World Breastfeeding Month: Mom's Diet

August 1, 2015

During National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, there’s much discussion about baby nutrition, but what about the mother’s diet?

“We hear that question quite a bit actually,” said Debbi Heffern, lactation consultant with Mercy Hospital St. Louis. “There are opinions and traditions abound. Some cultures avoid cold foods while others steer clear of gassy vegetables or spicy foods. The good news is most moms can eat whatever healthy diet they enjoy.”

Heffern says during pregnancy, the flavors and essences from your diet go through your amniotic fluid so baby has been swimming in and swallowing the flavors from your table for months. “Generally baby is already accustomed to those flavors by the time he or she encounters them again in your milk,” she added.

This is one of the significant differences between breast milk and formula. Babies who take formula receive the same drink several times a day for many months. A breastfed baby is introduced to a wide variety of flavors appropriate for his or her own culture through mom’s milk. This is helpful when baby begins solid food because he or she is already accustomed to the flavors of the family’s meals.

“If your baby is unusually fussy after you’ve eaten something different from your routine foods, you can try eliminating that food and observe your baby’s behavior to see if this helps,” said Sheila Peters, lead lactation consultant at Mercy Hospital Springfield.

If a baby becomes steadily fussy, the primary offenders are usually dairy and soy.

“In these cases, continuing to breastfeed is best because a baby who reacts to dairy or soy through mom’s milk would be very uncomfortable drinking standard formulas,” Heffern added. “It may be necessary for you to eliminate the offending foods from your diet for a week to see if there’s an improvement. If so, continue to eliminate it for several weeks to allow baby’s gut to heal before re-introducing the food to your diet.”

But be careful not to misread the signs. If your baby is fussy, he or she could just be hungry.

“And sometimes we can be so strict on ourselves that we’re afraid to eat anything,” Peters said. “You don’t have to have a perfect diet to successfully breastfeed. Just eat a variety of healthy foods in moderation.”

If you have other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant at Mercy. She can provide valuable advice and guidance. For more information on nutrition for breastfeeding moms, click here.