Red onion, pepper corns, and carrots on a wooden cutting board.

Should I Avoid Specific Foods While Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding forges a powerful connection between mother and child. It’s an extraordinary bonding experience with far-reaching health benefits. Because breastfeeding is crucial to a newborn’s health, new mothers often wonder if certain foods are off-limits. If you are concerned about your food intake and how it affects your little one, read on for details from our providers at NW Primary Care

Are There Specific Foods to Avoid During Breastfeeding?

Good news! No food is off-limits entirely while breastfeeding. However, some items are  best enjoyed in moderation. Our practitioners have compiled the main foods and beverages that new mothers might want to limit while  breastfeeding.


We all know that drinking during pregnancy can cause severe health problems for both mother and baby. Is the same true for drinking during the breastfeeding years? As it turns out, having a glass of wine or a cocktail now and then is totally fine, as long as you plan accordingly. The main thing to keep in mind is that alcohol can pass through breast milk to the baby. If you enjoy an adult beverage, consider doing so after you have breastfed, then wait at least two hours before breastfeeding again. 

Many women also ask if “pumping and dumping” is a safe practice. The truth of the matter is, as long as alcohol is in your bloodstream, it will end up in your breast milk. Expressing milk then disposing of it doesn’t do much. If you are feeling inebriated, do not breastfeed. 


All fish contain some amounts of mercury, which isn’t healthy for a newborn. Mercury, in significant doses, can affect brain function. While you should avoid high-mercury fish like mackerel, swordfish, shark, and tilefish, other types are fine to eat–and actually provide health benefits. Fish rich in fatty acids and low in mercury, like salmon, catfish, shrimp, and haddock, all contain significant protein and low fat. You can feel comfortable enjoying about 12 oz of those types of fish a week. 


Staying up late with the little one can have new mothers needing a hefty dose of caffeine in the morning. Like alcohol, it’s a good idea to ingest caffeine after breastfeeding. However, you can enjoy about three cups of joe (or tea) a day without worry.

Parsley, Sage, and Peppermint

It may surprise some mothers to learn these popular savory herbs are also known as anti-galactagogues, which may cause diminished milk production in large amounts. For the most part, eating a small amount of  sage as a seasoning or having some peppermint in your iced tea shouldn’t affect milk production. However, if you notice changes in your milk supply, take a look at your herb intake and consult with a medical professional if you have questions or concerns. 

Are There Specific Foods To Avoid During Breastfeeding?Should mothers Eat Food with Strong Flavors While Nursing?

One of the most common questions we get at our family care clinic is, “Does spicy food affect breast milk?” The answer is both yes and no. Foods with pungent and intense flavors, like garlic and chili, are entirely safe to eat; however these flavors can get transferred to your little one through breast milk like all other foods. Some babies will not have an adverse reaction to the taste, while others will definitely show a dislike. Pay attention to your baby’s response and adjust your diet as needed. 

Family Medicine for New Mothers at NWPC

At NWPC, we understand new mothers have a lot of questions about the health of their newborns. Whether you are searching for breastfeeding resources or need to schedule pediatrician visits, we are here to help. Our experienced practitioners accept patients from newborns to adults at all of our Portland locations. Contact us to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment today!