Published on January 17, 2017

You love salsa; so maybe your breastfed baby does tooYou love salsa; so maybe your breastfed baby does too

Guess what, moms? If you like some variety in your diet, maybe your breastfeeding baby does too.

“When babies are just drinking formula, then it’s the same consistency and the same recipe every time and that’s all they grow to know,” said Suzan Scharr, RN, lactation consultant and clinical coordinator of maternity at Falmouth Hospital. “We know that the mothers in Mexico are eating a traditional cultural diet. They may be eating some rice and beans with maybe some chilies in there. But that’s what the babies grew up on in utero and that’s what they get used to the milk tasting like, so even though it’s spicy it’s still something the babies will eat.”

In a recent New York Times article, columnist and pediatrician Perri Klass, MD, cited several reputable studies that have put the idea that a mother needs to eat a bland diet into the category of old wives’ tales.

In particular, one study published in 2001, showed that babies who had been exposed to a flavor in utero or while nursing were more likely to eat that food after they were weaned. In other words, eating a variety of foods while pregnant or nursing actually creates less fussy eaters later on.

Scharr, who said she was not surprised by the information in the article, pointed out that babies don’t reject their mother’s milk in India, just because their diet has a lot of curry in it.

“Mother’s milk all smells differently,” she said. “I read one study years ago that babies actually recognize and gravitate towards milk pads with their own mother’s milk. They knew the smell of their mother’s milk.”

Even the old adage to avoid cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower doesn’t have a good basis to support it. Scharr has never seen a single study that proves that eating those vegetables would give a baby indigestion, and it doesn’t make sense from a medical standpoint, she said. The mothers might get gassy as certain foods are digested in their gastrointestinal tract, but gas forming comes from digestion, which the mother has already done.

“The baby is not breaking down cellulose, so I haven’t figured out how whole pieces of broccoli can get into breast milk,” she said.

A Small List of Things to Avoid

The actual list of things a breastfeeding mother should avoid or limit is very small. It’s pretty much just items that contain caffeine. The only other exception is for mothers who have known food allergies in the family, said Scharr. Those mothers should carefully follow their pediatrician’s advice on introducing those foods.

“Basically the rule of thumb that I was educated in when I was becoming a lactation consultant was you want the mother to try to have a healthy diet of things that she would normally have, and enjoy, because you want breastfeeding to continue,” she said. “You don’t want to make it a hardship for women to breastfeed.”

Support for breastfeeding is a top priority at Falmouth Hospital. It begins with a prenatal breast feeding support group led by Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator Cheryl Donahue. When the mothers deliver their babies, they can consult a lactation specialist if they are having any difficulties. The entire nursing staff is very well-versed in breastfeeding, Scharr said.

Postpartum, mothers are encouraged to come in for what Scharr calls the “fine-tuning appointment,” an hour-long visit with a lactation consultant to check on how everything is going. There is also a weekly breast feeding support group from 10 a.m. until noon every Thursday.

“We’ve been averaging from 12 to 14 mother/baby couplets and that’s been really awesome,” she said. “It gives the mothers an opportunity to have their questions answered and it gives them the opportunity to meet other mothers and see babies that are older than their children so they get an idea of the growth and development that they’re going to be seeing in the future.”

Once a month, Family Support Specialist Paul Melville, a parent educator, offers a Dad’s Pizza Party where fathers and their babies can bond and learn more about parenting – plus give mom a night off.

“We really try to be as family-friendly as possible, because it’s important,” Scharr said. “People should have wonderful memories of their child-bearing years and their experience at the hospital and know that there is help out there. You don’t have to go it alone.”