Foods or drinks to avoid while breastfeeding

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Foods or drinks to avoid while breastfeeding

Foods or drinks to avoid while breastfeeding

You can pass small amounts of what you eat or drink to your baby through your breast milk. If you think your baby is affected by any food or drink you are consuming, and they’re unsettled, talk to your GP or health visitor.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

Alcohol can be transferred to your baby through your breast milk, which might cause problems with feeding and sleeping.

Some women may have been passed down stories from previous generations about beneficial effects of alcohol in breastfeeding, such as increasing milk production or having a calming effect. However there is very little scientific investigation on alcohol’s effects on breastfeeding and the limited evidence available does not support this. For example, studies indicate alcohol can reduce milk production and disrupt the baby’s sleep-pattern.

Ideally you should avoid consuming alcohol whilst breastfeeding. If you do have an occasional drink, it is unlikely to harm your baby, but the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advise that you should not drink more than one or two units, more than once or twice a week, when breastfeeding.

One unit of alcohol is approximately:

  • a single (25ml) measure of spirits
  • half a pint of beer
  • 125ml (small) glass of wine.

If you do choose to drink occasionally, you can limit your baby's exposure to alcohol by not feeding for two to three hours for every drink you have. This allows enough time for the alcohol to leave your milk. Make sure breastfeeding is established before you try this.

You may also try using expressed milk. Expressing milk is a way of taking out your breast milk so you can store it and feed it to your baby another time. For more information on expressing milk see NHS Choices.

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Caffeine is a stimulant and can be transferred to your baby through your breast milk. It may keep them awake or make them restless.

Caffeine is naturally found in coffee, tea and chocolate, and is also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks, as well as some medications.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has reviewed the evidence on the safety of caffeine consumed through the diet. For pregnant and breastfeeding women, EFSA concluded that regular caffeine consumption of up to 200 mg per day is safe for the unborn child or breastfed infant.

Based on this opinion, breastfeeding women are recommended to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200mg a day. Some examples of typical caffeine content of foods and drinks include:

  • 2 mugs of instant coffee (100mg each)
  • 1 mug of filter coffee (140mg each)
  • 2 mugs of tea (75mg each)
  • 5 cans of cola (up to 40mg each)
  • 4 (50g) bars of plain chocolate (up to 50 mg each). Caffeine in milk chocolate is about half that of plain chocolate.

Decaffeinated tea and coffee are good alternatives. Avoid energy drinks which can be very high in caffeine. 

Information reviewed November 2016

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