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Dispelling the Gas/Diet Myth
~ A Message Board Archive

From Amy D: I have recently seen quite a few posts regarding eliminating gassy foods from your diet to eliminate your breastfeeding baby's gas. I wasn't going to do this but I really hate to see moms eliminating everything from their diets thinking that what they are eating is giving their baby gas. I went on a little search this morning to find a little info that may help to further dispel this myth that lives in the minds of so many nursing mothers. Intestinal gas is a by-product of the process of our digestion. For a good explanation for why we get gas, check out this article: The Whys and Wherefores of Wind: Flatulence Explained.

When we eat food, it goes through our digestive process, at the end of which nutrients are absorbed into our blood. Think about it logically . . . soda causes us gas because of the carbonation, which is NOT absorbed into our blood. Beans, broccoli and cabbage cause us gas because it is difficult for our bodies to digest carbohydrates. In the process of our intestines breaking these foods down, gas is produced but the thing that is causing us the gas is not absorbed into our bloodstream.

Ok . . . now onto the breast milk, babies and gas. One of the largest components of breast milk is lactose, which is a carbohydrate that through the digestive process can cause gas. That is why the suggestion of nursing one breast per feed so that the baby gets less of the high lactose foremilk and more of the high fat hindmilk. Dr. Jack Newman explains in his article Colic in the Breastfed Baby very clearly that it is the foreign proteins in the mother's milk from things such as dairy products that may cause problems for a baby. Most of you know that this particular issue is one of my personal pet peeves. I think that it is really sad that some moms will wean because they think that their baby's gas is their fault, some moms will shy away completely from breastfeeding because of the diet restrictions that they are told.

So what is the payoff? Go eat whatever you want today!

From Ms.Dmoe: Thank you for the info. I have gotten advice lately about removing all sorts of things from my diet, but it hasn't sounded right to me. You gave me some good info to help!

From Clio: I have a related pet peeve: that a long laundry list of foods will make your milk taste bad. Another excuse to make moms wean early. So go eat a double helping of whatever you want!

From Traci: I'm with you Amy! One empirical data point here . . . 10 months of breastfeeding, eating whatever I want, and have found only ONE time there was a definite correlation between what I ate and Noah's reaction. Yup . . . if I'd have been thinking I probably never would have eaten over a cup of jalapenos on my 7-11 nachos. Just got spoiled eating them in moderation on other foods with no effect.

From Miche: I agree with the milk tasting bad thing too! I can't tell you how many women I know think their milk will taste bad if they eat garlic. There have actually been studies done that showed breastfeeding babies LOVE garlic in their mother's milk. They nursed longer after the mother has eaten garlic! I personally never eliminated anything from my diet (except caffeine) and my son now loves all kinds of foods. He's been used to the spices, and he actually prefers foods with some kick to them! His favorite is Indian food! He also loves spicy Chinese. He even puts Tabasco on his food just like daddy does!

I feel so sorry for those mothers that don't eat cabbage, beans, soda and dairy, etc expecting it to help with colicky babies. Sometimes dairy can be a factor if the baby is allergic, but the things that cause gas have to actually get to the baby to be a problem! The part of a bean or cabbage that gets into your milk isn't the same stuff that causes gas in mommy! The bubbles in soda can cause gas in mommy too, but not in baby. The caffeine may have an effect on the child, but caffeine free soda is fine!

My MIL used the "but you can't eat all kinds of things" excuse when trying to convince me to wean Tommy, but fortunately I didn't pay her any attention!

From J3amiejo: Wow you mean I can eat whatever I want??? Chocolate, broccoli, etc etc that is a relief to me!!

From KAH: I'm with Traci- I eat anything and everything--jalapenos included!! The only thing I've found I can't eat is salt and vinegar potato chips. They turn poor DD into a little spit-up monster even now that she's over 12 months old!

From szilvia: Thank you, especially for the second article. My son is three months old now, and I know I can't eat dairy, but there was a time, a few weeks ago when I started thinking about giving up different foods. I wish I had seen this article 2.5 years ago when my first son was a newborn. As it turned out he has a milk allergy and by me putting him on formula, I made the situation a lot worse.

From ACheryl: With my first ds I only noticed that Gorditas from Taco Bell gave him gas. But my second ds isn't bothered at all by anything I have eaten.

From Iris2001: I agree with this to an extent but my LC told me that they do know for sure that broccoli and some similar foods tend to cause gas in some breastfed babies. Also, I did notice that EVERY time I have salsa and chips my baby has a major case of gas. It's not just a coincidence I don't think. I tend to think that if we know dairy gets into our milk then obviously other foods are getting in there as well and some babies just may not tolerate them as well.

From KH: I'm glad someone said it; I wasn't about to go there. I always just smile when my friends tell me all about the foods that they eat that give their babies gas. No matter how many times I tell people it's just not so, they just never believe me.

From djk42: Yes, dairy proteins can pass into milk. If a food contains protein, these can pass into the blood stream and into the milk, but non-protein foods do not have this risk. In one study of colicky babies, 20% of moms said their babies improved when they eliminated dairy, but only 3% of the moms noticed improvement when they eliminated all other gassy foods (including eggs which have protein so can pass to baby). Chronic gas is likely a dairy problem or a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, both of which I have had experience with and therefore agree with the experts on. Thanks Amy for the refresh.

From JenElizabeth: My dh finally talked me into making bean enchiladas last night. I was so afraid that they would affect the baby that I only had one. Last night Justine slept better than ever before! I just had two enchiladas for lunch, and I am going to stop worrying about food so much.

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