If you think, or your baby has colic — I feel your pain. It’s nothing short of a nightmare for mom and baby alike. And, if you’re nursing, no doubt you’ve landed here because you’re wondering whether there are foods to eat while breastfeeding to avoid colic.
I’m right, yeah?
For starters, one in five babies suffer from this condition, you’re not alone. What’s more, the good news is, it’s only temporary — symptoms start when your baby is two to three weeks old and typically come to an end around 10 to 12 weeks. Hang in there!
Some research suggests there is a link between colic and breastfeeding moms diet. Removing certain foods from your plate while nursing may alleviate or prevent the symptoms.
I can appreciate that you’re extremely busy, so to save you some time, here is a list of foods that will help you and your baby — as well as some to avoid!
Does Your Baby Have Colic?
The biggest indicator that your baby is suffering from colic is prolonged episodes of crying with no signs of a temperature or illness. It’s often referred to as ‘The 3s’ — with symptoms lasting:
- For around 3 hours.
- More than three times a week.
- For longer than 3 weeks.
Attempts at consoling have little to no effect. They may frown or grimace and their face may grow red. Your baby may pull up their legs, suggesting that they’re experiencing stomach pain, and their stomach may rumble loudly. Your baby may also pass wind or poop when the crying stops, although this could also be purely coincidental.
When your baby has recovered, they will appear fine, suggesting that colic is the cause of their problems.
What Causes Colic In Breastfed Babies?
While the exact cause of colic is unclear, there are a few possible theories:
Secondhand smoke is flagged as one possible cause of colic, with studies suggesting that moms who smoke during or after pregnancy are more likely to have babies with colic than those who don’t.
While there isn’t much reasoning in terms of how the two are connected, smoking around a baby is never a good idea and definitely, something to avoid!
Some research indicates that colic can be caused by an allergy to the proteins in cow’s milk, otherwise known as lactose intolerance. However, this would only be the case in formula-fed babies
That said, there is also some evidence to suggest that breastfed babies can be allergic to specific things in a mom’s diet. These sensitivities can cause stomach pain, leading to colic.
Newborns can tune out the world around them to sleep and eat without being disturbed by sounds and sights. Yet, by the end of their first month, they lose this ability, leaving babies exposed to the world around them.
This may be too much for your little one, and can set off colicky behavior. According to this theory, when the baby has adapted to their new environment and is able to avoid sensory overload — colic ends.
Digestion is an enormous task for a baby’s tiny little body — their gastrointestinal tract is still developing — and food can easily pass through too quickly, without being properly digested. This will leave your baby with pain in their intestines from gas, causing colic.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can trigger colicky babies, though it doesn’t outrightly cause colic. This is often due to the esophageal sphincter being underdeveloped — the muscle that prevents stomach acid from escaping into the throat and causing discomfort.
Symptoms of this condition include irritability during feedings and frequent spitting up. Most babies grow out of this by the time they are one.
7 Foods to Avoid To Help Combat Colic
Colic is an awful condition and many babies suffer from it, but here are a few foods that you may want to avoid to help your little one combat colic or even prevent it.
1. Junk Food
Junk food is high in calories and has little nutritional value, especially for your baby. Regular consumption can lead to harmful health conditions and can affect your baby’s digestion.
2. Energy Drinks
Energy drinks are packed full of sugar, caffeine, chemicals, and preservatives. They’re definitely worth avoiding when you’re breastfeeding to avoid passing these on to your baby and leaving them uncomfortable.
Tea and coffee and anything high in caffeine — which also includes sodas and chocolate — can cause gas and bloating. This can also occur in your breastfed baby.
If you’re nursing, experts suggest limiting your daily intake to less than 300 mg, which is around two to three cups. However, if you think it’s not helping the situation, avoid it.
Spicy food might be your go-to cuisine, and if you’ve enjoyed these types of food throughout your pregnancy, your baby isn’t likely to protest.
That said, if you’re more of a plain-eater and you decide to devour some hot wings one night, there is a possibility that your baby may be a little fussier or even refuse your milk. This is because spices can alter the flavor of breastmilk and upset a baby’s digestive system.
As previously discussed, some babies display sensitivity to the lactose in cow’s milk, so it’s best to avoid over-consumption of dairy while you’re breastfeeding.
Legumes like white, pinto, and kidney beans can cause excessive gas in babies, leading to discomfort and eventually colic.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are packed full of nutrients and are a great diet staple.
However, they can be difficult to digest, especially for your baby’s sensitive system. What’s more, these veggies can cause gas, sparking off stomach pains, so are best excluded from your diet while you’re breastfeeding.
You can find out more by checking out my nursing no-go list — Food to Avoid When Breastfeeding article.
10 Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding to Avoid Colicy
Before we hit my best foods for breastfeeding moms, I’d like to explain something.
You see, all these lactation-enhancing foods have something in common — they fall into a group called galactagogues. While this term may sound more at home in a Star Trek movie — it refers to a substance that increases breast milk supply.
So, now I’ve divulged that essential piece of information, here are some of the best lactation foods you should be including in your diet. Don’t forget, they also help to provide a great variety of vitamins and minerals. All of which are essential to your baby’s development.
1. Dried Apricots
High in fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium and calcium — dried apricots make for an amazing food to snack on. They also contain prolactin-boosting tryptophan, plus, their natural sugar content means they’re ideal for a busy-mom energy boost.
We all know that blueberries are a superfood — they contain one of the highest amounts of antioxidants of all fruits. These are then passed onto your baby through your milk, helping to fight free radicals that can damage cellular DNA.
Strawberries are another fantastic berry that’s also a great source of vitamin C, and with a high water content, consuming them will top up your hydration levels. Remember, to avoid fatigue and keep up milk supply, remaining hydrated is crucial for nursing mothers.
3. Green Papayas
Unripe or green papaya is one of the best galactagogues going. It contains carotenoids that help with the absorption of vitamin A and beta carotene, both of which are key for nursing mothers.
Papaya can also be incorporated into your diet in a range of ways, from smoothies or just a great healthy snack to eat on its own.
While you’re breastfeeding, you need an increased amount of vitamin C. Oranges are one fruit loaded with this nutrient.
Vitamin C plays a crucial role in boosting the immune system, growing teeth, muscles, and bones in babies. The best way to ensure that they’re getting enough is through your breastmilk.
What’s more, if you don’t have the time to sit to eat an orange — drink one instead. Grab some freshly squeezed OJ and sip that as you crack on with your day.
Go bananas with this potassium-laden fruit. If you’re breastfeeding, you need around 2800 mg per day for you and your baby. This mineral will help to keep your fluids and electrolytes balanced.
And, if you’re always on the move, a banana is top of the fruits for carrying convenience.
Carrots contain beta carotene, which is an antioxidant that your body then converts to vitamin A. This promotes good vision but is also important for growth, development and your little one’s immune system.
Vitamin B6 is another reason to include carrots on your plate — it’s a nutrient that helps convert your food into energy. Hence, carrots are a great way of supplying this additional energy that breastfeeding moms need to increase lactation.
The primary ingredient of guacamole, avocados are packed with protein, potassium, vitamin K and folate, which helps cell growth and brain function. While high in fat, it’s of the healthy kind and they’re low-carb too.
You can spread it on toast, mix it into salads, and of course, if you love Mexican cuisine, avocado is the perfect accompaniment to tortillas, nachos, or fajitas.
Besides its use in beer, barley is also one of the richest sources of beta-glucan. This is known to increase prolactin which is the breastfeeding hormone. It’s super versatile and can be added to a range of different meals such as soups, salads and even stews.
A breakfast staple in my home, oats also contain a high concentration of beta-glucan. This whole grain is fiber, protein and carbohydrate-dense, includes B vitamins and is high in minerals like iron.
Whole oats are the only food source containing a unique antioxidant that is said to protect against heart disease — another reason to include them in your diet.
Again, these are really easy to work into your diet on a regular basis, even though they can be a little bland by themselves. They’re perfect for adding to home-baked muffins, cookies, or you can even sprinkle them on top of your yogurt.
10. Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s yeast has been used for generations as a nutritional supplement. It contains high concentrations of iron, selenium, chromium, protein, and vitamin B making it a brilliant way to boost your milk supply. It also passes easily into your breast milk which is a good thing. But be wary of how much you use as it can cause your little one gas, so use sparingly.
11. Sweet Potatoes
A root vegetable that’s also a first-rate complex carbohydrate. Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A. This nutrient is essential for the development of vision, cell and bone growth, and immune function. They’re also a great source of potassium and fiber.
You can bake, roast or mash, and they make a terrific alternative to french fries. Plus, they’re an awesome addition to a curry.
12. Dark Leafy Greens
The great galactagogue greens of spinach, kale and broccoli. They’re also one of the best sources of protein, iron, and vitamins — all of which are essential nutrients for both you and your baby.
For a quick and hassle-free meal, throw them into a stir fry or an omelet. They can even be added to soups and smoothies.
Okra often has a strange slimy texture and this means many people don’t enjoy it. But there are plenty of ways in which you can reap the benefits by adding it to recipes — making it taste better and even hiding the strange texture.
It’s high in folate (vitamin B9) and is also a rich source of niacin (vitamin B3), thiamine (Vitamin B1), potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Use it to beef up stews, soups and casseroles, Okra will even work well in a gumbo or grilled as a side dish.
14. Beans and Legumes
As a breastfeeding mom, beans are an amazing addition to your diet. Containing protein, fiber, iron and phytochemicals — these plant-based compounds help to stimulate your immune system, regulate your hormone levels, and also increase your milk production.
They’re another super-easy food item to add to your diet as they can be added to dips, chili, or casseroles.
Even though garlic is a well-known galactagogue it does have an exceptionally strong odor and should be consumed in moderation. There is also no research to back up the claims that it helps to increase lactation — but many women swear by it.
Fenugreek for breast milk is perfect — its seeds are full of phytoestrogens that help with the production of milk. For every spoonful you consume, you’ll be receiving minerals like iron, magnesium and calcium as well as a good helping of fiber.
However, even though it’s a really useful food to eat while you’re nursing, for people with diabetes, legume allergy, or heart/thyroid problems — it’s best avoided.
Packed full of vitamins and minerals, these seeds have earned their superfood status. They contain high levels of calcium, plant-based protein, fiber, and magnesium, along with a generous content of omega-3 fatty acids.
This surprising mix of nutrients will help you and your baby to feel fuller for longer. They also taste pretty good and can easily be incorporated into your diet.
These seeds are another superfood on our list. This time because of their high levels of healthy fats — omega-3 fatty acids — and protein. They’re also a substantial source of vitamin E as well as zinc and iron.
Sprinkle them on your breakfast, salads or add them into dips for a nutrition boost.
19. Lactation Cookies
These are a fantastic way to fit in some of those foods that are good for you but may not be on your favorite list. Many lactation cookies include brewer’s yeast, chia seeds, oats and fenugreek.
You can find them in convenient ready-to-eat packs or if you fancy a baking day, you could make your own. You can add anything that you like — such as blueberries, apricot, and strawberries to give your lactation a lift.
20. Nursing Teas
Ok, so these aren’t technically a food, but they could help with lactation, so I feel they’re worthy of a mention.
These teas are herbal — including ingredients like milk thistle, fenugreek and blessed thistle. While some contain a single herb, other blends include a combination of herbs and supplements.
Another plus for lactation teas is that, not only do they help with your milk supply, but they help to keep you hydrated and feeling relaxed.
Colic is no fun for either mom or baby, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t last forever. And, while your baby is suffering from colic symptoms, you may be looking for ways to help ease their discomfort.
Although a conclusive answer is yet to be found, research suggests, much of these issues could be caused by digestive problems. Hence, keeping an eye on what you put on your plate and understanding what foods to eat while breastfeeding to avoid colic may be a solution.
Foods To Eat While Breastfeeding To Avoid Colic FAQs
What Foods Should I Avoid While Breastfeeding a Colicky Baby?
Food and drinks that contain caffeine are top of the list as they can irritate the gut and cause gas. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage can also induce gas and are best avoided. And, fruits that contain high amounts of citric acid, such as pineapple, berries, and limes.
How Do You Prevent Colic When Breastfeeding?
Try holding your baby in the colic hold, with their stomach over your forearm. The pressure of your arm can help them to feel better. If they have acid reflux, holding them upright to keep down the contents of their stomach can improve the situation, as well as skin-to-skin contact.
Why Is My Breastfed Baby So Gassy?
Gas can be caused by digesting certain foods or when your milk flows too freely and they eat too fast. A baby’s digestive system is still developing, and as a result, they can experience frequent gas. It can also cause them pain and sometimes symptoms of colic. Try to ensure you stick to easily digestible foods to help aid your baby’s digestion.
What Soothes a Colicky Baby?
Your baby may calm if a warm water bottle is placed on their stomach, or if they’re soaked in a warm bath. Laying them across your lap and rubbing their back may help relieve any trapped gas. Additionally, try offering items that comfort them, such as a snuggly blanket or a pacifier.
What Foods Make Colic Worse?
Cow’s milk is thought to be one of the main causes of colic in breastfed babies. But there are other foods such as wheat, corn, peanuts, and soy that are often the main culprits.
Which Foods Cause Gas in Breastfed Babies?
Some of the most common foods to cause gas in breastfed babies include beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Gas is perfectly normal for your baby, but if they’re suffering from colic, you may want to take a rain check on these foods for a few weeks.
Can Breast Milk Cause Colic?
A definitive cause is still unknown. However, both breastfed and bottle-fed babies can get colic. You don’t need to stop nursing if your baby is experiencing symptoms.