Foods to avoid while breastfeeding or chestfeeding

by Laura Howells
5 mins reading time
(Updated )

Woman eating a hamberger and laughing

Common herbs that may reduce milk supply

There are several herbs that are traditionally used to reduce milk supply during breastfeeding or chestfeeding. These herbs all do take large quantities to provide a significant reduction in supply.

  • Sage: Sage is a popular herb that is often used to decrease milk supply. This is the strongest herb in the bunch here and as such should be avoided in large quantities.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint can also decrease milk supply. It is only a concern to milk supply if taken in very large quantities. A few cups of mint tea per day is unlikely to have any effect.
  • Parsley: Parsley is another herb that can dry up human milk. This one is one to look out for a little more, it still takes a very large quantity of it to dry up milk supply but it is a herb that is much more commonly used in larger quantities in cooking. You probably want to avoid daily meals with parsley pesto for example.
  • Lemon balm: Lemon balm is a calming herb that can also can reduce milk supply. This herb likely won’t be found in most recipes but may be found in teas. You would have to drink only lemon balm tea and nothing else all day everyday for most parents to see any effect to their milk supply.

Foods that are not safe while breastfeeding or chestfeeding

While breastfeeding or chestfeeding, it is important to maintain a balanced and healthy diet to ensure that both you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need. However, some foods may cause discomfort or allergic reactions in some babies, and it's best to avoid or limit them as much as possible. Here are some common foods that breastfeeding or chestfeeding parents may need to avoid:

  • Certain types of fish: Fish that are high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, should be avoided during breastfeeding or chestfeeding. It's recommended to eat a variety of low-mercury fish, such as salmon, tilapia, and cod.
  • Large quantities of caffeine: Drinking too much coffee, tea, or soda containing caffeine can cause fussiness and sleeplessness in some babies. It's recommended to limit caffeine intake to no more than 300 mg per day, or about two to three cups of coffee. It's important to note that not all babies will be sensitive to caffeine and some mothers or parents may be able to consume it without any problems.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding can pass through human milk to the baby, potentially causing sleepiness, poor feeding, and other developmental problems. It's best to limit alcohol to small amounts and wait at least two hours after drinking before breastfeeding. The amount of alcohol in your blood stream will be the amount in your babies milk. So if you are safe to drive you likely safe to breastfeed of chestfeed, no need to pump and dump.

Does mint chocolate chip ice cream affect milk supply? Or what about thin mints while breastfeeding or chestfeeding?

Brown bowl with scoops of  green mint chocolate chip ice cream and a fresh sprig of mint

The possibly concerning ingredient in both mint chocolate chip ice cream and thin mints, is the mint which has been known to decrease supply though it isn’t otherwise dangerous for babies who ingest the human milk.

The exact amount of mint that would be required to decrease milk supply during breastfeeding is not well established, as there is limited research on this topic. However, some studies suggest that consuming large amounts of peppermint tea or taking peppermint oil supplements may have an effect on milk production, although the magnitude of the effect is not clear.

Since both mint chocolate chip ice cream and thin mints both have a very small amount of peppermint oil in them. Its very unlikely that you would impact your supply buy eating a serving or two of them.

Vick while breastfeeding

There is no definitive answer to whether Vicks Vaporub is safe to use while breastfeeding, as there is limited information available on the safety of its use during lactation. However, the active ingredients in Vicks Vaporub are camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus oil, which are generally considered safe for topical use in small amounts. The risks come more from being exposed directly to the Vicks vaporub from their parents body or from it decreasing milk supply, than the Vicks impacting the milk its self.

Eucalyptus oil, menthol and campho can be dangerous around babies if not used properly or in appropriate concentrations. Here are some potential dangers of these oils around babies:

  • Respiratory problems: These oils are known to have a strong aroma that can irritate the airways, especially in babies. Inhaling these oils can cause respiratory problems, such as coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.
  • Skin irritation: These oil can cause skin irritation if applied directly to a baby's skin, especially if it is not properly diluted with a carrier oil.
  • Poisoning: If ingested in large amounts, these oils can be poisonous and cause serious health problems, such as seizures, vomiting, or even coma.
  • Allergic reactions: Some babies may be allergic to any of these oils or other essential oils, which can cause severe allergic reactions, such as swelling, itching, or hives.

To avoid these dangers, it's important to use these oils cautiously around babies and to always dilute it properly before use. It's also important to avoid applying these oils directly to a baby's skin or face, and to monitor for any signs of adverse reactions. If you have any concerns about using these oils around your baby, it's best to consult with a healthcare provider or a qualified aromatherapist.

To mitigate these risks, be sure to keep the areas that you have applied the Vicks vaporub covered or away from you baby. Wash you hands after applying it and make sure you are not touching the area after that.

Does vicks dry up breast milk?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that Vicks Vaporub has any effect on milk supply. Vicks Vaporub is a topical ointment that is applied to the skin to relieve cough and cold symptoms, such as congestion and sore throat. It contains a combination of active ingredients, including camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol.

Menthol is a substance that occurs naturally in mint plants, such as peppermint and spearmint. In large quantities it therefore does have the potential to reduce milk supply. Because Vicks is often applied to the chest area near the mammary glands.  This may increase the risk of it decreasing your supply. Applying peppermint oil to the breasts or chest is not recommended as a method for reducing milk supply during breastfeeding. Peppermint oil is known to have a drying effect and may cause a decrease in milk supply if applied topically in high concentrations. However, the use of peppermint oil is not recommended due to the potential risks associated with its use, especially when used improperly or inappropriately.

Find out more about what to avoid while breastfeeding or chestfeeding in my online basics of breastfeeding or chestfeeding course. It is self paced so you can take it anytime that works for you and it is broken up into easy to reference sections so you can go back when you have more questions.


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Laura Howells (she/her) is an IBCLC and postpartum doula who works with clients in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been happily supporting growing families during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and the first years since 2009.

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