With my kitchen torn apart for a redecorating project, I indulged in a lot of take-out food recently. That meant yummy Thai, Mexican and Chinese food. I enjoyed a tantalizing array of flavorful food, but when I bit into a particularly spicy chile relleno (stuffed pepper) the other night, it occurred to me to wonder whether the spicy foods I enjoyed made my breast milk spicy.
In fact, spices in a mother’s food do flavor the breast milk. Does that mean that nursing mothers should avoid garlic and spicy foods in favor of a bland diet? Absolutely not! The varied flavors of the milk may actually help breastfed children learn to enjoy a greater variety of table foods once they begin eating solids. In observation of my own two nurslings, I’ve found that to be true.
However, nursing mothers know their babies best and they may start to suspect a correlation between something they’ve eaten and fussiness in the baby. The Nursing Mother’s Companion says:
Some babies fuss for up to 24 hours after their mothers have eaten garlic, onions, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, chiles, or beans. Citrus fruits and their juices, chocolate, and spices such as chili powder, curry powder, and cinnamon can also bother young nursing babies.
p. 123. I have not found this to be true and have never had to restrict any foods while nursing. So, while nursing mothers need not eliminate foods arbitrarily, if a mother suspects her child is having a reaction to a particular food she ate, she can eliminate that food from her diet for a couple of weeks to see if the baby’s symptoms improve.