What can I eat when I'm breastfeeding?As a breastfeeding mum, you can pretty much eat what you like. Try to stick to a healthy, balanced diet, though. This is good for your baby, as it will introduce her to a range of healthy flavours through your milk (Hausner et al 2008, Habeat 2014).
However, there may be times when you suspect that something in your breastmilk is upsetting your baby. For example, your baby may have wind or there may be changes to her poo.
Your baby may also cry a lot, and not necessarily during the late afternoon and early evening, the times associated with persistent crying, or colic.
There are many causes of tummy troubles or fussiness in babies. But traces of some foods in breastmilk do upset some babies.
If you suspect your baby is reacting to your breastmilk, you may want to cut out certain foods to see if it makes a difference. You can add other foods from the same food groups to make sure you're still getting a balanced diet. For example, if you cut out broccoli, choose another green vegetable, such as green beans.
Which foods may be a problem when I'm breastfeeding?See our tables below for guidance about what to eat and how to help your baby if you think particular foods could be a problem.
|Cabbage, onion, garlic, broccoli, brussels sprouts and turnips may cause wind and crying, although the evidence for this is weak.||Leave these foods out of your diet for a week. If your baby’s symptoms improve when you don’t have these foods, consider cutting them out of your diet until your baby is a bit older. Other non-problematic vegetables, such as carrots, green beans and sweetcorn are good alternatives.|
|Cow’s milk products, such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and even butter in your diet can cause an allergic reaction or be a sign of intolerance in some babies. Allergy is unusual, though.||If you suspect your baby is sensitive to traces of dairy produce in your breastmilk, take a note of your baby’s symptoms and see your doctor. She may advise trying lactase drops for your baby. Or she may suggest leaving dairy products out of your diet for a week or so, to see if your baby’s symptoms improve. Your doctor can recommend supplements to take if you exclude dairy products for longer or replacement foods, such as lactose-free milk or lactose-free yoghurt.|
|Wheat, soy, oats and hen’s eggs are other potential allergens that may cause a reaction.||Problems with cow’s milk are more likely, but if you suspect one of these foods is a problem, cut it out for a week to see if your baby’s symptoms improve. There are free-from substitutes for many foods containing these ingredients in most supermarkets.|
|Peanuts are a common allergen. Proteins from peanuts may be absorbed into your bloodstream and pass into your milk.||It’s safe to eat peanuts while you’re breastfeeding, unless you are allergic to them. But treat peanuts like any other food that may upset your baby. If you suspect peanuts are causing a problem, cut them out to see if there’s a difference.|
|Herbs||What you should know|
|Peppermint, fennel or camomile||Taken in teas, these herbs are probably fine. Stick to teas that have ingredients you'd cook with, such as mint. Avoid combinations of teas in one bag, in case they have ingredients you don’t spot.|
|Herbal medicines||Don’t take any herbal medicines. Although these are freely available in pharmacies, it’s hard to be sure that they’re safe for your baby. See your doctor if you are feeling unwell and think you may need medicine.|
|Substance||How it affects your milk||What you can do|
|Alcohol||Alcohol enters your bloodstream and then your breastmilk at different speeds, depending on how much you weigh and whether you drink alcohol with food or on an empty stomach. The amount of alcohol in your blood usually peaks 30 minutes to 45 minutes after you have drunk it.||You may want to avoid alcohol if you can, but it’s probably fine to have one glass or two glasses of beer or wine a week. If you want to have a drink, wait until just after you’ve fed your baby and try not to feed again until a couple of hours later. You could have some expressed milk ready, in case your baby wants a feed in the meantime.|
|Caffeine||Caffeine is in tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks and chocolate. Caffeine does get into breastmilk, but in small amounts.||There’s no official guidance on caffeine and breastfeeding. Caffeine in your breastmilk won’t harm your baby. But if your baby is restless or irritable, it may be worth limiting your intake to 200mg of caffeine a day (about two mugs of instant coffee).|
Last reviewed: December 2015
Next review: December 2018
ReferencesACOG.2013. Breastfeeding your baby: frequently asked questions. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. acog.org [Accessed December 2015]
Cuomo R, Andreozzi P, Zito FP, et al. 2014. Irritable bowel syndrome and food interaction. World J Gastroenterol 20(27):8837-45
Habeat. 2014. Vegetables and fruit: help your child to like them. A guide for parents of young children. HabEat Project. habeat.eu [Accessed April 2014]
Hausner H, Bredie WL, Mølgaard C, et al. 2008. Differential transfer of dietary flavour compounds into human breast milk. Physiology & Behavior 95(1), 118-124.
MNHS 2014. Is it safe for breastfeeding women to take herbal medicines? NHS Medicines Q&A. medicinesresources.nhs.uk [Accessed December 2015]
NHS Choices. 2014. Healthy lifestyle and breastfeeding. NHS Choices, Health A-Z. nhs.uk [Accessed December 2015]
NHS Choices. 2014. Colic. NHS Choices, Health A-Z. nhs.uk [Accessed December 2015]
NHS Choices. 2015. Is it safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding? NHS Choices. nhs.uk [Accessed December 2015]
NICE. 2011. Food allergy in children and young people. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Clinical guideline, 116. London: NICE. nice.org.uk [Accessed December 2015]
NICE. 2014. Colic: infantile. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk [Accessed December 2015]