Aside from the typical breastfeeding concerns you might expect clients come to see me for, can you guess the topic I get asked the most questions about?
I'll give you a hint. It's not sleep. It's not about the latest baby-acne breakout. It's not even about whether or not the color of that morning's blowout is normal. Believe me, I do get plenty of these questions as well, but what I'm referring to are questions about nutrition.
"What do I need to eat to make enough milk for my baby?"
"What am I not allowed to eat while breastfeeding?"
"I heard eating garlic while breastfeeding will make my baby gassy and fussy."
Etc., etc., etc.
Yes, I could go on and on. And, yes, so much of the information out there is super conflicting.
As a general rule of thumb though, I would never recommend a nursing mama need to specifically avoid or cut anything out of her diet unless baby is showing signs of a food sensitivity or intolerance.
I would highly encourage mom to avoid chemically-laden processed foods as best as possible and opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods instead. But, if this is already the philosophy you prescribe to, then eat up!
Now this doesn't mean just because you're eating a diet full of whole, nutrient-dense foods baby isn't going to have any sort of reaction.
Many mamas - whether they are aware of it or not - suffer from gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in gut flora caused by too few beneficial bacteria and an overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast, and/or parasites) and large food proteins can pass through undigested into breast milk causing a sensitivity in baby. This can result in symptoms such as chronic colic, reflux, skin irritations, and ear infections among others.
This can lead to a very unhappy baby and very often a less than happy mama. But what happens when the more common culprits like dairy, soy and wheat have been eliminated and baby is still experiencing digestive distress?
Maybe it's time to look further?
Can eating citrus fruits while breastfeeding cause discomfort in baby?
You know those warnings on medication bottles cautioning against taking them with grapefruit juice? The reason for this is because certain compounds found in citrus fruits such as naringin have the ability to change and slow down liver enzymes. This can cause toxins and certain substances to linger in the body leading to irritation.
Now this isn't a common concern and is definitely something rare to see in babies. However, there have been those occasions with my clients where the only thing baby was experiencing a food sensitivity to (after everything else had been ruled out) was citrus.
There is also very limited anecdotal evidence that might suggest citrus fruit juice and citric acid can cause impaired lactation in certain mamas who are sensitive to low milk supply issues.
Again, this is extremely rare, but according to Hilary Jacobson, the astringent nature of these foods can cause constriction of sensitive tissue possibly restricting circulation of blood in the breasts and inhibiting communication of nerves and hormones (source)
So, is it best to give up citrus fruits while breastfeeding?
Well...no! What's better than peeling an orange for a quick, easy, pick-me-up snack? And don't even get me started on grapefruit juice based Mommy Mocktails. Yum!
Citrus fruits are actually a great source of nourishment for nursing mamas. Packed full of a Vitamin C punch, these are awesome treats to have on hand during times when it's difficult to prep something healthy.
Just monitor baby. That's what you're doing anyway, right? If you notice baby is acting particularly upset or uncomfortable after eating citrus, try eliminating it from your diet to see if it helps resolve any issues.
Of course, if you suspect your baby is having any sort of intolerance or sensitivity to anything you're eating or if you are experiencing any issues with low milk supply it's important to contact your local lactation consultant right away. Usually everything's fine, but it's best just to be certain :)