Foods To Avoid When Breastfeeding
Many women are surprised to learn that there is a substantial list of 'foods to avoid' when pregnant. Who knew bean shoots were a no-no? And that you'd have to go nine long months without sushi? Avoiding foods while pregnant is just one of the things we do to protect our growing bubs.
While pregnant we also need to avoid certain exercises, avoid sleeping on our backs or tummies, and limit our coffee intake. The protectiveness is present right from the beginning, so it makes sense that our instinct to protect becomes heightened when our little ones finally arrive.
It's very common for breastfeeding women to wonder if there are foods they need to avoid when breastfeeding. Even though much of what we consume passes through our breastmilk onto our baby, there actually isn't a list of foods to avoid during breastfeeding. Instead, some foods should be limited, and there are foods that certain women will need to abstain from while breastfeeding.
Foods to Limit While Breastfeeding
Sadly, just like when you were pregnant, you need to limit caffeine intake when breastfeeding. This feels like a cruel joke when you're battling sleep deprivation and in the throes of the newborn stage. But like how the 'good' vitamins and nutrients pass through our breastmilk, so does caffeine.
The silver lining is that you don't need to avoid it. Just be mindful of your intake. For example, limit your coffee intake to two cups per day. And, it's best to consume your coffee while you're feeding or just after a feed. This way, the caffeine will be mostly metabolised before the next feed and little will pass through your breastmilk.
If you've just had a coffee and bubs needs to feed, there's no need to hold off. It's just a rule of thumb that's good to follow most of the time.
Choosing not to drink any alcohol when you are breastfeeding is safest for the health and development of your baby. If you do plan on drinking alcohol there are some precautions to follow.
You've probably guessed that alcohol also passes through your bloodstream and into your breastmilk. So, the timing of your drink is important. One standard alcoholic beverage takes around two hours to metabolise and leave your bloodstream. So having a drink immediately after you feed is the safest time.
The other option is to express enough milk to skip a feed. So, when your little one is ready, they can have the unaffected milk that you expressed before your drink, and you can 'pump and dump' the milk you produce after having a drink. It's essential to understand that 'pumping and dumping' doesn't speed up the removal of the alcohol from your bloodstream; it's only necessary to relieve pressure and to prevent blocked ducts or mastitis.
3. Certain Types of Fish
There are plenty of types of fish you can enjoy in abundance while breastfeeding. But there a few types that are best avoided, including swordfish, shark, tilefish and mackeral. The reason is that these types of fish are super high in mercury. Too much mercury can have a negative impact on your baby's brain development. So, it's best to stick to safer types like salmon, tuna, and sardines which are high in protein and full of healthy fats, which are vital to healthy growth and development in infants.
Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding: Allergens.
As we mentioned above, zero foods need to be universally avoided while breastfeeding. However, throughout their breastfeeding journey, a small percentage of mums will find that certain foods affect their little ones. And there's no way to figure this out except through trial and error.
Food allergies are not common. According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), around 98% of the Australian adult population do not have a food allergy and 90-96% of children do not have any food allergies. Of the minority that have food allergies, cow's milk (dairy) is the most common allergen in newborns, followed by soy, gluten, eggs, nuts and fish.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), and the Australian Dietary Guidelines all state there is no evidence to show that what a woman eats while pregnant or breastfeeding negatively affects the chance of the child developing an allergy, or allergy symptoms.
In fact, many allergists believe that allergies in children are more common when a mother has avoided certain foods throughout her pregnancy and breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding expert Dr. Jack Newman advises that eating a varied diet can train your growing baby’s immune system from the start to prevent allergies.
Of course, if you have a history of a particular food allergy, then you need to continue to avoid that food you are allergic to.
In more serious cases, some babies are born with intolerances or allergies to certain foods. And in these cases, the mother must cut out the food groups entirely to ensure the allergens aren't passing through breastmilk. If you are concerned your baby has a food allergy, seek advice from your Doctor/Paediatrician as soon as possible. It is a good idea to start writing down what you eat each day to see if you can find a correlation. Bring this food diary along to show to your Doctor/Paediatrician.
The best foods to consume while breastfeeding
Eating a balanced diet including healthy fats, protein, carbohydrates, and essential vitamins and minerals is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby. Aim to eat as much fresh produce and as many different coloured fruit and vegetables as possible. Post-partum nourishment is super important, so the quicker you can get on track with eating healthily, the better.
We know that prioritising your health and preparing healthy food can be tricky in in the early stages of motherhood. Just surviving each day is often hard enough during this time. So, try to incorporate foods into your diet that provide nourishment and are quick and easy.
Having easy snacks on hand like the ones listed below will make it easier when you’re pressed for time.
- boiled eggs
- hummus and veggie sticks, e.g. carrot, celery, cucumber, capsicum
- rice cakes and tuna
- rice cakes with avocado and tomato
- mixed nuts
- savoury muffins
- healthy muesli bars
- In Shape Mummy Health Shake
- In Shape Mummy Health Snacks
The In Shape Mummy Health Shake for Breastfeeding Mums is a great way to ensure you’re getting your daily essential vitamins and minerals.
Each serve of the In Shape Mummy Health Shake provides 25% of your daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals, over 12g of protein to help keep you full, and probiotics to assist with your post-partum recovery.
Add some banana, rolled oats and milk to your smoothie blend, and you have a nourishing, balanced meal that will give you enough energy to get through the morning.
The In Shape Mummy Health Shake does not contain any dairy, soy, gluten, caffeine or artificial nasties so it is great for mums and bubs with allergies or intolerances.
Shevi is a qualified nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences. As a new mum herself, she is passionate about postnatal-related nutrition. Shevi has worked alongside some of the most famous leaders and celebrities in the fitness industry throughout Australia and the UK.
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Department of Health (DoH), Submission 78, p. 5.Department of Health (DoH), Submission 78, p. 5. https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/faqs#:~:text=For%20this%20reason%2C%20food%20allergy,in%20Australia%20and%20New%20Zealand.
Greer, F.R., S.H. Sicherer, and A.W. Burks, Effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease in infants and children: the role of maternal dietary restriction, breastfeeding, timing of introduction of complementary foods, and hydrolyzed formulas. Pediatrics, 2008. 121(1): p. 183-91.
ASCIA. Guidelines: Infant feeding and allergy prevention. ASCIA 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-prevention/ascia-guidelines-for-infant-feeding-and-allergy-prevention.
National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council. 2013 https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines.pdf