Flavoured Milk.
October 16, 2011 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Different foods and breastfeeding - looking for real evidence.

Newborn-filter. I've read through reams and reams of stuff about what nursing mothers shouldn't eat when breastfeeding - but it's really, really light on actual proof, wandering off into anecdote territory very quickly. Are there any foods that have been proven to have a detrimental effect on babies that are breastfed?

I'm especially interested in any facts about chilli/curries.

My google-fu is drowned under an avalanche of fairly folksy and unremmittingly western forums and sites. I'm not really looking for more of the anecdotes I can find on those sites. I am looking for any reports about actual studies, and explanations that are - if not scientifically rigorous at least with decent pretensions to science.

So, is there any proof that certain foods - especially chillis - can make things more difficult for breastfeeding babies?
posted by smoke to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might find this study interesting. There is some evidence that the baby can have trouble if the mother eats some foods. That doesn't mean it WILL happen, though. A statistical correlation isn't predictive in individual cases.

Babycenter India says to go trial-and-error; track how spicy what you're eating is and whether it causes colic. If you see a problem, don't eat the stuff. If it's smooth sailing, then eat it.

Unfortunately, this is the beginning of many, many areas in which you just won't be able to find good research. Trial and error is your friend. And it's OK to make the odd mistake, it's actually really hard to ruin your baby forever, especially by something as innocuous as eating normal foods.
posted by Andrhia at 6:05 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: According to KellyMom (also here), there is nothing a nursing mother should not eat out of fear that it will affect the baby. KellyMom is generally very evidence-based and will cite studies where available; there are no studies cite for this particular issue, so I suspect there aren't any.
posted by devinemissk at 6:10 PM on October 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: The book Medications and Mothers' Milk says about capsaicin: "No data are available on transfer into human milk" and puts it in lactation risk category L3.

You can search the peer-reviewed biomedical literature using PubMed. A search for [breast feeding AND capsaicin] turned up nothing.
posted by grouse at 6:20 PM on October 16, 2011

A friend who is a nutritionist focused on pregnancy and breastfeeding also says there is no evidence that any foods should be avoided, outside of obvious infant-specific allergies. Her position is that the typical lists of foods to avoid are too often used as an excuse or weapon to discourage breastfeeding, and that foods should only be avoided if the baby shows signs of digestive trouble. (And then, typically starting and ending at dairy, in something like 80% of cases.) I don't have any specific citations, but she's a very research/evidence oriented person. Her question for me, through nursing two babies into early toddlerhood, is always "are you avoiding any foods?" And when I say no, she says... GOOD. Followed by lots of questions about fruits and vegetables, and sources of iron. It's much more about eating enough and lots of variety. Also, I am in New Mexico and our pediatrician mentions eating lots of variety and spicy food for flavor in breastmilk at every visit! Can't have a NM native who doesn't like red and green chile. I suspect a lot of ideas about this are regional or cultural in nature.
posted by pekala at 8:12 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

To clarify about culture, for those who aren't familiar, in New Mexico it wouldn't be unusual to eat green or red chile, or both, as part of meals on a daily basis. Sometimes in large quantities and potentially very spicy. My NM hospital breastfeeding handouts specifically instructed me not to avoid any foods unless the baby has problems and I've verbally been encouraged to eat spicy foods by medical providers. I do know someone who avoided green chile while nursing based on diaper analysis and she felt pretty limited when eating out.
posted by pekala at 8:27 PM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: There's evidence that trans fat in the maternal diet can be transmitted through breast milk, with long-term results much worse than transient colic. Here's an article from what looks like a legitimate nutritional science journal.

Indian curries are often made with ghee, which is supposed to be clarified butter (small amounts of trans fat) but may instead be made of or adulterated with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. See the nutrition section of this Wikipedia article.

Then there's mercury and other heavy metals in fish, of course.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:37 AM on October 17, 2011

Mod note: Reminder: OP is specifically not looking for anecdata, but actual reports/studies
posted by taz (staff) at 4:28 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks very much, all, seems there isn't any evidence to speak of.
posted by smoke at 6:29 PM on October 17, 2011

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