You do not need to eat special foods or drink milk while breastfeeding. You do not necessarily have to avoid certain foods or beverages, either, with two important exceptions: consume caffeine in moderation and avoid alcohol completely.

Food during breastfeeding

You do not need to follow special nutritional guidelines during breastfeeding. Mums all over the world eat spicy foods and breastfeed their babies successfully. It is a good idea, though, to eat what you usually eat, while ensuring that you consume a variety of foods and eat more foods that are not overly processed.

Some foods may flavour your breast milk, but babies rarely react to this. If your baby is fussy after you eat a certain food or spice, try avoiding that food completely for about four days. Observe your baby and see whether the fussiness disappears. Sometimes you may need to avoid this particular food for two to three weeks or even longer, until the baby can tolerate you eating it again. Reintroduce a small amount and see how your baby feels.

If you follow a very specific diet (e.g. macrobiotic or vegan), ask your healthcare provider how this diet will affect your milk.

Beverages during breastfeeding

You need enough fluids to stay well hydrated, but you should only drink to quench your thirst. You are drinking enough when the colour of your urine is clear to pale yellow. Two litres of fluid per day (or more if you are used to it) is a good goal. Remember that soup and other foods also contain water.

A nursing mother can safely drink about two cups of coffee per day. But remember, when caffeine enters your bloodstream, a small amount can be passed on to your baby through your breast milk. Drinking more caffeine than recommended may cause fussiness and sleeping problems in your baby. If your baby reacts to even one cup a day, you may need to switch to decaf.

Alcohol also enters your bloodstream and can very quickly be passed along to your baby through breast milk. It is best to avoid alcohol completely while breastfeeding.

Every mum and baby may react differently to certain foods. If you have questions or concerns, ask your healthcare professional or lactation consultant.

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