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Example: If during breast feeding, I keep on eating lots of Ghee, Coffee, etc., it may or may not harm me.

- Will those substances have an effect on the milk produced?
- Will the baby be affected in any way by drinking my then produced breast milk?
- Are there some certain kinds of foods that do affect the breast milk, and others that don't?
- What are the dos and don'ts w.r.t a mother's diet during breast feeding?

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I request the claims in answers with sources. :) –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 3 '12 at 12:21
You might find this TEDtalk youtube.com/watch?v=stngBN4hp14 useful for its generalitites –  balanced mama Dec 3 '12 at 20:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I can't answer all of your questions, but I can give it a good shot:

  1. Certain substances you eat have been shown to affect breastmilk production. Most of these substances are herbs. For example, apparently people have been using fenugreek to increase milk supply for hundreds if not thousands of years. This website has an interesting list of herbs that nursing mothers should stay away from for the most part as they are known to either leach into the breastmilk or decrease milk supply. Granted, I have never heard of most of the herbs on the list, but in different parts of the world, who knows? Other foods that can decrease milk supply include: parsley (if eaten in large quantities), peppermint or spearmint oil (peppermint tea is ok, but mothers who eat Altoids have apparently seen a drop in milk supply), sage and oregano, cabbage leaves which are a topical suggestion for engorgement can cause a drop in supply if the treatment is overdone, and alcoholic beverages.

  2. This webpage does a pretty good job, I think, of summing up eating and breastfeeding by pointing out that moms all over the world manage to produce perfectly healthy breastmilk while eating diets comprised almost entirely of rice with very few veggies and/or meat in their diet. It is suggested that pregnant and nursing mothers refrain from eating certain types of fish that are known to be high in mercury: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish specifically, and, depending on who you talk to, tuna. It suggests that you simply restrict your caffeine and alcohol intake, but this is sort of on you. I am a caffeine junkie. If I start drinking caffeine in the morning, I will drink it all day. If I'm going to limit my caffeine intake, it's better for me to just avoid it altogether. This site gives a breakdown of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and THC and how they affect breastmilk. Basically, stay away from nicotine and THC altogether, limit your caffeine in-take to about 300 mg a day, and if you're going to consume alcohol either feed your baby beforehand or have pre-pumped milk or formula on hand. You need to wait at least 2 hours after having one alcoholic drink before you can nurse again. Obviously, if you partake in more than one drink, this time will increase.

    • Cow's milk protein and peanut protein are known to pass into the mother's breastmilk, but unless your child is indicating an allergy to either of these substances, it's not necessary to eliminate them from your diet. Other foods known to occasionally cause allergies in nursing infants include: shellfish, eggs, wheat (gluten), citrus fruits, soy, and food additives. This is incredibly rare, however, as breastfeeding in and of itself provides protection against many, many allergies, so you shouldn't need to really adjust your diet with too much worry unless, as I said before, your child starts showing some indications of food allergies or intolerance. For signs/symptoms of food allergies or sensitivities, see here.
  3. See #1. Granted, I dealt more with foods that decrease milk supply than foods that increase milk supply. Seems like most nursing moms I know worry more about their milk supply going down than their supply going up, but most Lactation Consultants, doctors, and midwives (and half-way reputable websites) will advocate that nursing mothers exhaust every other method of increasing their milk supply before turning to herbal supplements (see this site for a fairly exhaustive list of methods of increasing your milk supply).

  4. See #2 above.

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I did a little formatting magic to make your numbered items come out right :-) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Dec 3 '12 at 18:59
It's not just allergies. Both my sons had sensitivities to milk protein, so I had to eliminate it from my diet completely in order to continue breast-feeding them without causing them serious discomfort (they are old enough to drink milk without difficulty now). –  Kit Z. Fox Dec 4 '12 at 2:02

Yes, the mother's diet definitely affects the child.

My own family's experience is that what you eat makes a big difference. Some infants are very sensitive to onions (gives the baby gas), or spicy food, or coffee/caffeine, or even cow-milk products.

However, the general advice is to continue eating your regular diet and see how that works, before you change anything in the diet -- chances are that the baby will be fine. Only if there are problems (stomach aches, gas) should you consider changing the diet.

Regardless what your diet was before the pregnancy, just make sure that you get enough vitamins and minerals while pregnant and while breastfeeding. Also, listen to the body: if you crave something in particular, it's probably not a coincidence.

A quick Google search reveals these articles that seem good:

(I know -- I need to summarize the linked articles. I will do so later.)

Alcohol goes straight to the milk, so breastfeeding mothers should avoid it. However, it's probably all right to sip a little red wine for instance because ½ glass of red wine won't give you a significant amount of alcohol and the amount that arrives in the milk is a minuscule fraction of that. So it's best to abstain, but don't freak out over it.

Coffee/caffeine takes 3-5 hours to work. Don't ask me why it's slower than alcohol; this is not a science website :-)

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When I was pregnant, my OB said one cup of a beverage with caffeine per day would probably be fine, but much more is not healthy for the baby. That was six years, ago so I don't know if the going thought on the matter has changed. –  balanced mama Dec 3 '12 at 20:42
@balancedmama - the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends no more than 300 miligrams of caffeine a day, I think, which is just a bit more than a standard 8 oz. cup of coffee. I believe the reccommendation by ACOG for pregnant women is 200 miligrams. –  justkt Mar 19 '13 at 12:41

Actually, it's fine to drink a glass of wine provided you wait two hours before breast feeding. Check out the website www.motherrisk.com if you're concerned about what is and isn't OK during breast feeding.

Generally speaking, you can eat anything while you breast feed. It's best to eat a diet rich in nutrients because you are feeding your baby. It's similar to how you ate well while you were pregnant.

My mother used to teach a breast feeding class and her philosophy is that breast feeding should be natural and easy. Meaning- don't stress! Eat healthy foods and drink in moderation while avoiding drugs and alcohol and you are on the right track. When things get too complicated, women stop breast feeing. It should be easy.

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This answer is from me (not my husband "meroon")...I have a 4 month old daughter and I'm currently breast feeding. –  Ferk Dec 4 '12 at 3:54

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