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What Foods Should a Nursing Mother Avoid?

by Maria Magher

Everything that nursing mothers eat can end up in their breast milk. That's why it is so important for breastfeeding mothers to eat a balanced and healthful diet that can provide all the nutrients their growing baby needs. While many experts say there aren't any foods that nursing mothers need to avoid, others cite potential risks and anecdotal evidence of problems in some foods and recommend that they be avoided. However, most agree that if a mother eats any food that seems to disagree with baby, it's best to cut it out of the diet.

Allergenic Foods

The only foods nursing mothers must avoid are those that are known to be allergens for either the mother or the baby, according to the La Leche League International. Common food allergens include wheat, soy, corn, cow's milk, eggs, tree nuts and shell fish. According to KidsHealth, signs your baby might have a food allergy include spitting up or vomiting, signs of gas pain such as pulling up knees, bloody stools, hard stools, rash and swelling. If you suspect an allergy, an elimination diet is usually recommended to determine the food source.

Foods with Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that can make its way into your breast milk. Caffeine can agitate your baby and interfere with his sleep, according to MayoClinic.com. It recommends drinking no more than two to three cups -- or 16 to 24 ounces -- of coffee, tea, soda or other caffeinated drinks per day. Some foods might also contain caffeine, such as chocolate, baked goods and even gum.

Mercury-containing Fish

While fish can be a healthful source of protein and fats, it can also contain harmful levels of mercury. MayoClinic.com cautions that exposure to too much mercury can threaten development of your baby's nervous system. MayoClinic.com recommends that nursing mothers avoid fish that could be high in mercury, including swordfish, shark and king mackerel. Safe choices include salmon, catfish and shrimp.

Gas-causing Foods

Though there is debate about whether certain foods can cause gas in nursing babies, anecdotal accounts caution women to avoid these foods. Baby Zone warns women against foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Citrus fruits like orange, grapefruit and lemon are also said to irritate a baby's immature digestive system, causing fussiness. While some women may be able to eat these foods without causing any problems for their baby, others notice that their babies become gassy and cranky after eating them. The key is to pay attention to how your baby reacts when you eat certain foods and then adjust your diet as necessary.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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