Breastfeeding and Holiday Eating: Four Food Myths Busted

Breastfeeding mamas may be starting to wonder: Are any foods to avoid eating in the holidays ahead?

Many people may tell you that certain foods and spices will negatively affect the breastfeeding relationship and potentially cause a reaction in the breastfeeding baby. Thankfully most of these are myths and old wives’ tales! In general, as a breastfeeding mama you can eat what you enjoy and not worry about these food myths.

Food Myth #1: Avoid “gassy” vegetables

There is no evidence to show that cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, onions, and other so-called “gassy” veggies are to blame for gassy babies. Because of the way our bodies process food, the “gassy” aspect of these veggies cannot pass through into breast milk. Green bean casserole, here I come!

Food Myth #2: Avoid spicy foods and garlic

As a lover of spicy and very flavorful food, I was happy to learn early on that this is a myth! In fact, many cultures regularly eat spicy foods with no ill affects to their breast fed babies. My daughter actually loves spicy food as a toddler now, and I think this may be in part because I ate a lot of flavorful food while breastfeeding. As for garlic, studies have shown that many babies prefer breast milk that has a garlicky flavor to it!

Food Myth #3: No citrus fruits

This myth states that citrus fruits, tomatoes, and other acidic foods are too acidic for a breastfeeding mama to eat and can cause stomach upset for baby. Similarly to the “gassy veggies” above, our digestive systems don’t pass that acidity through to breast milk, so the acidity level of a food will not affect baby

Food Myth #4: Peanuts

Many people still think that moms should avoid peanut products during pregnancy and breastfeeding in order to help prevent peanut allergies. Thankfully, current research does not support that theory any more, so if there is a peanut butter pie at your Thanksgiving celebration feel free to happily take part! (Unless of course you, yourself, are allergic.)

Foods that would be wise to avoid:

  • Caffeine does pass through breast milk, so it’s good to be aware of how much coffee you are drinking, especially on a holiday when coffee tends to flow freely all day.
  • Alcohol also passes through breast milk, so it’s best to keep drinks smaller and wait an appropriate amount of time to breastfeed after drinking.
  • Swordfish and Tuna high in mercury, so eat these types of fish in moderation.
  • Peppermint, spearmint, sage, oregano, and parsley are herbs that are known to decrease milk supply in breastfeeding mothers. Eating these herbs in a holiday dish or in every day cooking will not provide the quantities needed to affect your milk, however. Even an occasional cup of peppermint tea should be alright, although things made from peppermint oil could have a negative impact.

Keep in mind that it is possible for a baby to have a sensitivity to a food, but because every mama and baby breast feeding dyad is unique, there are no hard-and-fast rules for what not to eat! If you think your baby may have a sensitivity to a food there are some great resources available to help determine if you are dealing with a true food sensitivity or just with a fussy baby.

Becca Schwartz is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to a toddler and one on the way. She and her husband have a small mini-farm with a flock of chickens and a few goats, and have dreams of someday soon moving out west to start a homesteading adventure together!

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