Does spicy food affect breastfed baby

Can You Eat Spicy Food While Breastfeeding?

Can You Eat Spicy Food While Breastfeeding?
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Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph. D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — By Sara McTigue on August 21, 2020

You knew to expect pregnancy cravings, but what you might not have expected was the continued sudden hunger urges you’re feeling as you breastfeed your new arrival.

So, if you’re struggling to stay awake for the 3 a.m. feeding and you suddenly feel an irresistible desire to raid the fridge for some jalapeño salsa, you might hesitate. Can you eat hot and spicy foods while you’re breastfeeding?

Go ahead and get that snack, then keep reading for more information about what you should know about eating spicy food while breastfeeding.

Yes, you can eat the spicy foods you enjoy while breastfeeding. There’s no evidence to suggest that spicy foods should be avoided for your baby’s sake, either during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

In fact, research shows that babies who are exposed to a variety of flavors through amniotic fluids during pregnancy and breast milk once they’re born may actually be more open to incorporating a variety of flavors into their own diet once they start eating solids.

Strong flavors, like garlic, mint, and vanilla, can affect the taste of breast milk.

While this may seem like a cause for concern, one study from 1993 found that infants who had not previously been exposed to garlic in their mother’s breast milk fed for a longer duration when the mother was given a garlic capsule.

Even in their earliest exposure to new tastes it seems that newborns are foodies in the making.

Also consider that, around the world, breastfeeding parents consume a variety of flavors. Spicy curries, tom yum, and wat are served at many tables without a second thought.

The more pressing concern for your baby’s safety is probably not eating spicy foods, but not dropping any hot foods on them while you’re trying to eat and nurse at the same time.

Now, if you’re concerned about your own reaction to spicy foods, consider your typical response. If you regularly consume spicier flavors with no issue, continue to enjoy whichever healthy options your cravings call for. Spicy foods can have considerable health benefits.

However, if you suffer from heartburn or stomach upset after certain foods, consider whether the current meal is worth the future discomfort for you. The foods you eat during breastfeeding should be healthy options that leave you feeling good.

Many people, ranging from your grandmother to that stranger in the grocery store, will happily tell you that you need to avoid foods like broccoli, tomato, and kimchi while breastfeeding.

Despite those old wives’ tales, there are very few foods you actually need to avoid unless you’ve experienced previous issues.

A study from 2019 found that many breastfeeding parents unnecessarily restrict their diets thanks to misinformation about the risks or benefits to their babies. The unfortunate reality is that this can decrease breastfeeding duration and cause undue stress.

The truth is that most people can safely continue to eat as they normally would throughout breastfeeding without ill effect.

Those foods you should skip while breastfeeding are items that are unsafe for reasons beyond flavor, including:

  • fish that are high in mercury
  • alcohol
  • excess caffeine (no more than 300 mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to two or three cups of coffee)
  • herbal supplements (unless given the go-ahead by a medical professional)

Your doctor may also suggest examining your diet if your little one is showing signs of a food allergy or sensitivity.

Possible concerns may include:

  • eczema
  • bloody stools
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • hives
  • constipation
  • wheezing
  • congestion
  • abnormal fussiness
  • excessive gas

If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to give your pediatrician a call.

It’s important to know that, in general, evidence shows that breastfeeding is helpful for protecting infants from food allergies, so you shouldn’t eliminate foods without first discussing it with a healthcare provider.

As at any time of your life, it’s important to eat a variety of healthy foods. You want to include plenty of nourishing foods that deliver the needed vitamins, fats, and energy to help you keep up with your little one.

It’s estimated that you need an additional 500 calories a day while you’re nursing. If you want to add in those calories by enjoying something with a little heat, go for it!

While you don’t want to restrict your diet to only Flaming Hot Cheetos and buffalo wings, adding in hot and spicy foods as part of a healthy diet is perfectly acceptable while breastfeeding. Your little one may even develop a taste for some of the spicy foods you most enjoy.

Last medically reviewed on August 21, 2020

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How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Forestell C. (2017). Flavor perception and preference development in human infants. DOI
  • Kidd M, et al. (2019). "Something is wrong with your milk": Qualitative study of maternal dietary restriction and beliefs about infant colic.”
  • Kominiarek MA. (2017). Nutrition recommendations in pregnancy and lactation. DOI: 
  • Maternal diet. (2020).
  • Mennella J, et al. (1993). The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior. DOI:
  • Mennella J. (1995). Mother's milk: a medium for early flavor experiences. DOI:
  • Ohsaki A, et al. (2018). Maternal IgG immune complexes induce food allergen–specific tolerance in offspring. DOI: 

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Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — By Sara McTigue on August 21, 2020

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Can you eat spicy food while breastfeeding?

If you're having a hot Cheetos craving, you might wonder whether it's safe to dig in while breastfeeding. The answer: Snack on!

You might have heard that spicy foods could make your breastfeeding baby fussy, gassy, or colicky. But there's no evidence that spice-laden snacks and meals have any of these effects.

There are a couple of case studies, however, where capsaicin – the chemical compound that makes foods spicy – appears to have caused skin rashes in some infants. If you're concerned that foods you eat could be causing skin irritation in your baby, check in with your provider.

Can spicy food affect breast milk?

Research suggests that capsaicin from spicy foods can make it into your breast milk in very low amounts.

If you like spicy foods but are concerned about how they might impact your baby, keep in mind that cooking capsaicin in heat (say, using chili pepper in a curry sauce) drastically reduces its concentration, so that very little passes through your breast milk.

Capsaicin is also used in some skin creams (topical medications) to help relieve pain from arthritis and shingles, and it's available as an over-the-counter supplement. Talk to your doctor if you're breastfeeding and use capsaicin to treat a medical condition.

Because capsaicin is absorbed into the body through the stomach and not the skin, it's very unlikely to make it into your breast milk if you use capsaicin creams. However, capsaicin supplements haven't been well-studied in nursing women, so your doctor may recommend avoiding them while breastfeeding.

Can I keep eating spicy foods while breastfeeding?

Yes, you can keep eating spicy foods while breastfeeding. It may even be good for your baby. The great thing about eating a variety of foods while nursing – including spicy foods – is that you're introducing your baby to a variety of flavors.

The flavor of your breast milk is constantly changing, unlike formula, which tastes the same at every feeding. Your baby may actually love the stronger flavor of your breast milk after you eat a spicy dish.

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In fact, the first few years of life are a critical window for your baby's future palate. Many studies have shown that children prefer the foods their moms frequently ate while breastfeeding, even years later. And babies who are exposed to a variety of flavors and healthy foods through breastfeeding are more likely to have a diverse diet and healthy eating habits later in life.

Keep in mind that some substances that pass through your breast milk can be dangerous for your breastfeeding baby in certain amounts, including alcohol, caffeine, high-mercury fish, marijuana, and certain herbs.

You may have heard that eating certain foods, like cabbage, can cause gas in your breastfeeding baby. This is unlikely, but a few babies do have a cow's milk allergy and react to dairy in a breastfeeding mom's diet. It's possible that other allergenic foods in a nursing mom's diet – such as eggs, wheat, fish, peanuts, and other nuts – could cause an allergic reaction in babies, although there's not much quality evidence.

Symptoms of a true food allergy occur soon after feeding and include extreme colic, rashes (eczema or hives), vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. If your baby experiences these symptoms, call their provider right away.

By the way, other foods that were off-limits during pregnancy – including sushi, undercooked meats, and honey – are safe for you to eat while breastfeeding. That's in part because during pregnancy, your immune system is weaker and can't fend off the dangerous bacteria sometimes found in these foods. When you're postpartum, however, your body can neutralize these pathogens so they won't harm your breastfeeding baby.

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What to eat while breastfeeding | Breastfeeding Diet

You know that breast milk is the best food for your baby. What about your own nutrition while breastfeeding? We asked the nutritionist a few questions about the nutrition of a nursing mother.

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Priya Tew, UK-based registered dietitian :
Priya is a nutritionist, M.D., multi-award winning member of the British Dietetic Association and the Health Professions Council. She has three children, and she breastfed each of them for up to 18 months. nine0003

During breastfeeding, there is no need to follow a special diet, the main thing is that your diet is balanced. It should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as oats, brown rice, various cereals, and breads labeled "whole grain", "wholemeal" or "wholemeal". These foods, along with potatoes, pasta, and couscous, are high in starch, an important source of energy.

In addition, you need lean proteins found in chicken, eggs, legumes, lentils, fish, and lean beef, as well as healthy fats found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. Oily fish is very good for your health and development of your baby, but you should not eat more than two servings per week (about 140 g), as it may contain harmful impurities. nine0014 1

Should I take vitamins while breastfeeding?

The most important is vitamin D. It is essential for healthy bones, you and your baby. We get most of this vitamin from the sun. If you live in a region with insufficient solar activity, especially in winter, your body may lack it. In this case, the doctor may advise taking vitamin D supplements. 2

You also need to get enough calcium, as it is excreted from the body during breastfeeding. nine0014 3 Try to eat four servings of foods rich in this mineral a day. These can be dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, or non-dairy products such as nuts, tofu, sesame seeds, and leafy vegetables. One serving may consist of, for example, half a cup of green vegetables or a small piece of cheese (50 g).

What foods should I avoid while breastfeeding?

The good news is that you can eat almost anything while breastfeeding. Only the consumption of oily fish should be limited. In small quantities, even caffeine is acceptable - more on this below. nine0003

If you are not allergic to peanuts, there is no reason to deny yourself products that contain peanuts. Recent studies show that if you eat peanuts while breastfeeding and gradually introduce them into your baby's diet during the first year, your baby will be less likely to become allergic to them in the future. 4

Are extra calories needed while breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding mothers need about 500 more calories per day. nine0014 5 But every mother is unique and your energy needs will change throughout your breastfeeding period. The number of calories you need depends on your baby's age, appetite, height, and weight, as well as your body mass index (BMI), your activity, and factors such as whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or not, and whether you are breastfeeding twins or multiple babies.

Can I go on a diet while breastfeeding?

Trying to lose weight while breastfeeding is not a good idea because you need to get enough nutrients for you and your baby. The fat accumulated during pregnancy is used to produce milk, so breastfeeding in itself will help you shed those extra pounds. nine0003

If your weight changes by more than 1 kg per week, check if you are eating a healthy and balanced diet and adjust if necessary. You can also ask your doctor for advice.

How can I find time to prepare healthy meals?

Having devoted yourself to feeding a child, you can forget about your own nutrition. However, it is important to ensure that your diet does not consist only of sweets and cookies. Of course, sweet snacks are easy and quick, but they do not bring any benefit to your body. nine0003

Opt for quick yet nutritious meals like scrambled eggs with spinach or fried chicken with brown rice. Oatmeal is great for breakfast, as it provides a slow release of energy from grains and soluble dietary fiber, which is what you need to restore strength in the morning after a night of breastfeeding.

Store pre-cut fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator for light snacks, or carry unsalted nuts in your bag. It's much easier than peeling tangerines with one hand while holding a baby with the other. nine0003

Should I drink more water while breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding can make you thirsty, so it's important to drink enough water. A person needs six to eight glasses of fluid a day, and even more if breastfeeding. 6 Make it a habit to drink a glass of water, milk or fruit juice without sugar every time you feed your baby.

I love coffee. Do I need to quit caffeine?

Coffee, like everything you eat or drink, passes into your breast milk, so it is advisable to limit your intake while breastfeeding. Legal coffee limits vary by country, but the average recommendation is not to exceed 200-300 mg of caffeine per day (300 mg is equivalent to two cups of filtered coffee or four cups of tea). Talk to your doctor about the acceptable amount of coffee consumption for you. Also, don't forget that caffeine is found in cola and energy drinks, and a small bar of dark chocolate can contain up to 50 mg. nine0014 7

If I eat a varied diet, will my baby be less picky?

Breast milk has the flavor of everything you eat. 8 Therefore, if you eat a variety of foods during breastfeeding, giving your baby different tastes to try, he may like them in the future.

If you like spicy and spicy foods, there is no reason to refuse them while breastfeeding. When my first child was born, I ate a lot of spicy food. When my daughter was two years old, we went to Sri Lanka, coincidence or not, but she ate absolutely everything. nine0003

Can something in my diet not be suitable for a child?

At an early age, babies often suffer from colic or are picky eaters, so mothers naturally wonder if their diet is causing this. Most likely no. Studies show that the proportion of children who are allergic to any component of breast milk is only slightly more than 1%. 9 Cow's milk, eggs, corn, and soy proteins in moms' diets are much more likely to cause allergic reactions than spicy foods, hot sauces, or cruciferous vegetables, which moms usually worry about. nine0003

If your baby is allergic to substances in your milk, it can cause profuse vomiting, rash, bloody stools, or prolonged constipation. If your baby has an intolerance to any food, you will notice symptoms such as moodiness and crying after feeding, belching, diarrhea, or the baby will press his knees to his chest. Contact your doctor if something is bothering you. He may suggest eliminating certain foods for a couple of weeks, and then see if the child's behavior changes after eating them again. nine0003

You can also keep a food diary: write down everything you eat and drink, as well as your child's symptoms, and you may notice some patterns. However, before cutting out any foods, such as dairy, always check with your doctor, as it's important to know that you're getting the nutrients you need from other sources. Depending on where you live, you will be referred to a nutritionist or other specialist.

Does a vegetarian diet affect breast milk? nine0018

If you are getting enough calories and all the nutrients your body needs (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals), then you have nothing to worry about. A vegetarian or vegan diet requires plenty of vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids while breastfeeding, so opt for foods and supplements that provide you with these essential nutrients.

If you are on a vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, or other special diet, you may need additional medical advice to make sure you are getting all the nutrients your baby needs. nine0003


1 National Health Service (NHS) [Internet]. Burnley, UK: Department of Health; 2018. Should pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid some types of fish?; 2015 Jul 06 [cited 2018 Apr 12]; Available from: - National Health Service (NHS) [Internet]. Burnley, UK: Department of Health; 2018. "Should a pregnant and lactating woman refrain from eating certain types of fish?"; July 6, 2015 [cited April 12, 2018]; See article on site

2 Oberhelman SS et al. Maternal vitamin D supplementation to improve the vitamin D status of breast-fed infants: a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clin Proc. 2013;88(12):1378–1387. - Oberhelman S.S. et al., Introduction of Vitamin D to the Diet of Nursing Mothers to Increase Vitamin D in children: a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Klin Prok. 2013;88(12):1378–1387. : effects on the mother and the fetus. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006;194(4):937-945. - Thomas M., Weisman S. M., "Calcium supplementation during pregnancy and lactation: effects on the mother and on the fetus". Am J Obstet Ginekol (American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology). 2006;194(4):937-945.

4 Pitt et al Reduced risk of peanut sensitization following exposure through breast-feeding and early peanut introduction. J Allergy Clinic Immunol. 2018;141(2):620-625. e 1 - Pitt et al., "Reducing the Risk of Peanut Allergy by Introducing Peanuts into the Breastfeeding Mother's Diet and as a Baby's First Food. " nine0095 G Allergy Clean Immunol. 2018;141(2):620-625.e1

5 Dewey KG. Energy and protein requirements during lactation. Annu Rev Nutr. 1997 Jul;17(1):19-36. - Dewey K. J., "Energy and Protein Requirements During Lactation". Anna Rev Nutr . 1997 Jul;17(1):19-36.

6 Food Standards Agency (FSA) [Internet]. London, UK: Crown copyright 2002. Eating for breastfeeding; [cited 2018 Apr 13]; Available from: - Food Standards Agency (FSA) [Internet]. London, UK: State Copyright 2002. "Eat to feed" [cited April 13, 2018]. See article on

7 National Health Service (NHS) [Internet]. Burnley, UK: Department of Health; 2018. Breastfeeding and diet; 2016 Jan 29 [cited 2018 Apr 12]; Available from: - National Health Service (NHS) [Internet]. nine0095 Burnley, UK: Department of Health 2018. Breastfeeding and Diet; 29 January 2016 [cited 12 April 2018] See article at -and-baby/breastfeeding-diet

8 Mennella JA et al. A. et al., Prenatal and postnatal recognition of odors in children. Pediatrix (Pediatrics). 2001;107(6):e88.

9 Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM clinical protocol# 24: allergic proctocolitis in the exclusively breastfed infant. Breastfeed Med . 2011;6(6). - Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. "AVM Clinical Protocol #24: Allergic Proctocolitis in an Exclusively Breastfed Child". Brestfeed Med (Breastfeeding Medicine). 2011;6(6). nine0095

Can a breastfeeding mother eat spicy food?

During your pregnancy, you probably had to give up your favorite spicy food. But now, the baby was born, and, it would seem, you can relax, and not deny yourself the desire to season the dish with chili pepper or garlic. How to be? Will it harm the baby who is breastfed?

Can I eat spicy food while breastfeeding?

Yes, it's safe. Although a tiny part may pass into breast milk, this will not affect the baby in any way. In many cultures, mothers are accustomed to eating spicy foods and make no exceptions when lactating. There is no evidence that children become irritable from this or have gas problems. nine0003

The best thing a breastfeeding mother can do is to eat a varied and healthy diet and avoid foods that may cause discomfort.

According to psychologist Lucy Cook, who specializes in baby nutrition, "Babies are usually easier to keep on their mother's milk, because with it they get the whole palette of tastes from the first days of life, unlike artificial ones."

Does spicy food affect breast milk?

Unlike formula, breast milk changes taste depending on the nutrition of the nursing mother. For example, if she eats foods with garlic, then the milk may be slightly bitter. And it's not a fact that the baby will not like it! nine0003

Experts even consider it a great way to introduce the child to the taste of solid food. Lactation consultant Emma Pickett says, "You're helping your baby develop a sense of taste in preparation for solid foods. But in general, the sweetness of the natural sugars in the milk will dominate the taste."

A study conducted in the early 1990s by researchers Julie Mennella and Gary Beauchamp showed that babies whose mothers loved garlic sucked harder and drank more flavored milk than their peers whose mothers did not eat garlic . nine0003

Another study published in 2001 showed that babies can adopt their mother's tastes during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

However, if the baby is upset or irritated, or the breastfeeding mother feels heartburn, this is a signal to switch to a softer diet. Give your child time to adjust to new tastes.

How can you tell if a child is sensitive to spicy foods?

This is very easy to determine, it is enough to correctly calculate the reaction of the baby.

Learn more