This poster is a perfect example of anti-breastfeeding “information”. This notion that you can’t eat certain foods when breastfeeding is not based in science. Let’s look at some of the information.
First of all let’s look at foods that “okay” for breastfeeding mothers. Nothing really wrong with what they say except that you don’t have to take in calcium to make milk with calcium. But the real problem is that this is a diet for people who are relatively affluent. Many mothers could not afford to eat such a diet and thus be frightened into formula feeding, which, I should emphasize is actually more expensive that the foods mentioned here. This is a stratagem used by formula companies. A prime example a few years ago was a campaign by one formula company in Brazil, supported by the Brazilian pediatric society, saying that your breastfed baby eats what you eat. Posters were widely distributed showing a baby suckling at a breast that looks like a doughnut, or looks like a hamburger.
What about the panels of foods “to avoid”.
1. Sugary foods. The poster says in this section to avoid fatty foods and salty foods as well as sugary foods. We all should try to keep our sugar, salt and fat intake at a reasonable level. But to imply that if you eat a lot of sugar your baby has an increased risk of obesity is just plain wrong. Breastmilk, in fact, does not change much in response to what you eat. It changes from morning to evening, from day to day, from month 1 to month 6, and later, but not because of what you eat. But if you eat a lot of sugar, your milk will have the same amount of sugar as if you ate no sugar at all.
2. “You might find that just a dash of pepper is enough to make your baby irritated and fussy for hours”. This is pure fantasy. There is no evidence for this being true. And it is unlikely that anything in pepper or other spices would get into the milk in quantities that would bother the baby.
3. Citrus fruits? “Certain compounds” are supposed to the irritating to the baby´s gut. Oh, please! If these “certain compounds got into the milk would they not be irritating to the breast or nipple?
4. Caffeine? Babies do not excrete caffeine as rapidly as adults true, but so little gets into the milk that a cup or two of coffee will not bother the baby. Caffeine is given to premature babies as a treatment and nobody worries about how they might excrete caffeine. It’s not right to deprive breastfeeding mothers from drinking coffee and tea in reasonable amounts. This poster eliminates much of what mothers like to eat.
5. Processed foods? Not a great choice for anyone, this is not specific to breastfeeding mothers. But just as above, the preservatives will not get into the milk in any significant quantities.
6. Garlic? Are they insane? Garlic does not bother babies. This is prejudice against people who eat garlic. Most of the world loves garlic and eat it when the baby breastfeeds without harm to anyone.
7. No peppermint, fennel, parsley, or chamomile? There is no evidence for this to show that the way people typically eat these can reach therapeutic levels.
8. Alcohol, no level of alcohol in the milk is safe for the breastfed baby? Except that almost no alcohol gets into the milk. See this article http://ibconline.ca/maternal-medications/. Alcohol is discussed near the end of the article, but it’s worth reading the whole thing.
This poster is an appalling attempt to frighten women out of breastfeeding and enjoying what they like to eat. These restrictions on what breastfeeding mothers can eat have been debunked decades ago. Let’s encourage good nutrition for everyone, and let’s stop haranguing breastfeeding mothers into stopping breastfeeding by worrying them about their diets.
You can find a more about how to prevent problems with breastfeeding, including preventing fussiness, “colic”, “reflux” “allergy to something in the mother’s milk” and much more in my ebook called Breastfeeding: Empowering Parents: www.ibconline.ca/ebook