Pregnancy and lactation are times when women enjoy their foods to the maximum without worrying about weight gain. There is no great list of foods to avoid during these times. It is always good to follow a healthy nutritious balanced diet that provides the maximum nutrition to you and your baby. However, it’s always better to be cautious when taking the following foods/drinks
- Fish- FIsh is a very good source of protein and omega 3 fats for pregnant and nursing mothers. However, a few types of fish should be avoided such as swordfish, shark and king mackerel because it has high levels of mercury. Mercury can make its way into your breast milk and can harm your baby. Therefore choose a fish that has a low level of mercury like tilapia, salmon and trout etc..
- Coffee- After nursing in the middle of the night, you may like to have a cup of coffee or tea in the morning to relax. Though it is not completely ruled out, be careful you don’t consume it in large quantities. This is due to the caffeine in coffee and tea that end up in the breast milk. This results in difficulty in taking nap for you and your baby. Unlike adults, babies cannot excrete caffeine efficiently and it accumulates and creates irritation, sleeplessness, and crankiness in their body. High levels of caffeine reduce iron levels in breast milk and hemoglobin levels in the baby. Hence it is better to cut down on coffee or tea to a maximum of 2 cups a day.
- Chocolate- Chocolate in small quantities do not cause any harm. However, chocolate is rich in the substance called theobromine, it may make your little one cranky, disturb sleep, or causing running stools if consumed more than 750 mg/ day. An ounce of milk chocolate has around 6 mgs of theobromine. Therefore, remember to keep a tab on your intake of chocolate/ cocoa containing products.
- Alcohol– it is better to avoid alcohol when you are breastfeeding. Excess alcohol consumption can affect infants sleep patterns and early development. Alcohol presence can be detected for 2-3 hours in the breast milk after taking a drink. And this duration increases with the increasing quantity of alcohol intake. Three drinks of alcohol will have a presence in breast milk for 6 -8 hours. Excess alcohol consumption can decrease milk production as well.
- Peanuts– Restricting peanuts during breastfeeding is not necessary if the mother do not have a peanut allergy. Avoidance of peanuts by the breastfeeding mother is not helpful in preventing peanut allergy in children. On the contrary, new studies are showing that eating peanuts during breastfeeding will promote the passage of immune factors to breast milk which helps to prevent or reduce the possibility of peanut allergy in babies.
- Parsley, sage, and peppermint– These are the three herbs that will reduce your breast milk if taken in huge quantities as per a few studies. You can monitor your milk supply when taking these herbs. Many moms often drink peppermint tea once they decide to stop breastfeeding.
- Dairy– Milk protein is considered as a potential allergen to babies though dairy is one of the important sources of calcium and protein for breastfeeding mothers. The public was often misguided to avoid potentially allergenic foods during pregnancy and lactation to prevent the development of allergy in babies. However, new research is showing that breastfeeding babies are less likely to develop cows milk allergy when their mothers had cows milk as their breast milk had higher levels of Secretory Immunoglobulins A ( s IgA) which protects the baby from the allergy by enhancing nutrient absorption and preventing the entry of allergens and pathogens. Therefore breastfeeding mothers who are not allergic/ lactose intolerant are encouraged to take good quality cows milk.
- Garlic– Garlic is considered as a galactagogue though there are no concrete supporting studies establishing significant increase in breast milk production. Garlic’s odor and flavor is transmitted to breastmilk, which may increase infant sucking time and his food choices later. However, some babies may fuss at the breast if they do not like garlic smell or taste.
- Wheat– Gluten intolerance is a very common problem as it creates bloody stools and fussiness. There is no need for mothers to remove gluten from her diet unless she has gluten intolerance. Breast milk will not contain enough gluten to cause bowel damage to the breast fed child. In fact studies are showing that gradual introduction of gluten-containing foods to the breast fed infant reduces the likelihood of celiac disease in children.
- Artificial Sweeteners: The use of Nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS), including saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame-potassium are very common now. However, studies in mice are showing that regular use of artificial sweeteners can affect the composition of bacterial flora in the gut making them prone to metabolic abnormalities like diabetes and decreased ability of the liver to neutralize toxins. Therefore it is prudent to avoid excess use of artificial sweeteners while breastfeeding.
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