What the mother eats during breastfeeding can affect the content and amount of breast milk. In addition to a balanced and varied diet, there are foods that the mother should limit or avoid.

Fish High in Mercury 

Fish is rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and eye development in infants. However, some fish and seafood may be high in mercury, a metal that can be toxic to infants and children. Acute exposure to high levels of mercury can permanently affect the baby’s central nervous system. It can cause negative effects on cognitive function, motor abilities, and speech and language development. For this reason, fish with high mercury content such as bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, and tilefish should be avoided during breastfeeding. 225-340 grams of low-mercury fish should be consumed per week.

Herbal Supplements

It is safe to use herbs and spices to flavor foods during breastfeeding, but caution should be exercised in the use of herbal supplements and teas. Emzirme döneminde bitkisel takviyelerin ve çayların kullanımının güvenli olduğunu kanıtlayacak yeterli çalışma bulunmamaktadır. Also, since herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these supplements have the potential to be contaminated with potentially dangerous heavy metals. A doctor should be consulted before using herbal supplements and teas during breastfeeding.


How much alcohol the infant will absorb from breast milk depends on the amount and time of consumption of alcohol. Research shows that the amount of alcohol in breast milk peaks 30-60 minutes after the last drink and remains in breast milk for 2-3 hours per drink. The length of time alcohol can be detected in breast milk increases as the amount consumed increases; alcohol from 1 drink can be detected in breast milk for about 2-3 hours, alcohol from 2 drinks can be detected for about 4-5 hours, and alcohol from 3 drinks can be detected for about 6-8 hours. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting alcohol to just one standard drink per day (355 ml of beer, 125 ml of wine, 45 ml of hard alcohol) and waiting at least 2 hours after that drink to breastfeed. With this, the CDC states that abstaining from alcohol while breastfeeding is the safest option. High levels of alcohol consumption have been shown to reduce breast milk output by 20%. In addition, frequent and excessive alcohol intake during breastfeeding may lead to disruption of the infant’s sleep patterns, delays in psychomotor skills, and even an increased risk of cognitive delay later in life.


Smoking during breastfeeding reduces the output of breast milk and causes harmful chemicals such as nicotine, arsenic, cyanide, lead and formaldehyde in cigarettes to pass to the infant through breast milk. Exposure of the infant to these harmful chemicals may cause behavioral changes such as insomnia and restlessness and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It may also increase the risk of developing allergy-related diseases such as asthma.


When foods that source of caffeine are consumed during breastfeeding, some of the caffeine may pass into breast milk. During this period, excessive consumption of caffeine-containing foods such as tea, coffee and chocolate can cause restlessness and insomnia in the baby. CDC recommends that breastfeeding mothers consume no more than 300 mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to two or three cups of coffee.

Highly Processed Foods

Research shows that the maternal diet during breastfeeding can affect the child’s diet in the future. Frequent consumption of highly processed foods such as ready-made soups, sauces, frozen pizzas, salami, sausages, ready-made cookies, ready-made cakes, sugary drinks and chips during breastfeeding may increase the infant’s habit of consuming these foods in the future and may also negatively affect the content of breast milk.


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  5. https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/advice-about-eating-fish#note1
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  8. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/alcohol.html
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  10. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html
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