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Can a breastfed baby be effected by what mother eats or does even if the mother doesn't show any symptoms of herself being effected?

For examples Can the baby get gas due to the food that mother eats, without the mother getting gas herself? Can the baby get constipation due to the food that mother eats, without the mother getting constipation herself? Similarly, can the baby catch cold due to mother's exposure to cold, without the mother catching cold herself?

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  • I'm sorry, but I've voted to close due to lack of focus. I can see you are looking for guidance about what you can and can't safely do when breast-feeding, but this is just too general. There just so many things a mother can do, or be exposed to, and some of them can affect the baby via her milk or by other routes. But there is no way we can list everything. Can you narrow it down a bit? Nov 13 at 22:37
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    Thanks. But actually I am not looking for a guidance about what can or can't be done safely while breast-feeding. I just want simple "yes" or "no" answers based on knowledge/experiences to confirm whether or not this is possible. Because there is a disagreement between me and my wife about this.
    – sid-m
    Nov 14 at 2:46

2 Answers 2

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The important thing to understand is that breastmilk is made in the alveoli using proteins, sugars and fat from the mother's blood supply, not from the mother's digestive tract.

The make up of these 'ingredients' does depend on the mother's diet - for example, if the baby has an allergy to certain dietary proteins then the mother may need to follow an elimination diet to avoid passing these proteins on. A sensitivity or allergy may result in gassiness, fussiness, constipation/diarrhea, reflux, eczema, blood in the stool or hives among other symptoms. However, it is not as simple as thinking that food that makes mum gassy would also make baby gassy - since the digestive gas is not part of the milk-making process!

In the majority of cases, mothers do not need to change their diet for breastfeeding.

If the mother is exposed to a virus such as a cold, or other mild infectious illness then the milk will contain antibodies but not the virus itself. This is the case whether or not the mother has symptoms.

For example, the CDC advice (CDC page on flu + breastfeeding) states that

Flu is not spread to infants through breast milk.

and that

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants and provides protection from infections through antibodies and other immunological factors. Infants who are breastfed are less vulnerable to infections, including severe respiratory illnesses, than infants who are not breastfed. When a mother has flu, her breast milk contains antibodies that can help protect her infant from flu and breast milk remains the recommended source of nutrition for the infant, even while the mother is ill.

Other links that may be helpful - note that this website is for profit (sponsored) and not an authoritative source, but very informative.

Kellymom - mom's diet

Kellymom - food allergies

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    Hi and welcome! This is a terrific answer; so glad you found us. The website you linked to is a (very informative) sponsored, for profit website, and as such, there's a potential for conflict of interest. We usually don't allow links to for profit sites as authoritative sources. A link to the evidence (study) it's based on is considered authoritative (e.g. the flu advice is not accurate per the CDC for infants. In any case, the OP was asking something different.) Again, a great answer and welcome.
    – anongoodnurse
    Nov 22 at 19:35
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    Hi @anongoodnurse, I've updated my answer to link to the CDC instead and downweight kellymom. I did not want to remove the links entirely as it is difficult to find good information online. I cross-referenced the kellymom advice with the CDC and I don't understand what aspect is inaccurate? The OP asked "can the baby catch cold due to mother's exposure to cold, without the mother catching cold herself?" to which the answer is "no, the virus is not transmitted [regardless of whether the mum has symptoms or not!]"
    – KMcN
    Nov 23 at 22:29
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    Thanks! I agree Kellymom is exceedingly helpful (it's one of the best I've seen outside of the literature, so thanks for that.) The CDC site encourages unimmunized breastfeeding moms with influenza to take precautions (handwashing, masking, and even - if significantly ill - isolation and pumping) to prevent the baby from getting the virus. But, as I said, the OP is asking something a bit different anyway: will an uninfected mother pass the virus through breastfeeding? The answer is, as you said, no. But an infected mom will expose the baby to the virus, just not through breastmilk.
    – anongoodnurse
    Nov 24 at 1:17
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Yes. When I was being breastfed by my mother, I broke out in hives. Her doctor put her on an elimination diet, and it turns out that when she cut chocolate out of her diet my hives went away. She's not allergic to chocolate, I'm not allergic to chocolate, but when I was being breastfed she couldn't consume it or it'd affect me.

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  • yes, if a baby has a cows milk protein allergy or similar then if the mother eats/drinks cows milk this can trigger the allergy in the baby, despite the mother being ok. Not everything will pass into breastmilk though.
    – R Davies
    Nov 14 at 9:10

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