Does Eating Spicy Food Make Mother’s Milk Spicy?

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.

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    • kressara

      I spoke to a woman recently who identified that the reason she never breastfed her children was because she didn’t want to give up eating garlic and onions and other spicy things. Too bad she didn’t know that she didn’t have to give those things up!

    • angela

      Seems like a small sacrifice to me even if you had to give those things up, but I’m glad I don’t!

    • Matia “breast pump expert”

      What a coincidence, but I have a chili relleno and nursing story to tell. I bit into one once that did not have the seeds cleaned out of it very thoroughly. Let’s say, not at all. I was in a social situation and made a quick decision to swallow instead of spitting it out. At two o’clock in the morning, baby was one unhappy camper, pulling off and crying. All seemed to be fine four hours later. In the years I nursed my children that is the only time I was certain something I ate affected the baby in a bad way. I often experimented with giving up gassy vegetables or toning down the spice to see if if would lessen gas symptoms or other symptoms in the baby, but my experiments were never conclusive. I agree, in most situations you do not have to give things up to nurse your baby. I have even heard transitioning to solids is easier in breastfed babies, because they are accustomed to a variety of flavors.

    • angela

      My kids always nursed happily no matter what I ate. I read in one book where a mother said she thought her child would nurse even if the milk tasted like motor oil, and I had to laugh because I think my kids would too. Sometimes it’s not about the milk.

      It’s good though to be in tune with your baby and adjust your diet temporarily to see if a problem improves.

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    • Lu

      I agree with “Matia’s” comment!!! I happened to eat gazpacho for lunch recently….a spicy cold soup made of raw vegetables including jalapenos…2-3 hours later I couldn’t figure out why my 4 month old daughter was so hungry but pulling off the breast and fussing…After giving her some milk I had pumped the day before, she ate well. I am convinced it was the raw jalapenos.

    • Ariele

      I had a baby who cried and cried, I stopped eating dairy and he hasn’t cried due to tummy trouble since. I only wish someone had told me this before he and my entire family suffered for 2 months. He is the second child I have nursed and I just want all nursing moms to know the most common problem foods are dairy and wheat.

    • Melissa

      I completely agree with Ariele. “Colic”, for us, turned out to be an intolerance to dairy. I had to eliminate it ALL and I had to hold firm for a little more than 4 weeks before my suspicion was confirmed. That was tough to do while I wasn’t seeing results. We suffered until 2 months through gas, crying, and sleepless nights. I tried to put a tiny bit of dairy back in my diet a 5 months but I could tell he was still bothered. At 6 months I was able to start reintroducing dairy but I still haven’t tried a glass of milk and he’s nearly 7 months old. We’re planning to have a second baby and I will eliminate dairy BEFORE s/he is born then introduce dairy very slowly around 3 or 4 mos. A glass of milk or a slice of cheese isn’t worth watching my baby cry in agony!

    • namdoll

      eating spicy food wont make the baby have upset stomaCH??

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