One of the most puzzling things to new mothers is what they can or cannot eat while breastfeeding..
One of the most puzzling things to new mothers is what they should or shouldn’t eat while breastfeeding. Some mothers cut so much out of their diets that they wonder what is left to eat, and then wonder why they seem not to struggle with their energy levels and/or milk supply.
So what is a new mum to do? What to eat to help her body produce enough milk, yet not have a colicky or uncomfortable new baby? Some mothers can eat almost anything, while others mothers may need to be more careful if they notice that baby seems to be upset when they eat certain foods.
There really is no “list of foods” that all breastfeeding moms should or shouldn’t eat, as everyone is different, and even cultures differ in the foods they generally view to be ‘safe’ for nursing mothers to consume.
Most of the time most mothers can eat anything they like in the quantities they like (within reason), with no adverse reactions from their babies. But there are certain foods that mothers could first try avoiding if baby seems uncomfortable.
It is recently thought that one of the reasons babies may seem crampy or uncomfortable, may be due to some mothers having leaky or inflamed gut syndrome. Leaky-gut can cause certain whole proteins/nutrients to ‘leak’ through mother’s gut into her blood-stream, which then goes into her milk and into her baby.
From my experience, when I’ve had cases where babies seem to be very colicky and in pain during or after breastfeeding, there is generally a vast improvement in baby’s condition when I suggest to mothers to avoid the following foods. If there is still not enough of an improvement after mothers have cut out these initial foods, as a last resort I will suggest that they remove all wheat products from their diet (breads, pastas, rusks, rolls, etc…) and by then the problem is usually licked.
(Obviously we also first need to consider whether the ‘colicky’ baby needs to see a chiropractor or cranio-sacral therapist if baby has, for example, a dislocated hip or shoulder, or needs a spinal adjustment after a difficult birth.)
Here are certain foods to be aware of while breastfeeding:
Unfortunately the number one cause of colic or discomfort in breastfed babies is dairy in the mother’s diet: especially milk, cheese and yoghurt. (Butter and cream seems fine as they do not contain cows milk protein.) Humans are the only mammals who think we need to drink another mammal’s milk in order to make milk! The protein in cow’s milk passes straight through to baby without changing. The calcium in processed cow’s milk is not well absorbed anyway, so rather substitute with calcium-rich foods such as Tahini (sesame-seed paste, which you can get from most health stores), dried figs, sesame seeds, leafy greens, salmon, sardines, almonds, brazil nuts, and parsley.
You can also make your own ‘milk’ for cereals by using a grinder/blender to chop oats flakes till fine, sieve it, then blend with water and banana or raw honey (never give a baby under 1 year old raw honey), or grind raw nuts (not peanuts) into powder and add iced water and raw honey. Delicious.
Chocolate (white or brown) contains a substance which cause tummy cramps in babies when eaten by mum.
Cruciferous veggies often cause winds in young breastfed babies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc) as well as sometimes legumes such as peas, beans, and peanuts.
As stated previously: If mothers have already cut out all other possible offending foods and baby is still not happy, as a last resort I ask mothers to cut all wheat out of their diets for a trial period of about two to three weeks to see if that would make a difference, and in most cases it does. If you yourself are often gassy or bloated or constipated after having bread, pasta, rusks, biscuits, packaged gravies, etc. you might have a wheat or gluten intolerance, which will most probably affect your baby.
All products containing wheat, also contain gluten, but not all products containing gluten contain wheat. For example: Rye and Oats do not contain wheat but do contain very small amounts of gluten. Many people who are wheat-intolerant find that they can eat non-wheat products like Oats and Rye quite happily. If someone has Celiac disease they will need to remove all gluten from their diets.
Just to jog your memory, here is a list of foods which most breastfeeding mothers should be able to eat (in alphabetical order):
Apples; Bananas; Berries; Cherries; Dates; Grapes; Litchis; Loquats; Mango, Nectarines; Peaches; Pears; Prickly Pears; Plums; Raisins; Spanspek (on its own); Watermelon (on its own)
(Try to eat fruit 30-60 minutes before other foods as they tend to digest faster. You can also eat nuts/seeds at the same time as fruit to make a whole meal containing good fats, proteins and carbs. Adding nuts and seeds also lowers the Glycaemic Load of fruits)
Avocado pears; Baby Marrows/Courgette; Beetroot; Butternut; Carrots; Celery; Cucumber; Egg Plant/Aubergine/Brinjal; Gem squash; Herbs; Jerusalem Artichoke; Leafy greens; Leeks; Mealies/Corn (ask for non-genetically modified corn!) Olives; Parsley; Potatoes and Baby Potatoes; Pumpkin; Spinach; Spring Onions; Sprouts; Squashes; Sweet Potatoes;
Grains and Carbs:
Buckwheat; Millet (very alkalizing and nutritious!); Oats; Quinoa; Brown Rice; Rice cakes; Rye; 100% Rye bread; Rye-Vita biscuits;
Nuts/Seeds (eat raw):
Almonds; Brazil nuts, Cashews; Flaxseed/Linseed (small brown seeds – best to grind them in a coffee-grinder; Macadamia nuts; Pine nuts; Pumpkin Seeds (high in zinc); Sesame seeds; Sunflower seeds (contains same amount of protein as chicken and fish!) Walnuts;
Chicken/Poultry; Eggs; Fish (Salmon; etc); Meat;
(Avoid processed meats like polony, bacon, ham, Vienna sausages, etc. which contain nitrates and nitrites, and other known cancer-causing substances. These are extremely detrimental to your and your family’s health.)
Your body needs healthy oils and essential fatty acids so do not cut good fats from your diet!
Only use Butter or coconut oil for spreading on bread or to cook with, not *Margarine! To make your own spreadable butter, blend half a block of soft butter with 1 cup of Olive Oil, or a whole block of butter with 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil. Once blended, place in a container, keep in the fridge and use it as margarine – all the goodness without artificial additives!
Try to only cook with Coconut Oil or Red Palm Oil which are both stable oils that can take heating; Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil to pour over your salads. Try not to use the usual highly processed sunflower oils you buy off the supermarket shelves.
(*Margarine cannot really be classified as a food. No other insect will eat it. It does not spoil or rot as real food does. It is highly processed and is more like an ‘edible’ soft plastic.)
Use raw honey, sweet molasses, Xylitol, stevia, and even add raisins, bananas or molasses to your oats. Minimize the use of sugar, which depresses the immune system for up to five hours! Never consume diet sodas or artificial sweeteners as they contain substances that are known to cause cancer and headaches. Remember, whatever you’re eating, you’re feeding your baby! Besides, your body does not recognize artificial substances.
(Cellulite is thought to be fat cells in which all ‘junk’ is placed that your body does not know what to do with. Did you know that one of the few times in your life that your body gets rid of cellulite naturally, is while breastfeeding??)
THE RULE OF THUMB:
Unless your baby lets you know otherwise, eat any healthy whole food in their most natural state possible, since this is what human bodies were designed to eat anyway. Avoid processed, artificially flavoured, coloured and preserved ‘foods’ (Become a label-reader!)
Enjoy the bounty of foods in season. Try as much as possible to insist on, and eat organic foods, which contain no pesticides or artificial fertilizers, and which are usually much higher in nutrients compared with their mass-produced counter-parts.
Feed yourself well and often, and enjoy growing a happy, healthy baby.
(C) Yulanda Ridge
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About the author:
Yulanda Ridge, IBCLC, RLC
(International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)
Yulanda has been helping moms and babies since 1995 with regards to breastfeeding. A married mother of 3 with some nursing background, Yulanda currently works as a Lactation Consultant in Private Practice.