August is National Breastfeeding Month and here at Ready, Set, Food!, we support each and every parent’s decision on how to feed and nourish their families.That’s why we’re proud to join National Breastfeeding Month in helping build a landscape of breastfeeding support with our new Breastfeeding 101 series.
Can you have alcohol and caffeine while breastfeeding? Are there any other foods and drinks that you should be concerned about while breastfeeding? Here’s what you need to know.
After avoiding alcoholic drinks and strictly limiting caffeine while pregnant, many breastfeeding moms are curious to know if they can drink coffee, wine, or other caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Can you have alcohol and caffeine while breastfeeding? Are there any other foods and drinks that you should be concerned about while breastfeeding? Here’s what you need to know.
Alcohol While Breastfeeding: Avoid Or Limit To Very Small Amounts
Alcohol can be passed from mom to baby in breast milk and can affect a baby’s growth, development, and sleep patterns. Given this, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that the safest choice is to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding.
Alcohol can also impair judgment and coordination. So, drinking too much can impair your ability to safely care for baby, especially if you’re already fatigued.
However, the CDC also states that it is still safe to drink alcohol in very small amounts while breastfeeding, because drinking small amounts of alcohol is not known to be harmful to babies.
If you want to drink alcohol in small amounts while breastfeeding, limit your intake to 1-2 standard drinks per week at most, and no more than 1 standard drink in a single day.
(A “standard drink” is 5 ounces of wine, one 12-ounce can or bottle of 5% beer, or 8 ounces of 7% malt liquor.)
Most importantly, after you consume alcohol, wait at least 2 hours before you nurse baby or pump your breastmilk.
Breastmilk will always contain some alcohol if alcohol is in your bloodstream, but that amount decreases over time.
You can’t reduce those alcohol levels by pumping breastmilk --- you’ll need to just wait it out to keep your baby as safe as possible. Waiting at least 2-3 hours after a drink to nurse or pump will make sure little to no alcohol is detectable in your breastmilk.
Be sure you’re making safe, well-informed decisions if you’d like to have alcohol while breastfeeding (the CDC’s resource has more information to help you make your decision). You don’t have to avoid alcohol completely, as long as you drink responsibly and moderately!
Caffeine While Breastfeeding: Limit To Small Amounts
Just like with alcohol, caffeine can pass to your baby through your breastmilk if you eat or drink anything that contains caffeine.
The CDC reports that infants have exhibited “irritability, poor sleeping patterns, fussiness, and jitteriness” when their mothers had “very high intakes of caffeine, [equal to] 10 cups of coffee or more per day.”
But consuming small amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding usually won’t harm or adversely affect your baby.
When breastfeeding, limit your daily caffeine intake to less than 300mg per day (300mg is the approximate amount of caffeine in two 8-ounce cups of coffee).
Caffeine passes to baby through breastmilk in very small amounts. But babies don’t process caffeine as quickly as adults. And the younger a baby is, the longer it takes for their body to break down caffeine.
As long as you stay under the 300mg daily limit, though, most babies shouldn’t feel any adverse effects.
- Remember that caffeine isn’t just in coffee, energy drinks, some teas, and some sodas. Other drinks, foods, and even medications contain caffeine as well, so always check their labels.
- Also, remember that the concentration of caffeine in your breast milk usually peaks around two hours after you consume caffeine. Plan your nursing times accordingly.
Some babies may still be fussy or wakeful after consuming milk with small amounts of caffeine, if their bodies are especially sensitive.
If you notice this after consuming small amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding, you may want to further limit your caffeine intake.
Tara Czapla, IBCLC provides more information on limiting caffeine while breastfeeding:
Fish While Breastfeeding: Carefully Select The Types And Amounts
When you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want to carefully select the types and amounts of fish you eat. Even though seafood contains proteins, vitamins and minerals that benefit breastfeeding moms, some types of fish also contain harmful levels of mercury. And mercury can negatively affect a baby’s brain and nervous system if too much of it passes through your breastmilk.
Certain fish contain much higher levels of mercury than others.
So, if you want to eat fish while breastfeeding, completely avoid all fish that are labeled as high in mercury.
Pick a variety of low-mercury fish and seafood instead. The benefits of consuming these types of seafood outweigh the risks.
Choose 2-3 servings of the “Best Choices” on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) list below per week, or 1 serving of a “Good Choice” on the list per week.
Keep in mind that some fish that friends or family catch are more likely to have higher mercury levels than the same fish bought in stores. Avoid eating these types of fish if they’re flagged on your state’s Fish Consumption Advisory. If a fish your loved ones caught isn’t on the advisory, eat only one serving at most, and don’t eat any other fish that week.
Spicy Food While Breastfeeding: No Need To Limit!
Some moms wonder if spicier foods are safe to eat while breastfeeding, or if you’ll need to stick to blander foods. We have some good news --- you don’t have to stay away from the spice, or cut out any other flavorful ingredients.
In fact, eating a variety of flavors that you love may actually pass these preferences on to your baby, and help them be a more adventurous eater when they’re ready for solids. Breastfeeding is one way that family food preferences and cultural eating patterns are passed through generations, via the specific food proteins in breastmilk.
Nurse Dani of Intermountain Moms shares more on eating patterns while breastfeeding:
Allergy-Causing Foods During Breastfeeding: No Need To Avoid If Baby Doesn’t Already Have An Allergy
Some mothers have heard that they need to avoid eating common allergens, like milk, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts, while breastfeeding. But there’s no need to avoid these foods, as long as your baby doesn’t already have an allergy to a given food.
The 2019 guidelines from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) advise that there is no evidence to suggest that common allergens should be avoided while breastfeeding.
“Maternal exclusion of common allergens during... lactation as a means to prevent food allergy is not recommended.” --- AAAAI Guidelines
If you're breastfeeding a baby with a confirmed food allergy, though, you will need to avoid eating the food(s) your baby is allergic to, as the food proteins can be passed through your breastmilk.
The Bottom Line For Moms
You can eat or drink almost anything during breastfeeding. You’ll need to strictly limit your alcohol and caffeine intake, though (or avoid alcohol and caffeine completely, if you choose). Also, you’ll need to carefully select the types of fish you eat, so you avoid high-mercury fish.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
See the FDA Peanut Allergy Qualified Health Claim at the bottom of our homepage.