Is It Safe to... Your Most Pressing Breastfeeding Diet Questions Answered!
Here are some common breastfeeding diet questions:
Many mums wonder if it is safe to consume certain foods and drinks when they are breastfeeding. To help navigate this overwhelming world, we dug through our breastfeeding groups archived posts to surface some of the advice from other breastfeeding mums. Click the links in the responses to be directed to the community discussion thread.
Is it safe to drink the following when breastfeeding?
1) Can I drink artificially sweetened drinks when breastfeeding?
In order for anything you consume to reach your baby, it has to get into your bloodstream in high enough levels to be transferred into your milk. Then it has to be something your baby can absorb out of her stomach into her bloodstream. This double barrier makes most things acceptable for a nursing mum to eat or drink (with the exception of a high quantity of mercury, caffeine or alcohol).
With regards to artificially sweetened drinks, yes, moderate consumption of approved sweeteners like equal or palsweet are considered safe when breastfeeding.
2) Can I drink alcohol when nursing? Do I need to pump and dump after having a drink?
It is safe to have a drink and breastfeed. You do not need to pump and dump after one drink, but it is advisable to wait for minimum 2 hours to let the alcohol clear out from your system, especially if you have had a premature baby. This should in no way be construed as encouraging mothers to become intoxicated – moderation in everything is key. So one drink is okay, getting drunk is not. A mum who has consumed alcohol would only pose a threat to the infant through loss of motor function (dropping baby, rolling over on it, etc) and not through the alcohol content of her breastmilk. To learn more about this refer to Dr Jack Newman’s post about alcohol while breastfeeding:
3) Can I drink green tea when breastfeeding?
Yes, you can take green tea when nursing. Do note however your baby could be sensitive to caffeine, so do monitor for reactions. As green tea is a diuretic, make sure you are drinking enough water in addition to the green tea.
4) Can I take cold drinks when I am breastfeeding? What about during the confinement period?
Yes, you can take cold drinks when nursing. When you are in your confinement period and would like to follow TCM practices then it is best to drink warm water or drinks instead of cold water/drinks.
5) Can I drink coffee or tea when breastfeeding?
It may be a good idea to be more conservative if your baby is less than a few months old or is premature, but moderate maternal caffeine consumption (approximately 3 cups of tea/coffee) is unlikely to cause any problem for most breastfed babies. Read what our mummies think here.
6) Can I drink soya milk when breastfeeding?
For many mummies soya milk is actually their milk booster. However, soy can cause phlegm in babies. Also soy milk contains phyto estrogens so might affect hormonal levels. You can take a bit first to try, if baby reacts to it then stop?
Is it safe to eat the following food when breastfeeding?
1) Can I eat sashimi when breastfeeding?
It is okay to eat sashimi or raw fish when breastfeeding but do ensure that it is from a reputable restaurant as you would want to avoid falling ill. Eating fish, in general, is recommended during breastfeeding byt choose fish rich in omega-3 fatty acid but low in mercury content. So fish like tuna should be limited.
2) Can I eat grapefruit when breastfeeding?
Mothers report that babies most often object to citrus fruits and their juices, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. Citrus fruits have been linked to mild diaper rash in babies.
3) Should I stay away from chocolates when breastfeeding?
It’s advised to stay away from chocolates as a number of chocolates actually contain caffeine. A typical chocolate bar contains between 20-60 mg of caffeine. Excessive caffeine can cause symptoms of caffeine stimulation in your baby. (This does not mean you can’t nibble on a bite or two, or treat yourself to an occasional bar!)
4) Does eating ginger cause my breastfed baby to be jaundiced?
There is no evidence of this. To find out more about jaundice, do read our article by NUH.
5) Can I have apple cider vinegar when breastfeeding?
Yes, no issue to take apple cider vinegar when nursing. As with all things, monitor for any reaction. Some babies can be sensitive to the acidity of the vinegar
6) Is it safe to eat instant noodles if I’m breastfeeding?
Yes it is safe to eat instant noodles, but it is not nutritious. Try to limit your intake for dietary reasons and opt for a more well-balanced diet. If instant noodles are your only option, then try to make it healthier by using only half the packet of seasoning and by adding other ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, tofu, cooked chicken, shrimp, fishballs, crabsticks, vegetables such as choy sum, spinach, taugeh or siew pak choy.
7) Can I take bird’s nest when breastfeeding?
The claims about the nutritional value of bird’s nest have not been conclusively and scientifically proven.
8.) Can I eat manuka honey while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding mums can take honey. Just do not give it to the baby directly. A baby’s gut can’t defend itself against the botulism spores that are present in honey, and so they can colonize the intestinal tract, germinate and release botulinum neurotoxin.
9) Can I eat tempeh if I’m breastfeeding?
Yes, you can eat tempeh when nursing. Tempeh is made from fermented soya beans which are rich in many nutrients, including calcium and iron. Tempeh is especially beneficial because it contains healthy bacteria and enzymes that aid digestion, and the phytic acid is neutralized by the culturing process.
10) Can I eat sharks fins when breastfeeding?
Yes, according to our mums you can eat sharks fins as long as your baby is not allergic to it. Occasional or low consumption of fish with mercury content isn’t an issue for breastfeeding mums
11) Will eating cabbage reduce my milk supply?
Cabbage can reduce supply for some, but it is not common. If you are a low supply mum to begin with, do avoid eating cabbage. cabbage is also a food believed to cause babies to be “gassy”.
Is it safe to eat the following supplements when breastfeeding?
1) Can I take royal jelly when breastfeeding?
Yes, plenty of mums on our breastfeeding mums support group have taken royal jelly with no adverse effects.
2) Can I take Yomeishu when breastfeeding?
Yes you can consume both Yomeishu or Dom when lactating. If you are concerned, drink a small amount, or dilute with hot water, to reduce the alcohol content. Some mums do not drink either but use it in their cooking as heat evaporates the alcohol. You do not need to pump and dump after consuming either Yomeishu or Dom. Do note that Dom is stronger than Yomeishu so it might get you intoxicated faster. Do not breastfeed if you are intoxicated.
3) Can I consume pre-packed herbs for tonic soups during confinement and still breastfeed?
Herbs for confinement are generally compatible with bf. Some mummies did share that dang gui and ginseng reduced supply, but some mummies are ok with it. You can avoid those two herbs if you wish.
4) Can I take chicken essence when breastfeeding?
Plain chicken essence is okay but check if it has other herbs in it. Dang gui or American ginseng may reduce supply of breastmilk.
5) Is it safe to consume flaxseed while breastfeeding?
Yes, Flaxseed is believed to be a milk booster. It is a common ingredient in lactation cookies.
6) Can I go on a weight loss diet when breastfeeding?
Going on a weight loss diet while breastfeeding is not recommended, as you may not be consuming enough nutrients to meet your requirements. If you are losing more than 2.5 kg per month after the first month then you may be eating too little.
Need Help? Don’t fret!
When in doubt, please refer to a lactation consultant, who can offer you more personalised advice according to you and your baby’s situation.
theAsianparent also has a Singapore Breastfeeding Mums Support Group that you can join for mum-to-mum advice.