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Are you preparing to breastfeed, and wondering if you need to avoid certain foods for your baby's sake? You may well have heard about or from mothers who quit eating a wide variety of foods to nurse things like chilly peppers, garlic, milk, and even... cu

So, is it really necessary to adjust your diet for your breastfeeding baby, or can you just eat the way you would normally do?

While your baby is still in utero, he or she picks up an awful lot of small details about your life. Your baby learns to recognize your voice and your partner's, and gets to hear a stifled version of the music you listen to. She is soothed by your movements when you walk, and may wake up when you fall asleep.

She can even feel cold liquids coming into your body! In addition to all of that, your little one also gets acquainted with your taste in food. Believe it or not, your baby will ingest small amounts of amniotic fluid continuously toward the end of your pregnancy. Amniotic food has been found to pick up a (faint) taste of the foods you have eaten. Mothers who eat the same foods they ate during pregnancy when they breastfeed their baby will present their baby with familiar tastes they will recognize from the womb. Consuming what you want during pregnancy (with the exception of clearly dangerous things like raw cheeses or alcohol) and continuing to do so when you nurse that same baby may just be the very earliest steps you can take to prevent creating a picky eater later on in life.

Should you avoid any foods over concerns that your baby might have food allergies, then?

Studies don't give conclusive evidence that maternal food restrictions lessen the risk of food allergies or sensitivities. In fact, the opposite could also be true. A 1996 study presented at a meeting of the the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology showed that babies whose mothers avoided foods seen as allergenic while they were nursing actually had a higher incidence of food allergies. My personal conclusion was that there is no need to avoid certain foods while breastfeeding just because some babies end up reacting badly to them. I ate everything I wanted to while I breastfed. It would have been terribly hard and not unlike torture to keep arbitrary food restrictions up for the two years I breastfed both my babies.

I am happy they'll eat spicy foods with no problems. It does, however, make a whole lot of sense to keep a close eye on your baby and to keep the possibility that s/he is reacting badly to something you ate in mind. Cows' milk has been shown to be the hidden cause behind colic in many babies. If your baby cries excessively for no apparent reason and you consume milk and dairy products, try quitting for a while to see if the situation will improve.

Is your baby gassy, or does s/he have a skin rash?

Again, try to figure out if any of the foods you had could be behind those things. After it gets better, try the suspect food again to see if that really was the cause. Once you know for sure, you then know to eliminate it. Foods that are most often linked to adverse reactions in breastfeeding babies include citrus fruits, chocolate, spicy foods and cinnamon. Cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli and pepper are said to make babies gassy more frequently than other foods. So keep an eye on those, but don't necessarily feel obliged to avoid them preemptively.

On a related note, you may want to know if going on a diet while breastfeeding is safe. Many new moms would love to shed those few post-pregnancy pounds, that seem to have all found their way on to the abdomen. It is good to know that nursing burns calories all by itself (about 200 to 300). Yet, it is also perfectly safe to reduce calorie intake in order to lose up to 1.6 pounds per week. Losing weight up to that amount each week does not place your health at risk, nor does it reduce your milk supply. There are a few things breastfeeding mothers should truly avoid. Too much caffeine (more than two or so cups a day) is a bad idea, as is more than a few units of alcohol. Smoking is the most obvious bad habit that breastfeeding moms should definitely stay away from. Then again, so should everyone else.

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