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Foods to Avoid for a Breastfeeding Diet

By Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D. ; Updated April 18, 2017

A breastfeeding diet is more liberal than a pregnancy diet; however, the two share some common traits. Substances from the foods you eat can pass into breast milk, and to a nursing baby. While breastfeeding, it’s important to stay away from some of the same foods you avoided during your pregnancy.


Consuming a well-balanced diet while nursing a baby, is important for the health and well being of both mother and baby. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breast milk is producing using stored nutrients in the mother’s body. The foods you ingest while nursing do not have as significant of an effect on your baby as when you were pregnant. However, substances in foods, alcohol and some medications make their way into breast milk and may be harmful if consumed in large amounts.


As with pregnancy, certain types of high-mercury fish should be avoided when breastfeeding since small amounts of mercury pass through breast milk to your baby. Such fish include shark, swordfish, tile fish and king mackerel. Other types of mercury-containing fish should be limited.


Some foods you eat while breastfeeding can affect the taste of your milk. Spicy foods and broccoli are examples of foods that can make breast milk taste unpleasant to some babies. Trial and error is typically necessary to help determine if certain foods you eat cause your baby to be upset, fussy, gassy or colicky.


Some babies show signs of allergies from foods eaten by their breastfeeding mothers. Common food allergens found in breast milk include cow’s milk proteins and peanuts. If your baby shows signs of a food allergy such as bloody stool, a rash, difficulty breathing, wheezing, belly pain or vomiting, according to Nemours Foundation, try eliminating possible allergy-causing foods.

Foods to Limit

Foods and beverages containing caffeine and alcohol should be limited or avoiding while breastfeeding since small amounts enter breast milk. After drinking large amounts of alcohol, pump and throw away your milk or wait two to three hours for every drink consumed before nursing your baby, according to Nemours Foundation.

Expert Insight

Consuming trans fats has been shown to cause negative effects on cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Trans fats are found in hydrogenated foods such as hard shortenings and margarines. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that nursing mothers who consumed 4.5 grams of trans fat or greater had a higher percentage of body fat, and their infants were more than two times likely to have a higher body fat percentage than other infants. These findings may impact the baby later in life, since obesity in infancy and childhood can increase obesity risk in adulthood.

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