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What mothers eat will impact a breastfed baby. So what are the foods to avoid when breastfeeding? Are there foods that will impact your milk supply or affect a baby’s development?

The World Health Organization recommends that where possible, babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life. That’s because breastmilk provides all the nutrients babies need in the first months of life.

What nobody tells you as a new mum however, is that as an open-all-hours milk bar, breastfeeding women often have one of the most voracious appetites. With research revealing what breastfeeding mothers eat has an impact on breastmilk, are there certain foods we should avoid when breastfeeding?

Here are four foods to avoid when breastfeeding. Read on also to find out what are the best foods a breastfeeding mother should have.

1. Alcohol

Much like pregnant women, if you’re breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to abstain from alcoholic drinks. This is because the concentration of alcohol in your blood is the concentration of alcohol in your breastmilk.

Alcohol can have a detrimental effect on a developing brain so it’s best to avoid it as best as possible while you’re still breastfeeding. Besides, having too much alcohol can also impact breast milk supply.

If you still feel like drinking something, why not make a non-alcoholic pina colada instead?

Watch: Breastfeeding pitfalls: A lactation consultant tells you everything you wanted to know

2. Caffeine

Food Standards Australia New Zealand recommend pregnant and breastfeeding women have no more than 200mg of caffeine per day. This includes coffee, soft drinks and even chocolate.

We all know what too much caffeine can do to our bodies: Increased jitteriness and anxiety, insomnia, dehydration and much more. These effects can be felt more profoundly in little bodies. Caffeine can also interfere with calcium absorption, which then impacts their bone health.

You will likely feel extremely thirsty when you’re breastfeeding. Water is your best source of fluid at this time.

3. Fish and seafood

Fish and seafood can contain high levels of mercury and other toxins, which is particularly harmful for a child’s central nervous system.

If you are worried about your omega fatty acids intake, here are some good sources of plant-based Omega-3.

4. Herbal supplements and teas

Always check with your GP before trying out a herbal supplement or tea. Often labelled as “natural”, herbal supplements are not required to undergo the same level of testing as prescription medication. This means we often don’t know if they are truly safe or what kind of side effects they may have.

Many of us will have been given suggestions to try a variety of herbal supplements if we’ve ever expressed any concerns surrounding low milk supply. The reality is, there hasn’t actually been any solid evidence to prove that they actually help increase milk production.

Watch: Safe medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding

What about spicy foods and citrus fruits?

As a general rule, you can still enjoy spicy and strong-flavoured foods, including garlic. Some people may also suggest avoiding specific foods such as cruciferous vegetables and citrus fruits, as these can cause babies to be gassy or fussy. However, only a small amount of babies actually react to such foods.

Always watch your baby. Their bodies will communicate with you whether certain foods work for them. If you notice them getting fussy, gassy or sleepless after you’ve eaten something, have a chat with your GP.

Citrus fruits are actually a great source of vitamin C, which is an important antioxidant. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale are also rich in folate and vitamins A and C, all of which you need more of when breastfeeding.

Vitamin C does occur naturally in human milk, but nursing mothers may need to supplement their diet to achieve the recommended levels. Always consult with your GP before starting any supplements.

The best foods to support a healthy breastfeeding diet

Amanda Muhl is Mums At The Table’s resident accredited practising dietitian. According to her, there aren’t actually any particular food breastfeeding mums should focus on. What’s more important, says Amanda, is having a healthy balanced diet.

“What you’re eating is not really anything different to what you’d usually eat,” Amanda says. “Have a variety of foods from the different food groups, so fruit, veggies, legumes, grains, nuts seeds, dairy products.”

Amanda recognises that breastfeeding mothers do have higher levels of nutritional and energy needs. However, this doesn’t really equate to too much extra calories. “It’s just two or three extra snacks, a bit like when you’re in your final trimester,” she says.

She shares more on how to eat healthy while breastfeeding in the video below, as well as one of the more important nutrient we should focus on.

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