Saturday, June 22, 2024

Foods to avoid while breastfeeding

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Article attributed to Dr Sheetal Sachdeva OBGYN Consultant, Apollo Cradle & Children’s Hospital, Motinagar , New Delhi

Jumping onto a routine diet after pregnancy is like breaking your 9-month-long fast. But nursing and breastfeeding make mothers continue with their fast even after healthy delivery. They have to be on a strict diet because what they eat transforms their baby. Nursing mothers can eat whatever they want so their baby can taste the strong flavours that may change the taste of the milk and make it tempting for the infant.

Breastmilk is extremely important for a baby and breastfeeding is equally crucial for the mother to meet the nutritional and nurturing needs of both. Breastfeeding allows mothers and babies to bond emotionally while providing an abundance of nutrition for the baby’s healthy development. Babies in the foetus phase swallow amniotic fluids, so they are already familiar with the taste of the mother’s breast milk.

Having said that, mothers have to be extremely cautious of what they eat during the breastfeeding stage. Certain foods that are cooked with toxic substances can be harmful to the baby’s development and it is necessary to avoid them.

Seafood high in mercury
Eating seafood while breastfeeding can offer nutrition in the form of Omega fatty acids. It is an important nutrient for the nervous system of the baby. However, mothers need to be cautious of eating fish or any other seafood in the idea of consuming Omega 3 fatty acids. In present times, some seafood or fish can be high in mercury – a metal that can be toxic to infants’ health and make them more sensitive to mercury poisoning.

Exposure to high levels of mercury can severely affect the baby’s central nervous system. As a result, there could be delays or impairments in cognition, fine motor skills, speech and language development and visual-spatial awareness. Therefore, fish or any seafood that is high in mercury must strictly be avoided and replaced with other safe sources of Omega 3 fatty acids during breastfeeding.

Herbal supplements
Certain herbs and spices like cumin, cinnamon or basil are considered safe and healthy options during breastfeeding. Although herbs are natural, not all herbs or supplements are safe for intake during breastfeeding. Some herbs or supplements such as peppermint, parsley and sage can affect the supply of milk and could totally cut lactation or milk supply.

Similarly, teas are considered refreshing for the mind yet also have downsides due to their caffeine content. It can make it harder for the baby to absorb iron. It is always advisable to replace tea with other foods such as lean meat, dark leafy green vegetables or fortified cereals. Additionally, some herbal supplements are not regulated by FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and they are potentially contaminated with metallic and toxic substances.

Artificial sweeteners
Even if a woman is not breastfeeding, it is advised to consume sugar in moderation. Several drinks that have artificial sweeteners or high content of sugar are non-nutritive. Though women crave sodas and candies, several concerns have been raised about affecting metabolic activities and insulin resistance in babies when they grow up.

Drinks with artificial sweeteners can add unnecessary calories to a baby’s diet. Without nutrition, these calories affect the baby’s weight and also interfere with the process of bone density. Furthermore, it might influence the baby’s food choices in the later stages of life.

Highly processed food
Packed food or highly processed food has become a part of everyone’s diet today. To meet the increased nutrient demand during breastfeeding, it is significant for mothers to eat a healthy, freshly cooked and balanced diet for their own as well as the baby’s health. Highly processed foods are low in nutrition, high in calories and have unhealthy fats with added sugar that can interfere with the baby’s cognitive function.

Highly processed food contains sulfur which is not at all good for babies. Nursing mothers consuming any form of sulfur or sugar can make their babies prone to a junk or processed food and hyperactive. Highly processed food can also make babies sleepless and obese as well.

Alcoholic drinks
In any case, abstaining from alcohol is the safest option during breastfeeding. What a mother eats or drinks directly goes into the tummy of babies in the form of breastmilk. The amount of alcohol in breast milk peaks 30-60 minutes after the drink. It can also increase based on the number of drinks a mother intakes.

Additionally, alcohol remains in the mother’s system for 2 to 3 hours and is supplied to the baby in the form of breast milk. It is advisable to avoid alcohol completely or consume it occasionally for the baby’s healthy development. Also, the mother should wait at least 2 to 3 hours to breastfeed after consuming alcohol.

Some babies can get fussy when they get strong flavours of onion, garlic, soy sauce or other spices. They simply refuse to take the milk and that keeps mothers worried about their baby’s empty stomach and sleep. Therefore, mothers should also observe the changes in their diet and the baby’s reaction to it and consult with the pediatrician if they have any intolerances or allergies.

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