Foods to avoid while breastfeeding

red cabbageWhat you eat and drink fuels your breastmilk production and small amounts of what you eat and drink can pass through your breastmilk to your baby. Sometimes, foods you eat can disagree with your baby.

Your diet can also affect the taste of your milk and your baby might like some tastes more than others. Your baby probably became used to most of the things you eat regularly while you were pregnant, but there still may be some foods he or she just doesn't like when they appear in your breastmilk.

All babies are different and where one baby will get terrible wind after their mum has eaten a load of lentils, another will glug away with no problems at all.

How can I tell if my baby has been affected by food I've eaten?

If you notice any of these symptoms, you might want to think about what you have been eating and whether it has been affecting your baby:

  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Windiness or bloating
  • Colic symptoms (a lot of crying)
  • Discomfort
  • Being extra fussy or out of sorts
  • Runny nose
  • Eczema or rashes
  • Milk rejection

Try eliminating the foods you think are causing the problems and see if he or she then settles.

Common foods that may cause problems

  • Wheat
  • Dairy products
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Cabbage, brussels sprouts and other wind-producing food
  • Citrus fruits
  • Foods with a laxative effect
  • Too much sugar
  • Large quantities of fruit

Food to avoid or limit when breastfeeding 

  • Any foods that cause allergic reactions in members of your family
  • Limit oily fish to two portions a week
  • Stick to one portion of swordfish, tuna, marlin or shark a week because of the mercury content

What about caffeine when I'm breastfeeding?

Caffeine will pass through your breastmilk to your baby and may interfere with his sleep or make him fussy and a bit 'wired' ie wide-eyed and overactive.

Stick to a couple of cups of tea or coffee a day if your baby is sensitive to caffeine and remember that chocolate and fizzy drinks have caffeine in them, too.

Some babies will be more sensitive to caffeine than others and it is thought that younger babies (up to six months) are more affected than older ones. If you do have to limit your intake, you can try and increase it when your baby gets a bit older. There is no evidence to support the idea that caffeine reduces your milk supply.

Can I drink alcohol when I'm breastfeeding?

There is conflicting advice about alcohol and it is difficult to find any solid guidance. Alcohol does pass to your baby through breastmilk but in low levels it is not particularly harmful. It may make your baby more sleepy or conversely agitated and less likely to sleep. It can also interfere with the amount of milk your baby gets during a feed, and they may need to feed more often.

One unit is roughly equivalent to half a pint of normal beer, a 25ml (pub) measure of spirit, or a small (125ml) glass of wine.

It takes two to three hours after drinking for alcohol to stop being present in your breastmilk, so if you're worried about the effects of alcohol on your baby, or they seem sensitive to it, time your drinking around feeds. One or two units occasionally are not going to have a big impact though. The general consensus is that drinking within reason and not having binges or drinking heavily is compatible with breastfeeding.

And if you do drink a bit too much...

Advice from Dr Wendy Jones, a pharmacist associated with the Breastfeeding Network says: "If you feel drunk and particularly if you have drunk enough to vomit, it is better not to breastfeed for 12 hours."

There is no need to do the 'pump and dump' (expressing milk and discarding it) as the levels of alcohol in your milk drop at the same rate as the alcohol levels in your blood. 

What Mumsnetters say about food, drink and breastfeeding

  • I think all babies react differently to different foods, but I definitely found that acidic foods produced a bad reaction in my son after breastfeeding - so citrus fruits or juices, raw tomatoes, etc were better left off the menu. Also, once after I drank a cup of real coffee he refused to feed at all, so I switched to decaffeinated after that. TuttiFrutti
  • I found my son was really bad when I ate tomatoes, onions and chocolate. He was really unsettled after I have eaten these foods. As it was on more than one occasion, I put it down to those foods and avoided them as best as possible. Jomaja
  • A small glass of wine relaxes you and really does not harm the baby. The amount of pure alcohol that passes into the breastmilk is pretty insignificant. ReshapeWhileDamp
  • Breastfeeding is so protective that the benefits far outweigh normal pollutants found in it. FrannyandZooey


Last updated: over 1 year ago