It’s well known that breast milk is packed with nutrients. In fact, it supplies the majority of the nutrients your infant requires throughout the first six months of life.
Although your body strictly controls what goes into your breast milk, studies have shown that what you consume does affect the composition of your milk.
All foods are fair game, as a general rule. As an alternative, it is suggested that women consume a diversified and healthy diet. To be sure, there are a few things you might wish to avoid or limit when breastfeeding.
Here are some dietary considerations for breastfeeding mothers, including five foods to limit or avoid altogether and ways to assess whether or not your choices may be having an impact on your infant.
1. Fish high in mercury
Fish is a good way to get the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, both of which are crucial for infants’ brain development but can be difficult to come by in other diets.
Some fish and seafood, however, can be quite high in mercury, a metal that can be harmful, especially to young children.
An infant’s central nervous system can be adversely affected by even brief exposure to high amounts of mercury. Therefore, they may experience setbacks or limitations in:
coordination of small muscle groups
Language and Speech Acquisition
Therefore, pregnant and nursing women should stay away from mercury-rich fish. That’s why I’ll use the following as illustrations:
Breastfeeding mothers should consume no more than 8-12 ounces (225-340 grams) of low mercury fish per week to guarantee enough omega-3 consumption without putting their infants at risk of mercury poisoning.
2. Some herbal supplements
Foods seasoned with herbs and spices like cumin and basil are acceptable to consume during breastfeeding.
Concerns have been raised about the safety of herbal supplements and teas for breastfeeding mothers due to a lack of research on this topic.
Since the FDA does not oversee herbal supplements in the United States, it is possible that they may contain harmful levels of heavy metals.
There is limited evidence on the effectiveness of supplements to increase milk supply, despite the fact that many women try them. Most studies have found no difference in milk production between the supplement and a placebo.
Talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.
There is no safe level of alcohol consumption for a mother or infant while breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s possible, though, that social drinking once in a while isn’t harmful at all, provided that you limit yourself and drink at reasonable hours.
If you drink alcohol, your infant may absorb some of it through breast milk, although the amount and timing of this absorption are both variables. The amount of alcohol in breast milk reaches a peak 30-60 minutes after you stop drinking, according to studies.
In addition, alcohol can stay in your system for at least another couple of hours. The time it takes for alcohol to leave the system can increase with the number of drinks consumed.
Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that women not consume more than one drink per day, and that they wait at least two hours after drinking before starting to breastfeed.
If you want to compare one standard drink to something else, you would need:
This is a 12-pack of beer, or 355 milliliters.
Approximately 125 milliliters (or 5 ounces) of wine
45 milliliters (1.5 ounces) of strong liquor
Studies have found that drinking alcohol to excess decreases milk production in nursing mothers by about 20%.
Also, studies have shown that mothers who drink alcohol frequently and in large amounts while breastfeeding increase their infants’ risk of developing sleep, motor, and cognitive delays.
Caffeine can be found in many foods, including coffee, soda, tea, and chocolate. Some of the caffeine in these drinks can pass into breast milk if you drink them while breastfeeding.
Infants have difficulty metabolizing and eliminating caffeine, thus this can be an issue. Therefore, your kid may develop irritability and sleep issues as a result of a buildup of caffeine in his or her system.
Breastfeeding mothers should limit their caffeine intake to no more than 300 milligrams per day, which is the equivalent of two or three cups of coffee.
Women who are breastfeeding should not consume energy drinks due to the high caffeine content and the high likelihood that they contain extra vitamins and herbs.
5. Highly processed foods
It is crucial that you have a healthy, balanced diet during breastfeeding in order to satisfy the increased nutrient demands of breastfeeding.
It is recommended to consume as little highly processed food as possible due to its high calorie, harmful fat, and added sugar content and low fiber, vitamin, and mineral content.
An infant’s later diet may be affected by the mother’s nutrition, according to preliminary studies.
Studies on animals have shown that exposure to flavors in breast milk can shape a child’s later tastes for such foods.
High-fat, high-sugar diets were found to be substantially more preferred by rats whose moms had a junk food diet than those whose mothers had a balanced, nutritious diet.
Frequent exposure to fatty, sugary meals as an infant may contribute to less healthful eating habits and obesity as the child matures, but more research is needed in humans.
Some mothers discover that when they eat foods with strong flavors, such onion, garlic, or spices, their babies become irritable or refuse to nurse thereafter because those tastes are transferred to the mother’s breast milk.
There is no conclusive evidence that all pregnant women should avoid foods with strong flavors; nevertheless, if you observe a change in your baby’s feedings, you may want to consult with your dietitian or pediatrician about cutting out certain foods or spices.
Cow’s milk and soy products are two more food groups that may need to be avoided when breastfeeding.
Cow’s milk protein is present in the breast milk of about 0.25% to 0.50% of newborns, while soy protein is present in 0.25% to 0.50%.
If your pediatrician thinks your infant has a milk or soy allergy, you should avoid feeding your child any foods containing cow’s milk or soy protein for two to four weeks.