I will then investigate the possible causes. But my daughter never ever had feeding issues. She was exclusively breastfed to 6 months when I began slowly introducing solids, as recommended. I waited the full year to introduce cow’s milk and peanuts, also as recommended. Beyond that, I had enough problems!!

    As for dairy being “so bad for you”, this is simply not true!! It is an excellent source of protein and calcium, both of which your lactating body desperately needs while lactating. If you don’t consume enough calcium, it will be leached out of your very bones to provide adequate amounts for baby. And I hate to break it to you, but the world’s most perfect food for babies…..breastmilk…….is a dairy product!! Quite high in fat, just like baby needs to meet their amazing growth needs. Dairy is wonderful in moderation unless you have an allergy to it.

    Okay, i’m off my soapbox now!!

    • HealthfulMama July 28, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Chantel, there are a number of reasons to believe cow’s milk products (dairy) are not the best for human digestion, namely, the way cows are raised and what is done to the milk during production. I encourage you to read Food and Healing by Annemarie Colbin, which is where I base much of my health philosophy. That being said, I do indulge in cheese and yogurt occasionally, but there are better and more efficient ways to get calcium and protein to your body than by dairy (spinach, for example, is a great source of calcium and is better absorbed by the body).

  14. Melissa July 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    I had to go off all dairy with my daughter for 4 months and with my son it was all dairy and all corn products (including things like cornstarch and corn syrup) for 4 months, but after 4 months the only thing I’ve notice bothering either of them is cabbage. 🙂

  15. Katie July 30, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    I never restricted anything when I breast fed either (3 years total). I think some of these may be old wives taleish (not sure if that’s a word). But hey, some of these recommendations helped you, so it may help another woman breastfeed longer. But like you also said, this is by no means something that everyone will find works for them. Happy breastfeeding, mamas!! I loved it.

  16. Mrs. Dill July 31, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Oh man Oh man Oh man! This list is freaking me out! I formula fed my first two kids, and now I’m planning on breastfeeding my upcoming baby this winter. I may eat, like, five of the things on the “eat more of this” foods list on a regular basis, the rest of it I don’t think I’ve eaten, ever! Buckwheat? Duck? Stewed Apples? (any chance apple pie counts as stewed apples? I’m so worried about this breastfeeding business! When you’re formula feeding you don’t have to worry about what you eat effecting the baby! I don’t know if I can do this… :-S Not to mention the fact that feeding the baby was the ONE thing I could get Mr. Dill to do for me (and maybe washing bottles now and then), and now I won’t be able to get that help either! *deep breaths* Okay, I’m going to sit in my soon-to-be-baby’s-room and smell a bottle of baby lotion… That should calm my nerves a bit. 😀

  17. CELINE July 31, 2012 at 10:36 pm #


  18. Lauren August 1, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    I have to agree with some previous posters that this list is ridiculous and potentially doing more harm than good, as you are completely over-complicating breastfeeding with this false information. Aside from possibly caffeine and alcohol (and even those don’t need to be 100% eliminated), a breastfeeding mother doesn’t need to restrict her diet whatsoever unless she discovers a particular food that seems to upset her child. A healthy, varied selection of foods as close to their natural state as possible is the best diet for a lactating woman (and non-lactating women, for that matter). I especially take issue with the idea that we should avoid herbs and spices. That is absolutely asinine. On the contrary, a mother’s diverse palate changes the taste of her breast milk on a constant basis, setting the stage for her child to be accustomed to these flavors later and be a less-picky eater than his/her formula-fed counterparts.

    I’m sure there are exceptions to every rule, and perhaps some women may in fact have issues with some of the foods on your list. But to publish this list as a big blanket statement for nursing mothers is simply inaccurate and irresponsible.


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