The Hot, the Spicy, and Foods to Avoid While Nursing

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One of the most challenging aspects of breastfeeding a new baby is all of the advice that many people feel compelled to give you. Your grandmother, your neighbor, your pediatrician, the lactation consultant, they all have advice for the best ways to nurse and what to avoid to have a healthy, happy symbiotic nursing relationship.

foods to eat while breastfeeding

It’s ok for moms to trust their own instincts

Sometimes, a new mom would do best to trust her own instincts. This technique could help reduce the anxiety that’s usually generated from conflicting ideas. This advice is true, especially, when it comes to food.

There are many different types of food you might be advised not to eat while nursing. For example, you may have heard about the reasons behind having to avoid spicy or bold foods, which can potentially create problems for a baby’s digestion.

In some countries, women eat spicy food as a norm. How do issues that surround spicy food?

A better way to handle this situation could be on a case by case basis. An indication of a negative effect on foods you eat could take place anywhere from 12 to 24 hours after a meal.

One negative reaction does not mean that you should never again indulge in that Saag Paneer, Khao Rad Gang, General Tso’s Chicken, Hot wings or even a Spicy Tuna Sashimi. What it could mean is that you should keep an eye on your baby, and possibly try the food again in a few weeks to see if the outcome is different.

Children’s tolerance for unique flavors increased after exposure to certain foods

Studies have shown that repeated exposure to certain foods increase our children’s tolerance for unique flavors. Studies have also shown that children who are exposed to unique flavors have a much more sophisticated palette.

In a 1991 study by Julie Fenella, a biopsycholofist in Philadelphia at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, she discovered that breastfeeding women who ingested large amounts of garlic produced breast milk that actually had a noticeable odor to it when a blind study of observers smelled the milk. That same study demonstrated that the infants nursing stayed longer at the breast and nursed more vigorously when the garlic was present.

Another interesting study shows a seemingly direct link between what a mother eats during pregnancy and the taste acceptance of her infant after birth.

This is fascinating science here when you think about it. That old adage about “You are what you eat” may be closer to the truth than we realize. If our infants in utero are experiencing taste profiles from the amniotic fluid that they are swimming in for 9 months then why do we give the advice that immediately post natal we should stop all strong flavors? It doesn’t seem to make logical sense.

Why breast-fed babies could be easier to feed

If you need more expert clarification, Lucy Cooke, a psychologist specializing in children’s nutrition, also a senior research associate at University College London, says, “Breast-fed babies are generally easier to feed later because they’ve had this kind of variety experience of different flavors from their very first stages of life, whereas a formula-fed baby has a uniform experience.”

That would make sense seeing as how formula fed babies get the exact same makeup of molecules and nutrients day in and day out, likely for the entire first 12 months of their lives. We then wonder why when we offer carrots, peas, bananas, and sweet potatoes we usually observe very definitive responses. Rather than a facial expression of curiosity it is more often a strong like or dislike, right from the start.

Cooke further explains, “The absolute key thing is repeated exposure to a variety of different flavors as soon as you can possibly manage; that is a great thing for food acceptance.”

If as soon as you can possibly manage includes not only in utero but also during the time of breastfeeding, then why are mother’s warned that a bland diet is best? I don’t find that it makes good sense either.

So let’s go back to our introduction, when we mentioned the part about trusting our own instincts. If you like spicy foods or intense spices, don’t feel compelled to give them up immediately just on the advice of some well meaning sage. Rather than handle a complete abstinence approach, enjoy food and observe baby, then make your decisions, you just may end up with a toddler who favors Bok Choy to chicken nuggets, not such a bad thing.

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