Can I Eat Spicy Foods While Breastfeeding?

breastfeeding

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You had spicy tacos for dinner (yum!) and now your baby is fussy and crying. You are breastfeeding and you immediately wonder if your Mexican feast might have had something to do with this.

This is a common scenario that many breastfeeding parents find themselves in. Their baby is fussy, colicky, has an upset tummy, or is just not acting like themselves, and the parent suspects that something they are eating is affecting their baby. This may be especially true when they’ve eaten something with a strong flavor, such as spicy food.

This is an understandable concern because we are often told that what we eat directly affects how we feel. But eating spicy foods while breastfeeding is not shown in research to have negative effects on your baby, even if the nursing parent feels an effect of the food themselves.

“Spicy foods only affect the flavor of breastmilk,” assures Dimitar Marinov, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of hygiene and epidemiology at the Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria.

Dr. Marinov says that breastfeeding parents often end up restricting spicy foods, but this is not necessary because there is no evidence that spicy foods are harmful to babies.

Eating Spicy Food While Breastfeeding

If you find yourself wondering if something spicy you ate is affecting your baby or making them fussier, you are not alone.

Research from The College of Family Physicians of Canada found that a majority of breastfeeding parents believe that something they've eaten causes crying and fussy symptoms in their babies, and many eliminate certain foods as a result.

However, as the study researchers point out, there is little evidence that any particular food affects crying, fussiness, and even colic in babies. The only exception is cow’s milk, as a small minority of babies can have a cow’s milk allergy and may be affected when their breastfeeding parent consumes cow’s milk.

Ashley Georgakopoulos, a lactation consultant and lactation director at Motif Medical, agrees. “Many myths still circulate regarding diet and breastfeeding,” she says. “Correlation is not causation, and upset tummies in babies who breastfeed most likely have something else unrelated going on.”

Georgakopoulos says that breastfeeding parents often blame their baby’s fussiness on the last thing they ate, but breastfeeding parents don’t need to give up their favorite foods, even the spicy ones. “Many cultures around the world readily enjoy spices and still breastfeed,” Georgakopoulos points out.

If anything, Georgakopoulos says, eating spicy foods may actually be a good thing, as doing so exposes your baby to different flavors in your milk, and may help develop your baby’s palate so they’ll be more likely to try a variety of flavor variations when they begin eating solid foods.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about eating spicy food while breastfeeding.

Is It Safe for Baby?

As a nursing parent, eating spicy foods is safe for your nursing baby, and there is no evidence that it negatively affects your baby’s health or well-being, says Dr. Marinov.

Dr. Marinov affirms that there is no evidence that eating spicy foods causes your baby to experience discomfort, or that it leads to upset tummies. He cites a meta-analysis published by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews that looked at digestive upset and colic in babies. Researchers found that there was little to no evidence that altering one’s diet while breastfeeding affects a baby’s colicky symptoms.

“Thus, a [breastfeeding parent] can safely eat spicy foods, FODMAPs, high fiber foods, etc., without any concerns,” Dr. Marinov confirms.

Some parents might think that because spicy foods sometimes cause heartburn or gas for themselves, that this would translate to a baby experiencing similar symptoms. But this is not the case, says Georgakopoulos.

“The acids that cause a spicy taste to the mother do not translate to having acids in the milk,” she explains. “The composition is virtually the same with breastmilk, regardless of diet.”

Benefits of Eating Spicy Foods While Breastfeeding

Not only is eating spicy foods while breastfeeding not a problem, but it actually has several benefits for your baby. Let’s look at some ways that eating spicy foods has immediate and long-term benefits for your baby.

More Milk Consumption

It turns out that some babies actually really like strong flavors, and that when you eat intensely flavored foods, your baby may stick around longer to feed. For example, one study found that when babies were exposed to garlic in breastmilk, they tended to stay at the breast and feed for longer time periods.

More Varied Food Acceptance Later

Georgakopoulos says that eating spicy foods and other heavily flavored foods may make your baby a better and more adventurous eater down the road. “It causes very subtle taste variances which help develop their palate,” she says. Research has found that babies who were breastfed may be more likely to accept a wider range of foods as toddlers and kids than babies who were not breastfed.

More Varied Diets For Breastfeeding Parents

You don’t have to have a perfectly balanced diet while you are breastfeeding, but breastfeeding requires extra calories (450-500 a day), and eating a variety of foods will give you the energy and strength to feed and care for your baby. Eliminating spicy foods or foods that you think might be bad for your baby often limits your diet, and can lead to less optimal nutrition.

Safety Precautions

There don’t need to be restrictions on eating spicy foods while breastfeeding. They don’t make your milk taste bad, “too strong,” or bitter to your baby. They don’t cause your baby to be fussier or cry more. And they don’t cause your baby to have an upset stomach.

Some parents may worry that eating spicy foods or foods with strong flavors might somehow cause allergy symptoms in their babies. But this is also not the case, says Dr. Marinov.

If anything, there may be a beneficial relationship between eating a variety of foods while breastfeeding and protecting your child from future food allergies, Dr. Marinov explains.

A Word From Verywell

Even with all these reassurances, some breastfeeding parents might still believe that the spicy food they ate caused a negative reaction in their baby. Again, there is no definite proof that eating spicy foods while breastfeeding causes issues for babies. But you know your baby best, and if you are sure that they reacted to something you ate, you can try eliminating it or cutting back on eating it.

If you have any further questions about your baby’s health, and if you have any concerns that something you are eating may be causing discomfort or other health issues for your baby, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare provider, midwife, or lactation consultant.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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