Breastfeeding FAQs: Your Eating and Drinking Habits

Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned parenting pro, breastfeeding often comes with its fair share of questions. Here are answers to some common inquiries that mothers — new and veteran — may have.

What should I eat?

Just as when you were pregnant, it's important to eat well while you're breastfeeding, with plenty of wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and calcium-rich foods. Follow the recommendations charted in the MyPlate food guide and you'll be well on your way to giving both you and your baby a nutritious diet.

Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect. It is estimated that you need an additional 500 calories per day as a breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding may make you thirsty, so you may find it convenient to have a water bottle near by so that it is there when you need it.

Also ask your doctor if you should still take your prenatal vitamins — many doctors have women continue them during breastfeeding.

Does my breastfed baby have an allergy?

A breastfed baby may have an allergy or sensitivity reaction after the mother consumes certain foods or drinks (such as common food allergens like cow's milk, soy foods, wheat, corn, oats, eggs, nuts and peanuts, and fish or shellfish). Some signs of such a reaction to food might include:

  • consistent spitting up or vomiting
  • apparent belly pain (lots of gas and/or pulling up the knees in pain)
  • bloody, mucousy stools (poop)
  • hard stools
  • rash and swelling

If you think your baby has had an allergic or sensitivity reaction to food, call your doctor and avoid eating or drinking anything your little one can't seem to tolerate. If your baby is having difficulty with feeding, it may be a good idea to keep a journal of exactly what you eat and drink, along with any reactions your baby may have, which could help both you and your doctor pinpoint what the problem food, or foods, may be.

Although extremely rare, if your child is having trouble breathing or has swelling of the face, call 911.

Should I avoid certain foods?

Every baby is different. Whereas some mothers may discover their little ones get gassy or fussy after they eat beans, cauliflower, or broccoli, others may be able to tolerate those foods just fine. And some mothers can confirm that after they eat spicy foods, their babies don't seem to like the taste of their breast milk. Again, other babies may not mind if Mom's just downed a bunch of red-hot chili peppers.

Just like during pregnancy, nursing moms should avoid or limit their intake of fish high in mercury, since high mercury levels can damage the developing nervous system.

Also, if you're noticing a pattern (of fussiness, gassiness, colicky behavior, etc.), try to keep track of exactly what you eat and how your baby reacts to it each time, then talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest eliminating the possibly offending food (such as dairy products — a common allergen) from your diet for a few days to see if there's any change.

Is alcohol still a "no-no"?

When a nursing mom drinks alcohol, a small amount of it gets into her breast milk.

The amount of alcohol in breast milk depends on the amount of alcohol in the blood. It takes about 2 hours after consuming one drink for the alcohol to be metabolized and no longer be a concern for nursing. So do not give your baby fresh breast milk, from your breast or a bottle, for at least 2 hours if you've had one drink, 4 hours if you've had two drinks, and so on.

If you do plan to drink more than a few (preferably after breastfeeding's been established for about a month), you can "pump and dump" — pump your milk and then throw it away.

Can I have caffeine?

As with alcohol, it's best to limit the amount of caffeine you consume while breastfeeding. One or two cups of coffee a day are fine, but more than one or two servings of caffeine per day may affect your baby's mood and/or sleep.

Reviewed by: Joseph DiSanto, MD, and Karin Y. DiSanto, IBCLC
Date reviewed: January 2012

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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