Good Neighbor Q&A: Is it OK to bring broccoli, garlic or spicy foods to a breastfeeding mom?
So I recently signed up for a meal train for a friend who just had a baby, and the instructions included, “Please, no onions, garlic, or gassy foods (ie: broccoli or cabbage).
Then last week, came this from the Portland Oregonian: “Some new mothers find that particular foods adversely affect their breast-feeding baby. Spicy foods, or those in the brassica (cabbages and broccoli) and allium (onion) family are the most common offenders.”
“Those are old wives’ tales,” says Melissa Kotlen Nagin, a board-certified lactation consultant in New York City, who runs breastfeeding support groups at Yummy Mummy.
Melissa says the issue comes up daily in her practice. “I’ve had clients tell me they’ve been eating plain chicken and boiled potatoes because they’re so afraid of making the baby gassy. I tell them, ‘Throw some Tabasco on that!’ ”
Broccoli and its ilk may be gassy for mothers, and you might get a whiff of that Spicy Broccoli Stir-Fry emanating from the baby, says Melissa, but “no food that a nursing mother eats is going to cause painful gas in the baby, unless the baby is wired for a cow’s-milk sensitivity.”
Two to 7.5 percent of infants are, in fact, allergic to milk protein (and about one-third of these babies may also allergic to soy). But symptoms of those conditions go way beyond fussiness: screaming, grunting, deep knee-bends, mucus-filled and/or bloody diarrhea — wait, this is probably not the sort of stuff you want to read about on a cooking website.
At any rate, none one of these symptoms are caused by George H. W. Bush’s least favorite vegetable. As pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene explains here, newborns are, well, new to the whole swallowing and breathing thing and are not particularly adept at it. When they cry, they often swallow air, which may get trapped in their tummies.
“Everyone wants to find a reason for fussiness, Melissa notes. “Moms say, ‘Last night I ate Indian food, and I swear my baby had the worst night.’ But he could have had the worst night if she’d eaten pizza.”
So if you’re cooking for a nursing mom, know that you needn’t steer clear of Cauliflower Curry — unless, of course, she doesn’t like cauliflower or curry (so be sure to ask in advance about any dislikes).
What’s more, there’s good reason to bring her a flavorful meal. Breastmilk is flavored by the foods the mother eats, and studies like this and this suggest that infants exposed to an array of tastes tend to be less picky, and more willing to eat fruits and veggies, later on in childhood.
Stay tuned tomorrow for some super-flavorful, taboo-busting meals for new moms!