Foods to Avoid when breastfeeding

It’s 2 am, baby has been crying for hours. You have tried EVERYTHING to calm him/her. Fed, burped, changed, rocked, walking around bouncing, car rides, bath with lavender and nothing has worked. Been there, done that. Some things we don’t think about is what we ourselves are eating and how it affects our baby’s food source. Your breastmilk.

Everything you eat, your baby eats. If you eat spicy foods, your baby will also get those spicy foods and the consequences of said spicy foods. If you think about how certain foods affect our full-grown bodies that over the years have built a stomach of iron, your little one is only days old and cannot tolerate some foods with their new systems. There is nothing worse than a colicky baby that cannot be settled due to reactions to food.

Here is a list of foods to avoid while breastfeeding and especially to be avoided for at least 24 hours prior to your portrait session.

Mothers report that babies most often object to these foods:

  • Chocolate
  • spices (cinnamon, garlic, curry, chili pepper)
  • citrus fruits and their juices, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit
  • strawberries
  • kiwifruit
  • pineapple
  • the “gassy” veggies (onion, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, and peppers)
  • fruits with a laxative effect, such as cherries and prunes

A daily cup or two of coffee is fine, but too much caffeine can interfere with your baby’s sleep or make him fussy. Remember that caffeine is also found in some sodas, teas, and over-the-counter medicines.

If you think that something you’re eating is causing problems for your baby, it’s usually something you’ve eaten two to six hours before feeding. The most common culprits include cows’ milk products, followed by soy, wheat, egg, nuts, and corn or corn syrup.

Talk to your baby’s doctor before you completely omit any foods from your diet. If avoiding a food could cause a nutritional imbalance (for example, if you eliminate all dairy products), you may need to see a nutritionist for advice on substituting other foods or taking nutritional supplements. Continue taking your prenatal vitamin as long as your baby’s fully breastfed to cover any gaps in your own diet.


As with pharmaceutical medications, herbs can get into breast milk and affect your milk supply and possibly your baby. Unlike over-the-counter and prescription medicines, herbs aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there’s no guarantee of safety, strength, or purity. And very few herbs have been studied to learn their effect on nursing infants – so even the experts aren’t completely sure what’s safe and what’s not.

Herbs such as fenugreek and fennel, for example, have been used for centuries to boost a nursing mom’s milk supply, but little is known about how effective these herbs are or how they affect a nursing baby.

And while Echinacea is generally considered safe, it is often paired with goldenseal. Goldenseal can be toxic in moderate doses, and experts aren’t sure of its effects on nursing babies. Play it safe and consult your healthcare provider before taking any herbal remedy.

Most herbs used to season food – such as garlic, dill, and sage – are fine to include in your everyday diet. But some can cause problems if you consume them in large or concentrated amounts, such as medicinally or in teas.

There are also some interactions between herbs and other herbs – and herbs and drugs – that you should be aware of. You may want to consult an herbalist who is knowledgeable about lactation and the safe use of herbs during breastfeeding.

Many herbal preparations contain little or none of the active ingredient found in the herb. So it’s important to purchase standardized products from reputable sources.

Chamomile (German), ginger, Echinacea
Often taken as teas, these herbs may be safe for nursing moms in regular doses. Herbs in teas are concentrated. Drink all herbal teas with caution, especially when you don’t know all the ingredients. (Stay away from goldenseal, which is often paired with Echinacea. It can be toxic in moderate doses, and experts say newborns have developed brain damage after being exposed to it.)

Ground fenugreek, anise, borage, raspberry leaves, blessed thistle, dill, garlic, stinging nettles, fennel seeds, goat’s rue, false unicorn root, vervain (also called verbena)
Consult your doctor or a reputable herbalist before taking any of these herbs. Though they’re often used as milk boosters, not all have been scientifically proven to be safe or effective. Fenugreek, which is in many herbal preparations for increasing milk supply, may not be safe for people with diabetes.

This herb is used to treat migraines. There are no known problems with taking it while breastfeeding, but the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) says it’s best to avoid it if you’re breastfeeding because not enough is known about its safety.

St. John’s wort
This herb is used to treat depression. In some studies of nursing infants whose mothers are taking the herb, levels have been undetectable in the infants’ blood and no side effects have been noted. But the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database reports that nursing infants of mothers who take St. John’s wort may get listless or drowsy and experience colic. NMCD advises breastfeeding moms to avoid St. John’s wort until more is known about its effects on nursing infants. St. John’s wort can interact with many other drugs and can decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.

Chaste tree berry
While this herb has long been used to boost milk production, it is potentially unsafe. And some studies show that the herb decreases rather than increases lactation.

Aloe, anise, buckthorn bark and berry, blue cohosh, caraway oil, cascara sagrada bark, coltsfoot leaf, comfrey, germander, gordolobo yerba tea, Indian snakeroot, Jin Bu Huan, kava, margosa oil, mate tea, mistletoe, pennyroyal oil, peppermint oil, petasite, rhubarb root, sage, skullcap, uva ursi
Avoid these herbs while nursing, advises Thomas Hale, professor of pediatrics at Texas Tech University and author of Medications and Mothers’ Milk. Some interfere with lactation and some could be harmful to your baby.


 “Recipe for love

A spoonful of smiles
A jar of joy
A cup of kisses
And a handful of hugs”

Back to Client Area