What foods can I eat when breastfeeding?
The short answer is: anything that sounds good!
Shortest. Blog. Ever.
Oh, you’re still reading? Okay! When it comes to a mother’s diet during breastfeeding, we hear the craziest stories from our clients about foods they were told to avoid. (And as a reminder, we are not licensed medical care providers and nothing in this blog or ever should be construed as medical advice.)
One of my favorites? A newly-postpartum mother was told she shouldn’t eat pickles right before letting her baby nurse because it would make her breast milk sour. Um, nope! That’s not how this works.
So instead of old wives tales, let’s share some evidence-based information about which foods and drinks you can and should eat in breastfeeding.
Your baby’s interest in the food you eat began in pregnancy. Your diet started flavoring your amniotic fluid, which your baby swallowed. And yes, the food you eat while breastfeeding may also flavor your milk. But guess what? Babies seem to prefer flavored milk! For instance, in a research study, babies nursed twice as long when the mother had eaten garlic (Beauchamp & Mennella, 2011). That means that if you are longing for spicy foods, you’re in the clear.
Most researchers agree chocolate, coffee, tea and sodas with caffeine can also be enjoyed (in moderation) while breastfeeding and there is no evidence that caffeine consumption decreases milk supply.
What about alcohol?
Well, since every person’s body metabolizes alcohol differently, we can’t really say what the “safe” amount of alcohol may be. We share this excellent resource with our clients from the incomparable Dr. Jack Newman.
What about all those delish lactation cookies, teas, etc.? If you enjoy the taste, keep eating the cookies, but they’re unlikely to do anything for your milk. Eating “fatty” foods will not make your milk have more fat. (Your milk is likely already perfect.)
Be careful of using herbs (yes, lactation tea included.) Not only are there concerns about contraindications with other medicines and conditions, but there is documented evidence of commonly popular herbal galactagogues (a substance that supposedly promotes lactation) negatively impacting milk supply. (I’m looking at you, fenugreek!)
In summary, the vast majority of foods and drinks are unlikely to have any impact at all on your breastmilk.
What your diet will impact is YOU and your mood, energy, recovery and health. Your diet doesn’t need to be perfect, either. Think of the breastfeeding days as an opportunity to nourish your own body the way you’re nourishing your baby’s body and all will be well.