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  • Breastfeeding Diet: 5 Myths About Your Breast Milk and What You Eat

    Is it true that your breast milk is what you eat? We list the most common myths.
    by Rachel Perez .
Breastfeeding Diet: 5 Myths About Your Breast Milk and What You Eat
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Nursing and breast milk offer a lot of benefits for both babies and moms. When committing to breastfeeding, no matter how long you intend to do so, consider that nursing entails eating almost as if you’re still pregnant. Again, you’re not eating for two, but you’ll need an extra 500 calories on top of your daily requirement to produce breast milk.

    Breastfeeding diet myths

    No food is technically prohibited for breastfeeding moms. While you definitely need to eat healthily and in moderation, not all of what you consume may end up in your milk and passed on to your baby. Below are some of the breastfeeding diet myths. Let’s break down which ones have scientific bases and/or should be a concern.

    1. Eating sugary foods when nursing will make your child more at risk for obesity.

    The truth is breast milk changes because it adapts to your child’s needs and not so much because of what you eat. “[Breast milk] changes from morning to evening, from day to day, from Month 1 to Month 6, and later, but not because of what you eat,” pediatrician and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Dr. Jack Newman, M.D., of the International Breastfeeding Centre (IBC), clarified via a Facebook post.

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    “But if you eat a lot of sugar, your milk will have the same amount of sugar as if you ate no sugar at all,” he said.

    That said, you can indulge your sweet tooth when done in moderation. But you need more nutrient-dense foods, not just empty calories.

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    2. Spicy food or certain herbs will make your breastfed baby fussy.

    No verDr. Newman assured nursing moms that pepper doesn’t make babies fussy. It’s also unlikely that pepper, garlic, and other spices would seep into breast milk in large amounts that it would bother the baby. Like eating sweets, eating spicy food doesn’t automatically mean your breast milk will have a kick. No evidence supports that herbs, like peppermint and chamomile, will reach the amount that can be considered therapeutic for your baby when he drinks your milk.

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    3. Caffeine and alcohol are a big no for nursing moms.

    Actually, it’s okay for nursing moms to have their caffeine fix as long as it’s not excessive. A cup or two of coffee wouldn’t hurt. Babies do not process caffeine as well as adults do, “but so little gets into the milk that a cup or two of coffee will not bother the baby,” Dr. Newman assured.

    Nursing moms can also have an occasional bottle of beer or eight ounces of wine should. Less than two percent of the alcohol gets in the milk, and if you stay within the alcohol limit, your body will flush out the alcohol in your system and breast milk within two to three hours.

    Pediatrician and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Dr. Jaime Isip-Cumpas says it it’s all about drinking in moderation and timing, and never trying to nurse if you still feel buzzed. (More about caffeine and alcohol consumption while nursing here.)

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    4. Steer clear of foods that can trigger allergic reactions if you are breastfeeding.

    Breast milk itself typically does not cause any allergic reactions in breastfeeding infants. It’s rare — only two to three infants out of 100 — exhibit allergic reaction when the breastfeeding mom consumed cow’s milk.

    Research has also shown that exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first six months can significantly lower his chances of developing a food allergy and its severity even in families that have a history of allergies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated through its parent resource site, HealthyChildren.org.

    Still, nursing moms should make it a habit of observing your baby and keeping a journal if he has any reaction to inform their doctor. Some foods may make a breastfed baby gassy or colicky, sp you can limit or avoid it temporarily. It takes two to four hours for the body to absorb food and pass on nutrients into breast milk, so any skin rash or change in behavior should manifest around that time if it’s a reaction to something you drank or ate.

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    5. Drink more milk and water so you can produce more milk.

    Not necessarily. The goal is never to deplete your body’s stored nutrients when you’re breastfeeding. Your body will prioritize producing milk complete with the essential vitamins and minerals your baby needs. If you lack calcium, for example, your body’s will get from your body’s reserves, leaving you without them. Same with water. Unless you’re close to dehydration, your breast milk supply will not be affected, but it can make you more prone to urinary tract infection (UTI) and other health issues.

    If a nursing mom is allergic to milk or other foods, she can still get calcium and other nutrients from different types of foods. Soup dishes are recommended more because they are a good source of nutrients and not merely because they’re liquid-based. 

    What mothers need is adequate water (eight glasses or more, if required) calcium, iron, and other essential nutrients, which they can get from eating a healthy, balanced diet. L.A.T.C.H. peer counselor Mec Camitan Arevalo suggests food cultivated and grown here in our country and take advantage of fruits in season. 

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    Typically, in a day, that includes:

    • three servings of protein-rich foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds)}
    • five servings (100mg) of Calcium
    • two servings of vitamin C
    • one or more servings of Iron-rich foods
    • three to four servings of dark green and yellow vegetables and fruits
    • one or more servings of other fruits and veggies
    • three or more servings of whole grains (whole wheat bread, pasta, cereal, and oatmeal)
    • small amounts of high-fat foods  (Click here for correct food portion sizes for preggos.)

    Also, check with your doctor if you can continue taking a prenatal vitamin to help you keep your nutrient reserves up, and before taking any herbal supplements. Galactagogues are most welcome but remember: No amount of food or product will improve your milk supply if you don’t directly nurse your baby as often as possible.

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