An Elimination Diet For Breastfeeding Moms?
I’ve discussed the importance of seeing through an elimination diet for yourself and your children, but I have not mentioned new moms yet. When speaking with pregnant clients, I tend to discuss their nutritional habits, which leads into the rabbit hole of gut health conversations. We know that gut health is linked to just about everything in the body, and that holds true for the developing fetus and soon-to-be newborn. The mother’s gut health effects the baby’s gut health, which impacts a newborn’s skin, sleep, moods, poop, and so much more.
Breastmilk is superior to formula. This is not an opinion, but a fact. A breastfeeding mother has the power to manipulate and heal her infant’s gut and eliminate or improve issues that arise all by eliminating or adding foods into or out of her own diet.
Within those first few months of infancy, many parents assume the ‘witching hours’ of crying are normal. They assume that butt rashes are to be expected. They think that spitting up is why bibs were created. They believe that their baby just doesn’t sleep, but that there’s nothing to do but survive this stage. Many turn to medications, ointments, sleep training, formula, baby cereal, or other non-natural band-aids that truly cause damage to a baby. It is lack of education, and the lack of support from a pediatrician that sends parents running for these alternatives.
These issues are not normal and are a sign that something is off. More often than not, the answer lies in learning what foods (through the mother’s milk) are causing these issues. This can be discovered through an elimination diet. Food sensitivities are typical with infants, as their digestive systems are still maturing and are not ready to handle specific proteins (or other nutrients) just yet. Every baby is different, but there are many similarities that have been discovered.
I highly recommend to pregnant women in my practice the elimination of dairy beginning around 36 weeks gestation. This gives the body a few weeks to process and detoxify from the food group. Dairy is milk products derived from cow’s milk. They are over processed and stripped of all natural nutritional value anyway, so eliminating them should make your body feel better overall. However, cow’s milk is meant to be processed by baby cows, who have 4 separate compartments to their stomachs. They are also meant to weigh a ton (a literal ton). Our newborns are not meant for this. Their tiny bodies ache when trying to process dairy. Eliminating it before baby arrives should help keep those first few weeks peaceful.
There is no research to share on food preservatives being passed from a mom and found in breastmilk, but elimination diets speak for themselves. While you can choose to eliminate dairy alone, your baby may need more or other items removed as well. Dairy is typically the best place to start, as the newborn period can be overwhelming. If your baby is already in your arms, and you are experiencing troubles, you may choose to consider a full elimination diet that includes processed items, gluten, dairy, and other common triggers.
Things to Note with a Breastfeeding Elimination Diet:
There are two guts working, not just one. This takes more time. It can take 2-4 weeks before seeing improvements. However, many mothers testify that results can begin to be noticed within days.
Just as typical elimination diets go, breastfeeding diets aren’t forever. Once baseline is established, (meaning the issues have leveled off and life is calm and happy) you can continue for several weeks and then start adding in one eliminated item at a time to see if the issues arise again. Baby’s digestive systems tend to mature between 4-6 months of age, so what bothered them as a newborn may be better tolerated later.
A baby’s sleep should improve, but the goal is not to train the baby to sleep through the night. Research links dairy and wheat consumption to poorer sleep patterns. This isn’t surprising because it’s hard to sleep when your stomach hurts. Finding the trigger foods will help your baby find better sleep, but infants are supposed to wake to nurse throughout the night. An elimination diet may help them sleep longer, but no baby is meant to sleep 12 hours without waking.
Colic is a term used to label all crying with no known reason, and while an elimination diet should help most colicky infants, there may be other issues to look at.
The main food allergens (dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts, etc) are the most common foods to eliminate, but consider citrus foods, processed items, dyes, and grains, as they are becoming more well-known for causing issues today.
(The American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s clinical protocol for infant allergies offers a plan for an elimination diet.)