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Ten foods to avoid while breastfeeding

By Sandra Wekesa
Thursday, August 6th, 2020
Breastfeeding. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

What a lactating mother eats is key to baby’s nutritional needs. As we mark World Breastfeeding Week , Sandra Wekesa gives a break down of what you should limit and how to tell if your diet is affecting your newborn

1. Some seafoods

Fish is a great source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — two types of omega-3 fatty acids that are important for brain development in infants, yet can be hard to find in other foods.

But, according to Henry Nge’the, chairman of Nutrition Association of Kenya, some fish and seafood can have high levels of mercury, a metal that can be toxic, especially in infants and children, who are more sensitive to mercury poisoning.

These include king mackerel, tilefish, and swordfish. Acute exposure to high levels of mercury can permanently affect an infant’s central nervous system.

As a result, they may have delays or impairments in cognition, fine motor skills, speech and language development and visual-spatial awareness. 

2. Too much consumption of caffeinated drinks 

Coffee dehydrate the mother’s body and if she doesn’t consume compensating amounts of water to cater for the losses, too much of it can pass through the breast milk to the infant and this can cause sleeping problems and irritability.

Also, babies’ bodies aren’t prepared to process caffeine as quickly as an adult’s body. To be on the safe side, consume no more than 200-300 millilitres per day.

3. Some herbs

While herbs such as parsley, peppermint and sage are a great way to add flavour to your meals, they come with the risk of reducing your breastmilk supply.

Consume them in moderation and skip them altogether if you notice that your little one is on a growth spurt.

4. Chocolate

While we might want to cluster it as a milk inhibitor, we could also say that it contains caffeine, which will agitate your baby or interfere with their sleep.

As we have already seen, caffeine has a negative effect on your child and too much of it could actually lead to less production of milk. 

5. Cabbage 

Unless you want to reduce your milk supply, avoid cabbages. It’s not entirely clear cabbages suppress lactation, but Ng’ethe says they contain a high concentration of sulphur, which may displace milk producing hormones.

Therefore, it is advisable that the only time you can take cabbage is if you want to reduce milk production or stop nursing completely. 

6. Dairy products

Most lactating mothers believe that dairy products are the answer to milk production.

But dairy is one of the most common problem foods for breastfed babies.

If your baby is, especially fussy after nursing, has eczema or other skin issues, or has sleep issues, an elimination diet is a good place to start.

While avoiding all dairy can be difficult, to rule out a dairy allergy you need to be dairy-free for a few weeks.

If you see an improvement after the trial period, a dairy allergy is the culprit to your baby’s woes.

7. Citrus foods

While oranges can be a good source of Vitamin C, in the first few months of your child’s birth, you might want to limit the intake.

Because their intestinal tract is not fully mature or yet to develop, the acidic nature of food might have an effect on the gastrointestinal system.

But just in case you are in search of some Vitamin C, why not replace oranges and kiwi fruits with mangoes and pineapple. 

8. Garlic 

If you find that your baby is occasionally reluctant to nurse, or pulls off while nursing to make faces, see if it coincides with when you last ate something laced with garlic.

While most of us think that garlic makes everything better, babies’ palates haven’t matured enough to appreciate it yet.

9. ‘Gassy’ foods

Foods that typically cause gas in you, such as beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower, can cause problems in your little one.

While burping, passing gas and bloating may occur in all babies after you eat these foods, it can cause a baby who already has colic to become downright miserable.

10. Junk

Other than these types of foods containing excess fats that could cause a rapid weight increase in your baby, you miss out some nutrients that are important in your child’s development.

It is good to eat healthy to help in your milk production and also help in pregnancy fat loss.

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