"You shouldn’t eat that spicy taco now that you’re breastfeeding,” your mother-in-law tells you. “And you need to drink more milk, or your own milk won’t be nutritious enough for your baby.”
Could she be right this time? All during your pregnancy, you were careful to eat a nutritious and balanced diet. But how different is it when you are breastfeeding? Are there foods you should be avoiding or foods you should be sure to include?
Not really, says lactation consultant Sharon Carr of Mississauga, Ont. “There are no special foods nursing moms need to consume and, usually, nothing they need to avoid. Often mothers think they have to drink lots of cow’s milk to make milk, but that isn’t so. The quality of your milk is still good, even if you don’t eat a balanced diet. Nature knows what it needs to take from our bodies to feed our babies.” But that doesn’t mean you can consume three meals of cupcakes and pop a day because, while the milk you make will still be good for your baby, your body can become depleted of nutrients (and your health will be affected) if your diet is poor.
What about eating spicy meals, broccoli and other foods that can give moms gas? Will those also give the baby gas? “Most babies and mothers do well with most foods,” says Carr. “Sometimes a baby will react to certain foods in the mother’s diet. Remember too that babies have been found to like highly flavoured milk, such as when the mother eats garlic.” Following Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and enjoying a variety of foods will help both you and your baby get the nutrients you need.
Mothers who are on special or restricted diets may need extra supplements — vegans, for example, need to take vitamin B12. But while most babies do well no matter what their mothers eat, some are sensitive to certain foods in their mothers’ diets. Karen Julien’s son Adam started having blood in his bowel movements when he was five weeks old. “I was very concerned,” Julien says, “so we took him to a gastroenterologist, who suggested that I stop consuming all dairy products. He was still having some problems, and I noticed it got worse when I had been eating eggs, so I stopped eating eggs too. That seemed to clear it up.” Julien’s observations were confirmed when the allergist who saw Adam at six months found he was allergic to eggs, milk and wheat. “At that time, I stopped eating wheat as well,” Julien says. While Adam’s sensitivities meant some drastic changes in Julien’s eating, she says “it is manageable. I have the rest of my life to eat whatever I want, but only those first precious months to get my children started off with the best food imaginable for them.” Online answers
An excellent resource for breastfeeding and food sensitivities: kellymom.com.
Yes, there are sometimes links between what a mother eats and her baby’s crying. A 2006 study by Donna Chapman, reported in the Journal of Human Lactation, looked at colicky breastfed babies. Half the mothers went on a low-allergen diet that eliminated dairy products, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts and fish. The other half followed a diet that included all those foods. For 74 percent of the colicky babies, the low-allergen diet led to a 25-percent reduction in the duration of the crying. The researcher points out that the study was only seven days long and, in some cases, it may take longer than that for allergens to be eliminated from the mother’s system. Sage Advice If consumed in moderate to large quantities, sage (a popular seasoning for chicken, turkey and stuffing) has been shown to decrease milk production.