Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is a little different, but it’s a good idea to stock up on a few essential items before your baby arrives. You’ll need some good books to read, comfortable cushions, breastfeeding clothing and a pantry that’s stocked with healthy, balanced foods. That’s right – the diet you eat during breastfeeding can have a big impact on your baby’s health. While it’s safe to stick to a diet rich in protein, leafy greens and fruits, there are a few things you’ll need to avoid eating while breastfeeding.
1. High Mercury Seafoods
Seafood is a healthy part of your breastfeeding diet. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and iodine, all of which are important for your baby’s development. The only problem is that some seafoods are known to be rich in mercury. Mercury can cause real problems for babies. Their small size means their bodies have trouble dealing with large amounts of mercury, and it can eventually build up in their systems and cause serious health issues.
While you don’t want to cut fish out of your diet entirely, you do need to avoid seafoods that are known to be high in mercury, like:
Your doctor probably advised you to avoid alcohol during your pregnancy, and that remains the same during breastfeeding. Alcohol from your drinks makes its way into your breast milk where it can harm your baby. The best course of action is to cut out alcohol entirely. The more you drink, the longer it stays in your system, so heavy drinkers are often unwittingly passing alcohol onto their baby.
Current recommendations note that it’s okay for you to have up to one drink per day. Just make sure you wait 2-3 hours between having a drink and breastfeeding your baby. If you’re having more than one drink you’ll need to wait longer.
Caffeine is a popular stimulant for adults, but it’s not great for babies. Their tiny bodies have trouble breaking down and disposing of caffeine. Ultimately, this leads caffeine to build up in their system, causing them to become fussy and lose sleep.
While breastfeeding you need to limit the amount of coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks you’re having. You won’t have to cut them out entirely, just make sure you’re limiting your daily intake to about 300mg of caffeine – that’s 2-3 cups of coffee. You’ll also need to be mindful of how much chocolate you’re eating. Chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine and theobromine that can contribute to your baby’s restlessness. You’d need to eat huge amounts of chocolate for it to be a problem on its own, but it all contributes to your total daily intake.
4. Herbal Supplements
Herbal supplements and teas are often recommended for improving sleep and breast milk production when you have a new baby. The reality is that there’s very little evidence to show herbal supplements are effective, and some can even have the opposite results. The problem lies in how strong most herbal supplements are. A single herbal tablet could contain huge amounts of harmful heavy metals and other compounds that are bad for your baby and bad for your breast milk production. It’s especially important to limit your intake of parsley, peppermint and sage. These are all known to reduce milk production when eaten in large quantities, such as when they’re crushed up into supplement form.
5. Junk Food
Junk and other highly processed foods aren’t just bad for you, they’re bad for your baby. Remember, your baby relies on you to provide their nutrients, so you need to be eating a healthy, balanced diet while breastfeeding. Junk foods are high in calories, unhealthy fats, sugars and salts, none of which provide the things your baby needs. Worse yet, studies show that babies can acquire a taste for the foods you eat while breastfeeding. That means eating a diet that’s high in junk food will cause your child to prefer those same high fat, high sugar foods later in their life.
6. Spicy and Strong Foods
The final item on our list is spicy and strong-tasting foods. You don’t need to cut these out entirely, but it’s smart to limit your intake if you want to get the best use out of your breastfeeding clothing. Strong tastes make their way into your breast milk, and they can cause your baby to be fussy about feeding. Pay attention to how your baby reacts after you’ve eaten a meal that’s full of things like garlic, ginger or chilli. If they seem unhappy or refuse to feed, you might need to cut back on the stronger-tasting foods.