When I was pregnant, and even before, I was always interested how moms were eating while breastfeeding. I’ve had a few questions from HEAL readers on this topic and have done my fair share of research for my own interest, so thought a blog post was worth sharing.
At first, I wasn’t really watching what I was eating, other than making sure my meals were high protein and high healthy fats so I would feel as good as I could on so little sleep and produce as much milk as possible. It’s a bit foggy in my mind (as the first three months seem to be!!) when exactly I started paying attention to my diet, but the first adjustment I made was because Sophie was really gassy.
I’ll start this section by saying that an infant’s digestive system is soooo immature and tiny that it’s really common for baby’s to be gassy. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean you can’t try to do something about it. What I’ve said to a few friends who’ve asked about baby gassiness is that if it’s not causing major issues to the baby, it’s probably not worth the effort of changing anything in your diet, but if it’s waking the baby (and subsequently you) up, it might be worth attempting a few changes. For us, Sophie was SO loud grunting and groaning with gas that it was 100% worth it to me to try to do something because I couldn’t sleep through it.
It’s tough to give you an exact list of foods that cause gas in babies (via breastfeeding), because just like everything food related, it’s very individual. That said, there are a few more common foods. This list is not to say that ALL of these foods will cause gas in your baby, but this is a list to investigate, particularly if you know that you as the mom have issues with any of these:
The common allergens:
I was asked the question, “Do you suggest avoiding all of the allergens all at once?” My answer is it depends! If it wouldn’t be that hard for you to make the shift in your diet, you’ll get a more accurate answer all at once, but for most people that is really hard and makes it feel like there’s nothing you can eat. So in that case, I’d probably start with cow’s dairy and potentially gluten or soy. If you have an inkling that one or two of those foods are issues for you personally, start there.
Here are two other factors: whatever makes YOU the mom gassy seems to be more likely to also make the baby gassy. If you have a gluten sensitivity or an egg sensitivity and are consuming those foods, it may affect your baby (gas, colic, general fussiness). Then, if your baby doesn’t have a great latch (which I don’t think Sophie did when she was little), he or she will take in a lot of air while feeding which can cause gas if it’s not all burped out. I think it’s very hard to burp out all the air!
For me, chocolate, spicy foods and large portions of cruciferous veggies (which I was very used to eating normally) caused Sophie to be gassy. There were times she was still gassy and I couldn’t tie it to a food, but removing those things for a period of time definitely helped. By about four months, I could eat these things more liberally and it didn’t affect her.
I also drank a lot of fennel tea. Fennel is an herb that helps the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal system relax and reduce gas, bloating, and stomach cramps. Coincidentally fennel also helps with milk supply. The digestive benefits of fennel are thought to be passed on to the baby via your breastmilk.
I added a probiotic in for Sophie too which I do think helped, but that is less related to breastfeeding so I’ll save that for another post.
It’s worth noting the massive impact cow’s dairy can have to a baby, gassiness aside. In a group of my Mom friends, one friend’s child gets eczema when she consumes dairy and breastfeeds; another friend’s child gets blood in her stool when she consumes dairy and breastfeeds, and then for me, it was causing acid reflux for Sophie.
There is research to show that removing cow’s milk from the baby’s formula or the mother’s diet when breastfeeding can have a significant reduction in colic symptoms.
**Note: This is not a lactose intolerance (lactose is the sugar in dairy). It’s related to the proteins found in the dairy as the proteins are what transfers through the breastmilk. It will therefore not help to switch to a lactose free milk as that still contains the milk proteins. It sometimes takes up to two weeks to see improvements when you cut out dairy.
I’ll write a separate post on infant reflux asit requires too much to add to this post.
I was fortunate to have a really good milk supply from early on, even though I had a C section. In fact, certain times I felt like I was fire hosing poor Sophie - I could have done with a little less milk at the start haha! I never ate any of the lactation cookie type foods or recipes; instead, I focused on lots of protein, lots of healthy fats and as many veggies as possible.
Around 6-7 weeks my supply dipped, but in retrospect it was likely just levelling out a bit. In the last six months, I’ve found stress or travel to be the biggest factor in my supply. Traditional Medicinals makes a Mother’s Milk tea that has worked wonders for me when my supply does dip. I also took Nature’s Way Fenugreek & Blessed Thistle, but don’t think this worked quite as well.
Then, it goes without saying and is much harder to actually do, but taking care of yourself as much as you can and making sure you’re getting protein with each meal helps.
One question from an Instagram follower was whether you can drink alcohol. Of course, talk to your doctor, but I have enjoyed a glass of wine here and there and then if I’m going to have more than a few drinks at a wedding for example, I will pump in advance and have Adam bottle feed her.
It should go without saying that if you’re not experiencing any difficulties like colic, gassiness, fussiness, eczema, etc, then keep on going with your regular diet! This is only intended to help if you are struggling and these baby symptoms are making the early months of motherhood even harder than they already are!