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Foods and Drugs to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Published November 28, 2007        by Nicole

Every breastfeeding mother wonders if something she ate caused fussiness, gas, diarrhea, a rash, or nasal stuffiness in her baby. While almost all foods can be eaten without problem, some foods can cause difficulty. Cow’s milk in the mother’s diet may cause colicky symptoms in some babies. If this is a problem for your baby, he will draw his legs up towards his body and scream with gas pains after feeding. You can eliminate milk from your diet for four to seven day into your diet, since the reaction to milk is often outgrown. If you eliminate dairy products from your diet, you will need to talk with your doctor about a calcium supplement.

Other foods that may cause problems for breastfed babies include those that have food additives and dyes, certain gas producing foods [such as broccoli, cabbage, an beans], eggs nuts, tomatoes, shellfish, chocolate, corn, strawberries, citrus fruits, onion, garlic, and some spices. To decide if a particular food upsets your baby, eliminate that single food from your diet and see if the symptoms disappear.

Occasionally, consuming food in enormous amounts will cause problems for a breastfed baby. A half gallon of apple juice or orange juice, very large amounts of organic fruit, a jar of peanuts, or any other food consumed in unusually large quantities may cause your baby to have diarrhea or gas.

In the past, breastfeeding mothers were encouraged to drink beer to aid milk production. We now know that beer will not increase milk production. We also know that beer, and other alcoholic beverages readily enter the breast milk in about the same concentration as your blood alcohol level. Since no safe level of alcohol has been established for the breastfed baby, it is probably wise to strictly limit your alcohol intake or not drink at all. In addition, alcohol can inhibit let-down, [the release of milk from the milk producing sacs within the breasts to the milk ducts], so your baby will not get the milk he needs.

Cigarette smoking and breastfeeding are not compatible. Heavy cigarette smoking may reduce milk production; increases the incidence of nausea, colicky symptoms, and diarrhea in the baby; and decreases the vitamin C content of the milk. Smoking near the baby increases his risk of pneumonia and bronchitis. As in pregnancy, the best advice is to quit if you can, or at least cut down. Avoid smoking in your home.

Caffeine passes into breast milk and may cause your baby to have an upset stomach and be irritable. If you suspect caffeine is affecting your baby, try eliminating coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and other caffeine containing foods from your diet to see if the symptoms disappear.

Vitamin B 6 has received much attention lately. In large amounts [more than is contained in your prenatal vitamin tablet] it may inhibit milk production.

Almost every drug or medication makes its way into breast milk. Some medications seem to have no harmful effects on your baby, while others are most certainly not safe. Talk with your pharmacist or pediatrician before taking any prescribed or over the counter medications-be sure the medications you take pose no problems for your baby. If you need to take any drugs, particularly on a regular basis, discuss it with your doctor. You may have to stop breastfeeding until all the drug has passed out of your system.


It is extremely rare for a baby to be allergic to his mother’s breast milk. If there are allergies on either side of the family, particularly to milk or milk products, your baby is more likely to have problems with formula than with your breast milk.

Diapers and Bowel Movements

Many parents of breastfed babies notice that their baby’s bowel movements are different from those of bottle-fed babies. The bowel movements are soft and yellowish. Changing the diaper of a breastfed baby may not be as unpleasant as dealing with the diapers of a bottle-fed infant. Because breast milk is so well absorbed, breastfed infants are rarely constipated. This all changes, of course, once a baby starts on formula or solid food.