5 Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding and What to Prioritize

Masthead Image
a pregnant woman holding her stomach
Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Wednesday June 5, 2024

Body + Mind is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through some of the links on our site. 

Congratulations — you’ve just welcomed a new bundle of joy into this world! If you’re choosing to breastfeed, you might be curious about how what you eat comes into play. Whether you’re a new parent or want to brush up on your knowledge, knowing these five foods to avoid while breastfeeding helps make this transition as smooth as possible.

Why Should You Watch What You Eat While Breastfeeding?

Much like when you were pregnant, the food you eat contains nutrients you’ll pass on to your baby, this time through breast milk. Plus, you need to show yourself some love, too. Your body has just been through a lot, and breastfeeding isn’t always a walk in the park, either. Some experience breast engorgement, chapped or sore nipples, or insufficient milk production.

However, what you nourish yourself with can help make the process worth it. One study found proper nutrition while breastfeeding is essential for your well-being and ensuring your milk has the right amount and quality of nutrients for your little one, especially omega-3s. Taking care of yourself while feeding your baby helps your body recover and gives them what they need to grow up strong.

5 Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Because what you eat will influence what your new arrival eats as well, it’s vital to be choosy about your intake. Here are five foods to avoid while breastfeeding.

1. Fish

You probably heard you should avoid eating seafood while pregnant — and for good reason. Young children are most at risk of the adverse side effects of consuming too much methylmercury — the kind that’s most present in fish — which include:

  • Shorter attention span
  • Memory and cognition trouble
  • Gross and fine motor skill difficulties
  • Lowered intelligence measures

Seafood is an excellent source of omega-3s, which you know your breast milk needs to nourish your baby. The Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting your intake to two to three servings a week of any fish that’s low in mercury. Generally, it’s OK to eat fish as long as they’re not:

  • Marlin
  • Shark
  • Bigeye tuna
  • Orange roughy
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish

2. Common Allergens

It’s best to avoid introducing your little one to foods that could cause an allergic reaction until they’re older. The most common triggers you should hold off on eating until you’re done breastfeeding include:

  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Peanuts and tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Seeds
  • Milk and milk products
  • Seafood

3. The “Gassy” Foods

The research on whether eating foods that make you gassy will do the same to your baby hasn’t yet shown a link, but some parents still notice patterns. If your baby has more gas or diarrhea after you eat the following, consider reducing your intake:

  • Spicy foods
  • Beans
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Cabbage

4. Chocolate

Yes, it’s true — chocolate lovers will have to limit their intake for a while. While a ton of sugar isn’t great for growing bodies anyway, a bar of this sweet treat unfortunately contains as much caffeine as 10%–20% of a cup of coffee. You’ll have to keep your caffeine consumption under 200–300 milligrams while you’re breastfeeding, so make sure you have something else on hand to satisfy your sweet tooth.

5. Certain Herbs

Before you season up dinner, make sure the recipe doesn’t call for peppermint, parsley or sage. They’re anti-galactagogues — they potentially reduce milk production, though science hasn’t proven it. However, many people report success with them when trying to lessen their lactation, so try to decrease how much you eat these herbs if you’re making enough milk or need more.

What Breastfeeding Moms Should Eat

Now that you know what to enjoy when your little one is older, what can you eat now to improve their nourishment? The best thing you can do is ensure you eat a balanced diet while experimenting with the previous foods to see how they affect your milk production and baby’s reactions.

For example, spinach is a dark green leaf that might make you and your child gassy, but it’s also a fantastic source of iron and folate, which help with spinal, brain and overall physical development. Some seafood can have dangerous mercury levels in large portions, but the choline and iodine it provides are also essential for forming the brain and spine. There are other options if your baby reacts poorly to these foods — peas have choline and folic acid and lean meat is good for iron.

Do Any Foods Make Breastfeeding Easier?

While a high number of surveyed breastfeeding parents said they tried using galactagogues — foods that may increase your milk supply — there isn’t official evidence they actually work. The proof is anecdotal for now, but the following may help you make more milk.


In one study, mothers who drank fenugreek water for a week reported an increase in milk production, as well as improved how much the babies gained and wet their diapers in their first few days. Drinking fenugreek might work better than eating it, but give either one a shot if you’re looking to up how much milk you make.


If you haven’t tried this ancient grain before, get ready to add it to your diet. One study of mothers who ate barley for two weeks after giving birth found they were able to increase their milk production significantly. Not to mention, you’ll be benefiting your heart while ensuring your little one gets the food they need.


Like the previous recommendations, fennel has studies displaying its ability to increase milk supply and a handful that come up inconclusive. It’s worth a try if you’re looking to make more milk — plus, a quick internet search on how to cook it reveals some delectable-looking recipes.

Develop a Nutrition Plan Knowing the Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding

When you’re figuring out what to eat while breastfeeding, the most important thing to know is what foods you should limit. However, some of them contain nutrients that will benefit your recent arrival, so talk to their doctor about creating a nutrition plan. Not only is their expertise in your child’s unique care crucial, but planning out your meals beforehand takes a bit of weight off your shoulders.

Previous ArticleThe 15 Best Sunscreens for Face and Everyday Use Next ArticleChill Out and Thrive: Unveiling 6 Ice Bath Benefits
Subscribe CTA Image

Subscribers get even more tailored tips & deets delivered directly to their inboxes!