What to Eat & What to Avoid, Take 2: Diet Affects Breast Milk

Months ago, I posted a list of foods to have more of and foods to avoid when breastfeeding, especially in the early weeks, entitled What to Eat & What to Avoid While Breastfeeding. The list got not so much as a glance from many readers until it spread like wildfire on Pinterest recently. Suddenly, a simple list of foods which worked for my personal breastfeeding relationship was under attack. (I’ve turned off the comments now, but I encourage you to read what others had to say.) Certain sources suggest that what a mother eats has no affect on her breast milk, and my list ignited some fiery opinions from those who felt I was hindering mothers from being successful at breastfeeding.

My intention in posting the list was exactly the opposite. I know the “+/-” list helped me feel at ease in my diet choices, and made it easier to eliminate any bothersome selections. Our son had ZERO irritability, no sleep issues, no reflux problems, and slept through the night from a very early age until the present (knock on wood). One example does not make the rule, nor does it prove ANYTHING, but this blog’s purpose is not to be a medical resource, only to share experience, opinion, criticism, and conjecture.

But to say that the negative comments from readers didn’t bother me would be a lie. I took pause and reassessed why I still believe in the idea of this list, despite some strong arguments against it.

1. I believe in holistic health. I believe that all parts of the body from the uppermost portion of the brain, down through each capillary and ventricle, to the tiniest tip of the pinkie toe, are connected, related, and affect one another. If you don’t subscribe to this particular idea of how the body works, meaning, you don’t believe a headache is anything except pain in the head, or you believe that constipation isn’t anything except not being able to take a shit, and you really like the concept of popping a pill to solve your problems… you should probably stop reading now. Nothing else I have to say will make sense for you.

2. With #1 in mind, how can one say that inhaled substances (such as environmental toxins) affect breast milk, that proteins such as those in cow’s milk enter breast milk, that soy enters breastmilk, that caffeine, drugs, contraceptives and cigarettes affect breast milk, but WHAT WE EAT does not?! The studies that are often quoted in the “food doesn’t affect breastmilk” argument discuss the idea that only substances which enter the bloodstream have an affect on milk. Well, folks, just where do you think the nutrients and other properties from your food are going? Unless you believe that the intestines serve no other purpose than to connect stomach to anus, then you’ve got to understand that FOOD ENTERS THE BLOODSTREAM. (Here is a fun and easy explanation.)

3. New studies are showing that what a mother eats affects the flavor of her breast milk. Can we not conjecture, then, that this could affect the baby if he or she dislikes the taste? This particular study points to the importance of eating varied foods throughout the breastfeeding relationship (whereas my list was not intended to address later months of a child’s life).

4. Along these lines, far too little is discussed about the NUTRITIONAL VALUE of what mom is putting into her mouth. If we simply say, “What a mother eats doesn’t matter,” then we are setting up a dysfunctional situation where the proper nutrition isn’t being given to mother and child. Telling a mother that there is no relationship between her food and the quality of her breast milk implies that processed food takes precedence over any of the wholesome items placed on my “+/-” list.

5. I believe food and diet drives our overall health. The type of input begets the type of output. Put in good things and you’ll get good things; it’s a basic principle of life.

Therefore, despite the criticism, my list will remain. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it will serve as a loose reference, maybe you’ll find no value. As a true cynic myself, I’ll echo the famous words of Lavar Burton after each episode of Reading Rainbow: “But you don’t have to take my word for it!”

What’s your take?



68 Responses to What to Eat & What to Avoid, Take 2: Diet Affects Breast Milk

  1. Liz May August 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    During my pregnancy I had terrible morning sickness, I didn’t keep any food down for near to 3 months, and lost nearly two stone only managing to avoid hospitalisation by rehydrating like a crazy women. My point it that the midwives kept telling me that the baby was fine, he would take all he needed to grow (a bit like a parasite). And indeed they were right, he had a healthy birth weigh, latched on within the first 20 minutes and feed like a trooper and now he’s a very robust and strapping 4 year old who’s the same height as most 6 year olds. The only casualty was me. My “baby brain” was also definitely down to diminished Omega 3,6,9 stores. I’m not a doctor but I am a volunteer breastfeeding supporter and we’ve be discussed studies in Africa that look how the quality of human breastmilk in drought areas are not affected by the diet of the mother. In evolutionary terms this makes sense to me, the baby benefits (to the short term detriment of the mother). I worry that by making breastfeeding seem like more of a chore than some people perceive it to be we are playing into the hands of the Baby Milk Formula companies who play upon fears of mothers and market their wares as “convenient and as good as breastmilk”. These companies delight in the message that you need a “special (read expensive) diet” when breastfeeding and they don’t distinguish between their added vitamins and minerals and natural vit and mins in breastmilk which are bio-available. My feeling is that a baby would benefit more healthwise from being breastfeed by a mother with an “inferior” diet than be given formula, which is borne out by Unicef when they say that “250,000 babies lives can be saved in India” by breastfeeding them. Ditto the rest of the world.

    • HealthfulMama August 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      Really great points, Liz. Thank you!

      Is eating well (or differently) a chore?

      I haven’t ever seen a formula company remarking on the diet requirements of breastfeeding mothers, but I will agree that they generally have shady, and convincing, arguments πŸ™

  2. Jessie August 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    I have no idea why your last post came under attack like it did! I have found my own way of eating while breastfeeding, and I know what my son does and doesn’t react badly to. I have stopped eating dairy and strawberries, but pretty much everything else is fine. But a list like yours shouldn’t put women off breastfeeding! It’s hard work feeding a child, no one can deny that, but it’s all worth it. Anyone who uses having to alter their diet as an excuse to stop breastfeeding was never that dedicated to the cause, let’s be honest.

    I think new moms need all the help they can get, so bravo!

    • HealthfulMama August 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      Thank you, Jessie. You have no idea how happy it makes me to read your comments! I really appreciate it and I really needed to hear something other than “you suck” in regards to that post. Truly, thank you πŸ™‚

    • char March 30, 2014 at 12:30 am #

      I know a girl who had to cut out soy, and glutton and quite a few other things out of her diet to the point that she could pretty much only eat some fruits and vegetables. that is now way to live. she was committed to breastfeeding but when it gets to that extreme and you find a formula that works you go with it. the stress along can reduce your supply. that is one thing I have struggled with. trying to be super mom, and super employee at the same time is very hard and hard on the supply.
      any milk that a mother can give her child is better than no milk at all and for those mommies I hope you look into milk banks and never feel ashamed that you physically are not feeding you child because you are feeding your child.

  3. Abigail August 18, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    I wholeheartedly agree with Jessie! My daughter is 3 months old and breastfeeding did not come easy. I did not realize so many foods would cause her to be gassy/fussy. If I had your list before I delivered, my early bf days would have been easier! Currently I am completely dairy, broccoli and citrus free and life is good. Thank you so much for your list. I am sorry others out there were so critical of you sharing what worked for you. Maybe those of use with fussy babies due to what we eat should invite the critics over for a gassy/fussy evening and let them see nature at work. πŸ™‚

    • HealthfulMama August 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

      I didn’t mention this in either of my posts, but most of my breastfeeding support came from family. I had a grandmother who nursed nine (nine!) children and a mother who nursed three. Perhaps it is “an old wives tale” that a mama should be careful of what she eats, but oftentimes, those “old wives” know what they’re talking about πŸ˜‰

  4. SJC August 18, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    Those commenters were idiots. I couldn’t believe what they were saying. Breast milk is dairy? Don’t think so. Dairy products are not good for you- especially with all of the hormones pumped into the cows. Most of what they said can be discredited.

    I had a terrible time upping my supply after multiple bouts of blocked ducts and mastitis with my son. He also learned to BF when he was 6.5 weeks old. I tried everything to get it back up and what ultimately worked was diet. I wasn’t eating enough.

    I am always happy to give advice through my crazy roller-coaster ride of breast feeding. Sure what I did and results I saw may not be for everyone, but experience is ALWAYS the best advice. You can blow a lot of air about something you don’t know about- but its not credible until you have experienced or witnessed it. I talked to multiple lactation consults and friends who breast fed to arrive at what worked best for me. Thank you for voicing your opinion and what worked for you. I could guarantee you helped someone. Every bit helps. I learn new things every day from other’s experiences! You never forced anyone to read this, just offered helpful advice. Don’t let them make you feel bad.

    Oh and I heard a news story about a guy who’s wife pumped a large supply. They had it frozen and their kid wasn’t drinking breast milk any more. The guy decided to only drink the breast milk for a year. (Gross, but I have a point) He said he could tell everything his wife ate that day. You can’t tell me food doesn’t enter your breast milk.

    • HealthfulMama August 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, SJC! I’ll have to look for that article.

  5. Tiffany August 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I am thankful that you put together that list because I am 36 weeks along with baby #2 and planning on breastfeeding again. I believe that what we eat has effects on our breastmilk as do many other factors. I’m also always looking for ways to improve my breastmilk and supply of it for the benefit of my baby. I had a very successful experience with my first child breastfeeding and am hoping for the same this time around. I appreciate you taking the time to share with your readers what you used during your experience. Try not to let the negative comments bother you too much. Some people are just so wrapped up in their negativity and opinions they just want to make everyone else miserable as well. It’s unfortunate that they can’t just keep to themselves or “x” off a website if they don’t agree with the author. Anyways, thanks again and I look forward to reading more from you!!!

    • HealthfulMama August 20, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

      Much appreciated, Tiffany! Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  6. Emily August 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Here is my experience as a mom who has breastfed 3 kids over 7 years and expecting #4 in a few months. . . I always chose to eat a wide variety of food, thereby exposing my baby to lots of flavors. It worked fine with my first two kids but not with my 3rd. It became very obvious that any peppers (from very mild to spicy, including pepper spices like paprika) were detrimental to my baby. I cut those out completely and limited garlic and onions and afterwards noticed dramatic improvement. My sister in law said that her baby always had problems from tomato products. Every person is different and every baby reacts completely different. A list like yours can help mothers who notice any problems look for any possible triggers.

  7. Kasey August 31, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    I think a lot of the outbursts came from what you choose to put on the less side without a reason beforehand, I admit I was a little peeved that you would eliminate so much of the fruit catagory, however once I read the comments you explained you reason, while I might not agree with it I see how that could affect others in a way that it wouldn’t bother me. But a lot of people don’t read the comments so they might not see your explination and think what ever it is they think and feel the need to say something.

    • HealthfulMama August 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      Kasey, I think you’re probably right. Additionally, despite the title, it’s a “Eat More/Eat Less” list; not an elimination list.

  8. Ella Marie September 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Healthful Mama, do you have an opinion or suggestion on if breastfeeding when baby is older if you still need to avoid acidic foods and dairy? i have a 10 1/2 month old, and I am currently still breastfeeding. She has fussy times, but mainly when she is tired, but she still does have gas sometimes. How long do you implement avoiding your “eat less of” foods when you are nursing? The reason I am asking is because many of my friends told me that the older the child got the more they could eat, but as my daughter eats solids now and a lot of what we eat, we do avoid giving her acidic and dairy. But I still eat it, and she still nurses about 4 times a day.

    • HealthfulMama September 16, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

      If something seems to bother her, avoiding that food would probably be best. I’m speaking from an opinion, not as medical advice. If she seems overly sensitive to things, maybe a talk with the pediatrician, a lactation counselor, or a nutritionist might be beneficial?

  9. Lor September 23, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    I found this all very interesting, I pinned your list while i was pregnant and only now came back to it as a reference and suddenly there are all these comments. I think most “sensitive” folks out there, are just picking fights. I’m a mother of three all within the last four years (all breastfed) and my youngest is 7wks old and I am currently breastfeeding. Even after multiple children, I still search the net for references not truths( I go to my doctor for that). Mothers by nature tend to share their experiences (old wives tales come from somewhere) and we also reach out to each for advice and help. After my three c-sections I was placed on a strict diet by my mother and grandmother, to avoid all foods that cause gas, such as beans,cauliflower, broccoli, sodas etc. With my three babies I found that if I broke the diet, my baby would suffer. And if too much coffee can make a baby jittery why wouldn’t gaseous foods therefore make a baby gassy?…I don’t follow your list to the T, but I do use it as a reference, such as when after I ate a certain food and my baby was fussy, I took a look at the list to see if what i ate was on it and i avoided it thereafter. We only breastfeed for such a short time, If i can give up alcohol and coffee for 9 months I can certainly alter my diet for another 9mths ( which is the amount of time I breastfeed my babies). Which if you think about it, many mothers would dispute that concept ..as being too early..lol

    • HealthfulMama September 23, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

      Lor, Thanks for returning and thanks for your comments! Can’t please all the people all the time, that’s for sure. Congrats on your new little life! πŸ™‚

  10. Nicci October 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    I just wanted to say thank you for putting your opinions out there to be read by others. They should not be scrutinized the way they have been. Of course what works for one might not work for all, but if your list has helped one mom in her hopes of breast feeding, then I think you have done a great thing. Thank you!

    • HealthfulMama October 7, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      Thank you for reading, Nicci!

  11. Whitney October 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    I really appreciate the time you took to make a +/- list that worked for you. That being said I think most of the people who were a little frustrated with the list is that many of the things on the “less” side are very healthy and major parts of a whole food diet. I personally was a little annoyed because I feel that many of the foods on the left are just much more bland versions of foods on the right side of the list (in the fruits category especially). I eat all of the foods in the “less” category and have since my little guy was first born. I have noticed that the more acidic foods give him diaper rash and a little gassiness (when he was very young especially) so I was just careful to eat less of those on a daily basis. I think just choosing not to eat some of them because they change the flavor of BM is a little overboard. Our little ones need to get used to all the different flavors that food has to offer and just eating bland food so that their bm is bland is not really very realistic (IMO).

    Also, in this article your point number 5 is a little confusing – “5. I believe food and diet drives our overall health. The type of input begets the type of output. Put in good things and you’ll get good things; it’s a basic principle of life.” Every single thing in the list on the right is very wholesome and healthy, so I don’t understand why you would mention that in this setting. Especially because there are more things on the “more” list that are questionable health-wise (arsenic in rice for example and just the simple fact that rice and potatoes are actually a pretty starchy empty carb for a breastfeeding mom who needs more protein, like one might find in quinoa or millet).

    I do wholeheartedly agree with you about dairy though, it really isn’t good for us, especially in the amounts that most Americans include in their diets. I think if anyone (even someone who noticed no side affects from dairy) took a month long break they would be surprised at how good they feel and then how BAD they feel when they try to incorporate it (especially milk) back into their diets.

    Sorry this is so long I just wanted to give my opinion and see what your thoughts were. I think it was great of you to approach this subject especially because many people are looking for answers about fussiness and gas and I never thought you meant for this to be a strict list that everyone has to follow (lol). People need to think for themselves and realize that just bc you see something on a blog that worked for something else doesn’t mean it’s going to be the right thing for everyone. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

  12. Rainy October 18, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    I came upon your original post from pinterest, and was a little midfed just by the title… You see, where I work, I regularly hear women say they either gave up breastfeeding or aren’t planning on breastfeeding because they can’t stick to the breastfeeding diet, or they don’t want to watch what they eat. I try to provide aupport, telling them that the breastmilk from a mom with a horrid diet is still breastmilk and healthier than alternatives to breastmilk (no meanness, rudeness, fight-picking, or judging intended here – just relaying facts), and the only things they really need to avoid are drugs and significant or frequent alcohol.

    HOWEVER, the way you explained the whole list was FANTASTIC, it’s what worked, and why, for your situation. πŸ™‚ Hopefully women will see your heart and take from your post that you are providing information to make mama and baby work even better together! Thank you!!

  13. ashley October 30, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    In regards to your first post on what to eat and what not to eat while breastfeeding, I have to say I agree with you. I did not agree with the negative comments. I don’t know about the whole supply and demand thing. I mean I never left my little guy’s side, he slept with me too, I offered the breast every time and I still struggled! I mean I would be sitting there crying because he was done on both breasts and still wanting more and I could feel them just totally empty. the advice given was supply it and your body will make it. maybe thats the case for some but not for me. I found your personal list very helpful and its true, when I eat something like barley or oats (for example) I can feel my milk come in, some foods affected him differently than others too. I’m on my third pregnancy and gearing up for the whole nursing thing again in about 9 weeks here and I find that your list is incredibly helpful, I plan to use it and stock up on the things I can beforehand. Thank you for posting it and I’m sorry for the negative comments you have received. People need to understand that just because you post something doesn’t mean you are saying you are an expert on the issue, I’ve had ‘experts’ like lactation consults give me advice that was just a no go for my body, you are just saying, ‘this is what worked for me, it might help you out too.’ I appreciate your personal advice! Thank you!

  14. HealthfulMama October 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Thank you to all those who have shared their experiences! I appreciate the input and insight πŸ™‚

  15. Jenny November 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    Wow. People can be so sensitive as though you are telling them that they did it all wrong. My little 3 week old seems to have gas and some spitting up problems… therefore, I am seeking possible ways to minimize that, hence I have seen your list and am going to cut out some stuff. My sister’s midwife told her to ABSOLUTELY avoid chocolate and the cabbage/broccoli gassy veggies. I never tried it with my other children but will with this one. And people who give up breastfeeding from seeing a list like this- REALLY? Must not have believed that mama milk is the best!

  16. Indie Pereira November 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    I work with a lot of women who truly believe they cannot breastfeed because they do not have the perfect diet. It does a disservice to these women to just make a list like this without evidence. We always tell our patients that if they notice a particular food seems to be causing trouble for *their* baby then they should try taking it out of their diet to see what happens. They can add it back in and see if the symptoms come back. That is evidence. A list of what worked for some random lady just makes breastfeeding seem overwhelming and formula feeding seem easy (of course many babies switch from formula to formula trying to find what they can tolerate). When you have been face to face with a woman who quit breastfeeding because she read a list like this and believed it then maybe you will understand why some of us on the front lines of breastfeeding promotion get frustrated. And just to make clear, I had to remove dairy from my diet, I had a kid who smelled strongly of garlic when she was still fully breastfed. Clearly food can affect breastmilk. That’s not the point.

  17. Eileen November 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Hi! I actually found you/this from a pin of your crescent rolls and because of point #2. How can folks not put those two together when typical allergens definitely do bad things to your little one. I’m a first time mom and a scientist, so maybe that’s what helps me have an open mind and take people’s advice and use it in my specific situation. Probably the best thing I’ve learned in pregnancy & motherhood is to pay attention: to your body and your child. You figure out what’s going on and are better able to find a solution. You did, and were nice enough to share and help others. Thanks for this list and the recipes. πŸ™‚ You’re making my life a little easier. I also agree with a previous comment that some peeps just want a fight.

  18. Heather November 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    I enjoyed the list. I may not follow it, but it’s helpful to remember some of the “gassy” foods. I’ve had many a momma complain about baby’s behavior after a Reuben and cabbage salad. πŸ™‚ Yep, some of those foods will do it to you! I didn’t watch what I ate with the first two very well and thankfully they did great. Now getting ready for #3 in the spring, I may be more in tune to how they behave and what my diet entails.
    Keep posting your opinion, anyone looking for “medical advice” on a blog is an idiot. Most of us know that blogging is simply opinion, but all of those opinions can still be helpful! I think it’s great the your blog promoted breast feeding…even if others thought it was detrimental. I’m a registered nurse so I always have an “opinion”. Luckily, others can choose whether or not to follow it. Happy nursing!

  19. Cari January 7, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    Like many others I found the original post via Pinterest. I think those comments were ridiculous. This is YOUR blog with YOUR opinion that people can choose to take to heart or not. I haven’t had a baby yet, but personally, I like reading varied opinions in order to form my own opinion. If your post is really making breastfeeding “so much worse” for people then those people need to take a step back. People need to CALM DOWN! That being said, it absolutely makes scientific sense that what you eat effects your milk supply and flavor. Thanks for the post!

    • HealthfulMama January 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

      Thanks, Cari. It’s encouraging to hear the positive comments. I appreciate it!

  20. Sarah January 27, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    Thank you for your post. I agree that what we consume DEFINITELY affects our milk and in turn our babies. I am currently nursing my second son. My first had horrible reactions to dairy. This time I specifically asked a lactation consultant about caffeine because with a baby and toddler, a cup of coffee did wonders for me. She said I would have to drink 4-5 cups before it would bother baby. So I went ahead with my one cup a day. Baby was so upset and I was getting so frustrated with nursing because he’d cry and cry then pull away and cry some more. I cut out coffee and it was like an overnight cure! I encourage you because getting word out there about more holistic living should encourage nursing moms, not discourage them. I see so many women give up because they think there’s something wrong with them or their milk. I mean, I got so frustrated and I am a seasoned nursing mom.

    • HealthfulMama January 28, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      See? Followed your mama instinct. Sometimes the science that says, “this won’t be a problem in this amount,” is, well, wrong.

  21. Gwizzie January 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Wow sorry for all the negative comments you got. I felt you made it clear it was just a list of suggestions. I’m having my third soon and I’m thankful to have a list to reference. Especially in those early days when you’re still a little foggy and sleep feels like it might never be the same again! I will say my first had acid reflux and my second was a little colicky. I found that what I ate did make a difference! Thanks for your list to remind and give me ideas.

    • HealthfulMama January 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy! Congrats!

  22. Nicole January 28, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    I do think the first post- preliminary explanation and list included- sound like a do/don’t eat list for all breastfeeding moms, rather than your own personal list. Sometimes you seem to be saying it’s only your list, other times you seem to be saying it’s a guide for all moms. A little confusing. At any rate, I am 11 months into breastfeeding my 4th child and I have only ever had to cut out cabbage and black beans with the other three. With this little girl I have had to cut out those, plus dairy, broccoli and cauliflower too. Every mom and baby is different. My advice? Don’t cut out anything unless you have to, especially if your diet is mainly comprised of whole foods.

  23. Ludivina Gould February 21, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    Thank you for your list. I am breastfeeding my second child. A 2 and a half month old preemie. I was planning on giving up on nursing and pumping. My baby girl is often fussy and my supply is lowering. πŸ™ I find your list helpful and makes complete sense. I am going to carry this list with me each time I go to the market and implement the “eat more” of this into my daily diet. I am also going to start seeing a lactation consultant at my local hospital and hope things get better because switching to formula would be a huge disappointment.

    • HealthfulMama February 21, 2013 at 9:46 am #

      Thanks for sharing, Ludivina! Best of luck with everything. I also know that La Leche League groups can be a huge support, if you have one in your area. There are things you can do to increase your supply. Check out Kelly Mom: http://kellymom.com/bf/got-milk/supply-worries/low-supply/

  24. Anne March 23, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    I am so glad that you’re making this information easy to find for nursing moms. Fortunately for me, my mom-in-law knows tons about this kind of thing, otherwise I would’ve been eating much worse than I did with my first child. With my second, I had made even more changes. But something I think people do not know, is that many popular foods contain nicotine. Yes, NICOTINE… Potatoes, tomatoes, all peppers, many spices, and even tea (green, white, black) and cauliflower! I have cut these foods out of my diet recently, after learning this info. In hindsight, I believe that the reason both my babies had colicky issues was due to the nicotine in my diet. I have never smoked and yet I have fed my kids nicotine without knowing it. I want to spread the word for those moms out there who are trying to protect their kids. NOTE: if there is an ingredient listed on a product called “spices,” there is a good chance it contains some kind of spice that contains some amount of nicotine.

    • HealthfulMama March 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Anne, do you have any sources for this info? I know that tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers are in the nightshade family (along with tobacco & belladonna), and were once considered poisonous, but I’ve never heard of the nicotine thing.

    • Anne March 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Yes, nightshades are toxic and are still considered poisonous, but the flood of popularity of these foods grew in the United States (due to mostly European immigrants) in the 19th century.

      Here are a few sources that talk about nicotine and solanine (steroid alkaloids) in nightshades…








      Though not everyone agrees that solanine and nicotine are equal or synonymous, it seems to be a consensus that any amount may be affecting your health, especially since solanine and nicotine build up in your system and are toxic.

      Honestly though, you cannot believe the amount of these nightshades and other plants containing nicotine that are in ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU CAN BUY to eat. It is very difficult to avoid it. Potato is in everything, tomato is everything, and Dear Lord, PAPRIKA is in EVERYTHING!!!! And because they are in almost everything, we are taking that tiny amount of nicotine in each plant and compounding them thousands of times over by never letting our system clear out. We just keep adding more nightshades back in. I have been able to purposely cut out nightshades and nicotine-containing products and have cut these out of my children’s diets as well.
      If solanine/nicotine is a poison, it is therefore something I believe it would affect the health of your nursing baby through your breast milk.

      Incidentally, at least one link I posted above refers to benefits of removing nightshades from an Autistic child’s diet.

    • HealthfulMama March 26, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Thank you for the info!

  25. Katrice April 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    I just want to say…Thank!you, I found your blog through pinterest. I have been nursing and pumping for my baby for thirteen months, and the information that you have shared adds to the support that is very much necessary for successful breast .feeding It is very important to be informed and have substance behind my decisions, and I enjoy and appreciate what you have shared.

    • HealthfulMama April 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

      Thank you, Katrice! Keep at it!

  26. Wendy May 12, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Your list was recently shared on facebook and I was very disappointed to see it. It could just as easily be written by a formula company as it plays on the fears that new Mums may have that their milk isn’t good enough or that they need to have a very wholesome diet in order to breastfeed. I appreciate that this diet worked for you but to compile it in a poster as you did and to ask people to pin and share it is negligent at best. Yes, we’d all be healthier if we ate more whole foods and less processed foods but the vast majority of breastfeeding mums can eat what they like without any ill effects on baby. I urge you to remove your initial post unless you are happy to encourage more women to resort to formula as breastfeeding is just too hard.

    • Anne May 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      Wendy, I understand how you would feel that this post somehow makes nursing more complicated than it should be. Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do when I was pregnant was limit myself from foods I loved. Because of allergies in my husband’s family, as well as the realization that most foods in America are pure junk for our bodies, I was convicted of truly putting my wants aside and putting my child’s health first. I have recently stopped cane sugar and nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and “spice”) as well as any caffeine. Years ago I stopped eating cow dairy, beef, artificial colors and flavors, and ALL gluten. I only eat organic foods now and my health is incredible. The health of my children is also extremely better than their peers. My next move is to have my amalgam fillings removed and replaced with mercury-free fillings. Until my mid-twenties, I never realized the dangerous world we bring our kids into, and that we are poisoning ourselves as well as our kids. GMO and processed foods really are bad for our bodies. Sorry if that is offensive and it rocks your world to bits, but it’s the truth. If you’d rather ignore it, it’s no one’s fault but your own. Ignorance may be bliss, but only until your health falls apart. Please don’t request again that this post be removed because it may help others, like me. If you are offended, ignore it and move on. Nobody is forcing you to do what is suggested here.

    • HealthfulMama May 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      I like the point Anne brings up: moms are not broken by any means, but our food system and environmental integrity is.

      Thanks, Anne. As with the comments on the original post, I fail to see how I am DISCOURAGING anyone from breastfeeding with a list that I have said, NUMEROUS TIMES, is something that helped me, but is NOT a style of eating anyone HAS TO adopt. If a mom chooses to take anything she finds on the internet as the be-all, end-all truth, shame on her. At some point, we need to think for ourselves, decide what’s right for OUR bodies, and stop assuming there is ONE version of the truth. At no point did I say, “this is how everyone should eat, lest you end up with major problems,” and I take offense to the statement that I’m pushing women towards formula (which I’m sure was your intent–hooray! You succeeded!).

      Since I write this on Mother’s Day, I’ll mention again that I received most of my breastfeeding advice from the women in my family, who were raised by my rockstar grandmother, a mother of nine. If we cannot trust our community of women to guide us (and “guide” does not mean “TELL”), then to whom are we listening?

  27. Anne May 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Yes, what we eat goes straight into our milk when we nurse. If you happen to taste your pumped breastmilk (ew, I know, but I tried it once) and it tasted like what I had eaten several hours before – onion. Caffeine and spice also go straight thru to your baby – neither of my children could handle nightshades and I didn’t realize it until my 2nd child was almost weaned. They both had colic and were in intense pain. When I stopped eating spicy foods, it made an impact. For our 3rd I will be off nightshades and spice all together. It is more important to me to care for my children’s health than to eat whatever I want. But incidentally, if it affects my children’s health, should I be eating it myself? I have lost a significant amount of weight due to cutting common food categories out of my diet. My body is happy now. I encourage others to try these changes as well.

    • HealthfulMama May 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      On the opposite side of this, I was eating a grain-free, vegan diet when my son was born: and it didn’t work. I listened to my body and added meat back; I needed the calories!

  28. Amanda May 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Sorry, I didn’t have a chance to read through the comments, so I don’t know if what I am saying is a repeat, but when I gave up gluten, dairy and soy when I started breastfeeding, I got looks from non-mothers who were like, I could never give up cheese!! And are all pro-formula. It just made me sad, sad that someone would be so selfish. Maybe their minds will change once they become mothers, but let’s face it, being a mom is a selfless, unconditional love-filled role! Other mamas who had no issues while breastfeeding tell me how sorry they feel for me, but honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. This is what I signed up for! πŸ˜‰

  29. Laura June 21, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    People need to come off their high horse! Why they get so upset baffles me. It’s not like you are an expert on nutrition, health or breastfeeding. You are simply a person that has a platform to voice her opinion. Doesn’t mean that list is right, but doesn’t mean is wrong either. Everyone has an opinion done just have a public forum to voice it, that’s all.

  30. Arwen Robertson July 6, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    I have heard that a mother with a poor diet still manages to produce good milk for the baby, but I know it’s a fact that what you eat changes the breast milk. I’ve nursed 2 children now, I’m nursing and pregnant, and I have a sinking feeling I may be tandem nursing in a couple months. I just hope the second stops liking boobies so much very soon! lol

    With my first I could eat almost anything…until I decided to eat an entire Hershey Symphony Bar. I heard chocolate could give babies the runs, and it was true. Any time I had chocolate she had the runs. Only when I ate chocolate!

    With my second I could eat chocolate for days, and it didn’t faze her. But buffalo chicken did! She ended up in the PICU for a week getting sleep studies and seizure watches because the capsaicin in the sauce gave her silent reflux. She would stop breathing for 15 to 30 seconds and turn purple. It’s where the reflux makes her partially vomit, and then she breathed it in. So she had MRI’s and words like apnea thrown around, and she was released a week later with a Rx for baby Zantac. I changed my diet, problem ceased.

    She also vomited profusely whenever I ate peaches or green beans. All of this went away after a few months. At 16 months old she now loves peaches, green beans, and even buffalo chicken.

    But it’s ridiculous to believe what you take in doesn’t come out in your milk. #2’s brain/MRI doctor told me that what I ate didn’t effect breast milk, and I had to step back and realize he majored in baby brains. He’s never had boobies. lol I am not very careful at all in my diet when nursing. I watch for trigger foods and avoid those, but I even drink some and don’t worry. I don’t bother with lists. I eat what I want, and if the baby has a problem, cut that food out. I also don’t worry about drinking because I don’t get drunk. I may have a few oz of wine or a few sips of something hard, but that’s all I’ve drunk at any one time my entire life.

    • HealthfulMama July 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that story, Arwen! Good example of listening to your gut (or, uh, your baby’s gut). πŸ™‚

  31. jenn August 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    I love love love love your second post! I had a lactation nurse tell me you’re babies is not gassy from garlic. Babies love garlic! Lol every time I eat it my son has bad gas along with onions, too much green salad and some veggies. I had to cut out dairy as well. I know 100% for sure that WHAT I EAT DOES AFFECT MY SON! And no one could convince me otherwise my son’s doctor also bf her children told me what foods to avoid. Lol so there ha go. I also love the comment about if you’re going to turn off mothers from breast feeding due to diet restrictions they are not committed anyways Agree! It’s a huge commitment and you have to place your child’s needs above your own desires for certain foods! Go ladies!!! :)))

  32. Lorren September 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    It is so sad to me that people are being as petty as they are over this. Breast feeding is amazing and just like anything else in life it is something that you need to learn how to do and so does your baby. I am a mom of three (currently still nursin my youngest) and each one of my children developed and liked different things when I ate. Food most certainly affect breast milk. Let’s not even go there as to how silly it is to think otherwise. Your list is a great Guideline, an anyone who says otherwise, well oh well. Great post and great list! Keep up the great work!

  33. napalc September 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    I’m an LC, and happily bf’d 3 kiddos for just over 7 years total.
    I think the statement about not affecting moms milk is meant to imply supply issues. That’s not exactly true, though. What we eat can affect change either way. But so does a stressful life. For my new moms, I dont recommend any changes to existing diet at first. Dietary restrictions can be difficult for some families. If a problem arises, other than latch issues, diet comex next. Youd not believe how many weird looks I get when I start with food elimination protocols! I have seen some AMAZING changes in babies when moms pay attention to food choices. American women tend to be conscientious about appearance and new moms often tell me that they arent eating enough to take advantage of the increased caloric burn from bf. Most of those cases are low supply- no surprise. The medical community is very slow to embrace new ways of thinking. We have to keep showing them that good diet choices can be treatment options for many, and avoid all the meds that are offered.

    • HealthfulMama September 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, napalc!

  34. Amber October 9, 2013 at 1:35 am #

    Spot on in everything you said! It’s kinda common sense, right? What you eat when pregnant goes to your baby as well as when they take nourishment from your breasts. 6 weeks til my baby comes and I will get to find out what (if anything) I will need to avoid. Hopefully ice cream will pass the test πŸ˜‰

    • HealthfulMama October 9, 2013 at 2:10 am #

      Good luck, Amber!

  35. Macie March 23, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    I believe what we eat affects breast milk, but I disagree with all the healthy items on your “no” side of the list. Fruits & veggies are good for momma and baby!

    • Ellen April 18, 2016 at 11:35 am #

      Something tells me you must not have ever had a colicky baby…

  36. Mrs. Wells July 14, 2014 at 1:26 am #

    Hey HealthfulMama!! I can say that when I saw your list my common sense told me that it’s a list that worked for you and could possibly help others with questions. Not trying to start fights but any woman who decides not to breastfeed just because they don’t want to stick to a diet is using a diet as an excuse not to bf. I have an 8 month old that I breastfeed and my personal does and don’ts are don’t eat beans, broccoli, strawberries, red meats, greasy foods, dairy products, or gluten products, my does are spinach, acorn or butternut squash, sweet potatoes, chicken, apples, pears, bananas, avocados, jalapeΓ±os, eggs, almonds, almond milk, some fish, green tea, peach tea, marshmallow root tea, and several other herbal teas, rice, red onions, and a little chocolate to make my milk taste sweet. I don’t look at it as being expensive I look at it as I love my son and I want him to be healthy and happy and thats exactly what he is!! There are some items on your list of does that I don’t eat but am more than willing to try and see what happens. People just try to knock others down so they don’t have to see their own failure or admit that they are wrong. And some people are just that nieve. Thanks for posting your list and good for you for trying to give a helping hand. πŸ™‚

    • HealthfulMama July 18, 2014 at 10:25 am #

      Thanks for your comments, Mrs. Wells!

  37. Rosie November 12, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    I wish we had a picture of a baby properly latched. The lower lip is in, which prevents proper suction/ breastfeeding, and can also hurt the mother’s nipple.

  38. Ashley Portman January 9, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    Thanks so much for your original post! Big help! People will always criticize, but no worries, you are completely accurate that what you eat, baby also eats. Unfortunately it is a serious lack of education. May we allow it to continue to motivate us to spreading this info! Much love!

  39. Amy September 6, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    i was just wondering about mangoes. My only issue with the list is the lack of why to avoid or limit certain foods. I’ve read plenty of why to avoid mint and parsley, it can decrease supply. I keep seeing mango on the list, but can never find why. If it’s a gas thing, I eat plenty of these (and spicy foods) without it bothering my child. I’ll continue to enjoy my mango. If it could cause a decrease in supply then I’ll abstain until we’ve finished breast feeding since I’ve had supply issues.

  40. Jennifer January 14, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    I was pretty upset when I read negative comments on your previous post. I have to limit the gas causing foods, otherwise my baby boy will be uncomfortable and gassy. Having to monitor what I eat never detoured me from breast feeding. These lists are guidelines based on someone’s experience. My milk production significantly dropped and I was feeding on demand and pumping every three hours. I was trying different things when come to find out it was caused by ovulation and my period. It took me lots of research to find that I was one of the few unlucky breastfeeding moms who got her period even though I was exclusively breastfeedibg. The first 2 weeks of breeastfeeding were the hardest thing; I almost gave up but with lots of reading and better support of lactation consultants than what I experienced with my first baby, I made it though. Please keep your comments positive, everyoneso experience is different.

  41. Ellen April 18, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    Wow, still comments years later. But I had to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for the original post!!! I’m so glad you left it up. Since we’re all human πŸ˜€ and humans have physical/chemical reactions much like OTHER humans who are all made up chemically of the same stuff (give or take what we’ve done to our bodies), chances are what works on one baby’s intestines will be what works on another’s (or at least is very similar). I believe in science and cause and effect like that and hate when people go off on exceptions to the rules. Your original post was very much for those who are NOT the exceptions, but those in general (oh like me). It’s exactly what I was looking for. THANK YOU!!!!!
    There’s so much confusion on the internet. I am the kind of person looking for answers, and will not accept what so many sites try to get us to accept – “oh nobody really knows” or “well everyone is different.” Which nobody is denying. We ARE all different. But now tell me something we DON’T already know. What works!? That is so much more helpful than a vague “nobody knows” which leaves people floundering, reinventing the wheel trying to figure it out themselves, and popping pills in experimentation (oh, like your #1 says). THAT is what I appreciate about your post. Simple and straightforward, what worked for you and your baby. Your experience and time posting it is greatly appreciated. I hate to eat less of what’s on the eat less list because it’s exactly what I just bought at the grocery store BEFORE reading your list πŸ˜‰ but it’s worth trying more to me than a pediatrician saying “TRY SIMETHICONE” when chances are they’ll come out later (like they always do) and say something was wrong with their drug and now your child is at risk. And I can always freeze those delicious fruits for a smoothie after baby is a little older. πŸ˜€
    So thank you again, Healthful Mama! πŸ™‚

  42. Zoya Ali July 16, 2016 at 12:24 am #

    Spot on in everything you said! It’s kinda common sense, right? What you eat when pregnant goes to your baby as well as when they take nourishment from your breasts.also read http://www.listfunda.com also 6 weeks til my baby comes and I will get to find out what (if anything) I will need to avoid. Hopefully ice cream will pass the test

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