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There is an old-wives tale out there that you shouldn’t eat chocolate while you are breastfeeding as it can result in a very fussy and gassy baby.  I hadn’t heard about this old-wives tale until I heard someone mention it on an episode of TLC’s “Bringing Home Baby” that I was watching the other day.  It sparked my interest because I had noticed that some days my daughter was gassier than others and I was trying to figure out what the cause may be.  I am an admitted chocoholic and there is almost always some form of chocolate in my house.  So I sat down and thought about it and figured that maybe I was eating more chocolate on the days when she was a little gassier.  I tried eliminating chocolate for one day and she seemed to be ok, the next day I only had a little and still she was ok, the next day I had a little more and she was a little gassy.  The culprit was identified, much to my dismay too much chocolate seems to give my daughter gas, bummer.

The old-wives tale that you shouldn’t eat chocolate while breastfeeding does not apply to everyone.  You cannot make a blanket statement that every mom needs to avoid chocolate, cause that simply isn’t the case.  Chocolate is just one of those things that may cause more gassiness in a breastfed baby.  However, there are lots of other things that can do the same thing.  Every baby is different and each mom will have to figure out what foods seem to be the culprit for her baby.  There is not one size fits all recommendation that can be made.  Talk to your pediatrician about what may be the cause of your baby’s gassiness and what foods they recommend that breastfeeding moms avoid.

Here is a list of the most common foods that cause gassiness and fussiness in breastfed babies.

  • Chocolate
  • Gassy vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and cauliflower
  • Citrus fruits, including orange juice
  • Coffee and other caffeinated beverages
  • Overly greasy foods
  • Onions and garlic, even in seasoning form
  • Dairy products, particular if you consume a lot.

The best thing to do if you notice that your baby is particular gassy when you eat certain foods is to avoid them or just eat them in limited quantities.  For me that means no Mexican food and I have to watch how much chocolate I eat.  If it means my daughter is happier and less gassy I’m fine with that.

What foods did you find most affected your baby while you were breastfeeding?  Was it hard to avoid those foods?

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81 Responses to Breastfeeding and Chocolate

  • JHS says:

    Thanks for contributing this post to this week’s edition of the Carnival of Family Life, hosted at Confessions of a Novice. The Carnival will be live on Monday, January 28, 2008, so be sure to stop by and check out all of this week’s excellent submissions!

  • Tami says:

    Oh boy am I thankful for your info about chocolate and breastfeeding…. I have been struggling with no sleep and a screaming baby with colic…… I’m also a chocoholic – but only since breastfeeding!! I have been so tiered I have been eating lots of chocolate for energy!!!Even my husband was spoiling me with chocolate and my kids making me hot chocolates at night!!! I was feeding my baby a tummy ache and in turn making life awful for all of us… thank you!!!! Maybe in a few days we’ll get back to normal
    Tami

  • Tami,

    Reducing my chocolate intake certainly helped me. My daughter seems to tolerate it more now that she is older (6 months), but I still try not to eat too much. Best of luck to you, a good night’s sleep can do wonders for a mom’s sanity.

  • Crystal says:

    This is the second time I have ate chocolate with Ayden and as you can see by the time I am up with a colicky baby. I feel so bad for him. I am doing my penance. Chocolate is definately the culprit. He is usually a very happy baby. I was able to eat anything I wanted with my last son, not so for this little tender tummy.

  • Crystal,

    It is funny how different babies can be, even siblings. I was able to eat chocolate again once my daughter was a little bit older (about 4-5 months) and it didn’t bother her.
    Hope you get a better nights sleep tonight!

  • Pingback: Carnival of Family Life -- Let’s Talk Babies -- Tips for parenting, pregnancy, and all things baby…

  • Rachel says:

    Chocolate was definitely causing my baby to be upset. Every night she was up screaming for two hours. Then I completely eliminated chocolate from my diet and the fussiness disappeared. Over the next several months I would occasionally indulge in a small piece of chocolate and I would pay for it the next day with a little screamer! Right now she is 11 months old and she is also eating a lot of other food, but when I eat chocolate it still sets her off.

  • Rachel,

    Luckily my daughter got over the chocolate related gassiness. She does fine now when I eat chocolate (thank God!!).

  • KELLY GONZALES says:

    Oh my Gosh, my 2 1/2 week old daughter Addy has the WORST Colic from chocolate. I ate an entire bowl of brownie batter and paid for it dearly today. Addy has projectile spit-ups and just can’t calm down. I had no idea and now feel like a TERRIBLE mother. I sure learned my lesson :-(

  • Kelly,

    You’re not a terrible mom…Unfortunately the only way to know if your baby will react to chocolate is after the fact :( She’ll probably feel better by tomorrow.

  • Michelle says:

    I don’t eat much chocolate, but I eat a ton of dairy… I love cereal with ice cold milk, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, cheese, you name it. I didn’t eat much dairy for the first three weeks of my son’s life because we were getting ready to move into a new house and didn’t keep many groceries in the house, not to mention that I was adjusting to life with a new baby and forgot to eat most of the time. Now we are all settled and I’m back to my old eating habits, and all the sudden we have a baby who cries night and day! So after stocking up on all my favorite dairy treats, I’m cutting them all out and have a much happier baby. I guess I’ll take that over Ben & Jerry’s.

  • Michelle,

    Thanks for sharing. Ya, I’ve heard of that.

  • Sharon G says:

    Thanks for this post! I did a real number on my little guy (and myself). Last night we ate pork, apple, potatoes wit garlic and onions…plus we had gone to Costco and bought a huge thing of Truffetes chocolate truffles. Needless to say, he woke up at 4am screaming and didn’t stop until after 7am. Finally slept for an hour, screamed again, seemed to pass a lot of gas and spat up around 11am and is now passed out.
    Sadly, I think I will need to eliminate the onions/garlic and greatly reduce the amount of chocolate truffles…boo.
    I’m not surprised about the garlic since I had an aversion to it during pregnancy, but seriously I never thought he’d be this fussy!! If I had none I’d be in for a horrible night, I would have avoided it all.

  • Sharon,

    My daughter is the same with garlic. I too had an aversion to garlic during pregnancy and now I have to watch how much is in the food I eat or she gets really gassy.

  • Kristin says:

    God, hearing all this would really scare women off from breastfeeding. Lots of babies are colicky and gassy. Period. No matter what you do. Personally, I breastfed my baby, and he was gassy for the first few months, and then it went away. Poof! All by itself, with no changes in my diet. He’s 2, and I’m still nursing, but I certainly wouldn’t be if I had these dietary restrictions! I eat anything I want–sugar, coffee, citrus, garlic, lots of yogurt and cheese, chocolate (and I eat the very high, %85 cocoa content kind daily), broccoli and onions. My son has no problems. I’ve also had a cup of coffee daily his whole life–no big deal.
    Look, dealing with a newborn is tough enough–don’t worry about dietary restrictions. It won’t help the colic, and you’ll just be getting rid of one of your few remaining sources of joy by worrying about what you eat. I’m European, and in our culture, we breastfeed our babies WELL beyond the first year, while continuing to enjoy our feta, our chocolate mousse, our roasted garlic, and even our merlot! Stop stressing. Babies are gassy and pukey, and they grow out of it on their own. Chill out and eat dessert!

  • Kristin,

    While it is true that colicky babies will not be helped by diet changes some babies simply are reacting to something in their mother’s diet and reducing or eliminating that item results in a happy baby which equals happy mom. My daughter got very gassy when I ate chocolate and garlic, so as a result I reduced those in my diet and when I ate them I did what I could to comfort her knowing she would be a little extra gassy. It worked out really well. My daughter is now 14 months old and I am still nursing. Luckily the older babies react less to foods in their mothers eat so I don’t have to watch my chocolate intake anymore!

  • Andrea says:

    eek! I was doing some searches for chocolate and breastfeeding because I have been eating “alot” of it lately and my baby has been kind of fussy. Im now taking it out of my diet for a whie and seeing if it helps her… Thanks for the info everyone!

  • Andrea,

    The good news is even if chocolate is the culprit you should be able to introduce it back into your diet (in small amounts!) when your baby is a little older.

  • Andrea says:

    I have a 2 week old baby boy who became really gassy and fussy just 5 days ago. I was eating and drinking whatever I wanted, including chocolate and just eliminated a few things out of my diet. What I discovered was that it was my diet but also my Calcium/Mag vitamins I was taking. They are by ‘Progressive’ and they have broccoli extract and a few other things in them that are not good for baby at all. A great vitamin for us to take, just not when breasfeeding. So if you are taking vitamins, other than your pre-natal and your baby is fussy, read the ingredients carefully.

  • Andrea says:

    Kristen,
    It’s great you can eat and drink whatever you want while breastfeeding, you are one lucky girl! But it is a fact that what we consume can affect our babies a lot while we are breastfeeding. Not every baby of course, some have more tolerable tummies than others, but it is more common than not for a woman to have to slightly alter her diet while baby is on the boob. Do you understand how that works? You should go hang out with a really fussy baby for a day and then decide to judge people for changing their diet. It’s not worth eating dessert if you are going to have to deal with a fussy crying baby all night. It’s also totally un-fair for the baby as it causes them major dis-comfort.

  • Andrea,

    Thank you for sharing that tip about the vitamin.

  • Sadly, i am about to give up (or at least minimize) my chocolate intake, coz experimenting with my baby showed that he wakes up more often during the nights when i have been eating chocolates. as a fellow-chocaholic, my sympathies to all others out there.

  • Rituparna,

    I was able to start eating more chocolate again once my daughter was a little older and her digestion system was more mature. I hope you can too!!

  • Lindsey says:

    DON’T EAT ASPARAGUS!!! I made the mistake of eating asparagus for dinner two nights ago and my baby (who usually sleeps 8 hours) had me up all night with a gassy tummy! I felt horrible for him. I knew that broccoli and brussels sprouts were known to be “gassy foods” but never thought about asparagus. I learned my lesson the hard way:)

  • Lindsey,

    Ya, unfortunately we often have to learn the hard way which foods don’t sit well with our babies. Thanks for the tip on asparagus. I bet it is any of those deep green veggies!

  • Amanda says:

    Ok, I had garlic chicken pizza a week ago and had a fussy gassy baby for a couple days afterward. Didn’t know about the garlic and onion. Now I just downed 6 pieces of brownies and had asparagus, broccli and coliflower veggie mix….my son is gonna hate me. I if he does get gas I’ll know it was the chocolate and veggie buffet I had…oh poor little guy…

  • Amanda,

    Ya, unfortunately we often don’t know what will cause gassiness for our baby until we eat the offending food. Hopefully he wasn’t too fussy :)

  • Sarah says:

    Kristen,
    It is exactly that mentality -insinuating that women are so weak that a necessary change in diet would turn us off breastfeeding-that puts me into a rage. I have had 2 reflux babies and am expecting a third in march. I nursed until 18 months and 3 years respectively. My first woke up every 40 minutes all night long – screaming, sweating, hysterical. My second beat that at every 20 minutes. When you are in a position like that you will do ANYTHING to make it better and there is virtually NO information available – it’s as though all mention of the reality of food affecting your milk has been erased from any professional or technical article out there lest it “scare” us off breastfeeding. How is that helpful? In my opinion if you are willing to quit breastfeeding over chocolate you were never committed and if it wasn’t this it would have been over getting saggy boobs or some other trivial thing. Nuff said to you. Now here are the facts the best as i’ve been able to put together despite the information blackout. Chocolate, coffee (even decaf), carbonated drinks, simple sugars (high GI carbs), turkey, onions, garlic, citrus and tomatoes (among others) all contain certain compounds that weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This is the muscle responsible for keeping the stomach contents from creeping back up the esophagus (reflux)causing pain and misery. For example in chocolate the culprit is the serotonin released after you eat it. Serotonin relaxes the LES. This won’t be the case for all babies because maturity of the GI tract varies. A further developed LES will be able to tolerate a little loosening without losing it’s ability to function. Saying my baby could tolerate chocolate so yours should be able to is equivalent to telling the peanut allergy kid he’s a wussy and should just have a pb&j. Seperate from the reflux issue is then the gassy issue. Onions, broccoli, cabbage etc can make your baby gassy just like it can you – no rocket science there. Then finally there are the real food allergies – these are issues with protiens – milk, soy, nuts, eggs etc, with milk being the most common. So what does a person do? Baby number 1 and I suffered through – she was gaining well due to my willingness to feed on demand so no reflux diagnosis was even suggested by the 3 doctors i took her to. This was 2003 and my first child and i’d never heard of it. Mostly I was told i was coddling her and to let her cry it out. “Babies cry – get over it”. Fortunately at 15 months she improved on her own. When baby number 2 began to exhibit the same behaviours, I knew this wasn’t right and began anew my investigation into what could be wrong. Unfortunately, it took me until he was almost 9 months old to realize the ‘experts’ were not being truthful and that what i was eating was contributing to my son’s genetic predisposition towards a weak/underdeveloped LES. I eliminated all of the above mentioned foods and he went from “spitting up” 20 or more times a day to NOT AT ALL. Unfortunately his sleep patterns were blown to bits by then and it still took a long time to achieve a blessed 2 hours between wake ups (no doubt his LES and esophagus were so irritated by then they needed time to heal). My goal for #3 is to minimize the problem foods from the beginning and do everything i can to keep from irritating that poor little muscle. I have found some vague references to plant proteins helping to strengthen the LES so chick peas here I come! Cross your fingers for me! Sorry for the ridiculously long post but i feel so desperately for all those going through this with no support and worse – being judged by those who don’t know how lucky they were with their own kids.

  • Sarah,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is sad that the “experts” often stir women wrong in telling them their own diet doesn’t affect their breastfeeding baby. I’m glad you were able to figure things out with your 2nd, too bad it took so long and no one tried to help you with the info. Hopefully things with #3 are a lot better. Best of luck to you and thanks again for sharing your story.

  • Christi says:

    I’m so happy I found this,I believe chocolate may be the reason I have baby that cries for two hours every night. I have been addicted to chocolate ever since he was born and being it’s christmas baking time I have been sampling waaaay too much chocolate, I guess I will have to cut it all out to save his little tummy from all of the gassy pains. I hope this is the answer to his cries.

  • Christi,

    I would recommend cutting it all out to make sure that is what it is. If you figure out that is what it is you can still eat chocolate you just have to do so sparingly :)

  • Christi says:

    So today is the fisrt day without any chocolate :( so far I have had a happy little boy! He didn’t for two hours before bed like he normally would……I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’ll keep you posted.:)

  • Christi,

    So glad to hear you had a happy baby yesterday, hope it keeps up. It is a bummer that chocolate is the culprit, but hopefully you’ll be able to slowly reintroduce into your diet.

  • Christi says:

    Well it looks like chocolate very well might be the reason for a fussy baby. Day two without any chocolate and my lil man seems to be way happier. Iam so happy that he isn’t crying with pain because of me. We will see how the rest of the week goes. :)

  • Christi,

    So glad to hear your little one is feeling better, which means you are too :)

  • Kerri says:

    Good Morning. Thank everyone for their posts. I’m awake with my four week old every two hours tonight. After reading the blog that seems GOOD yet she is very gassy. Being it the holidays and I’m so tired I induldged in my sugar addiction everytime she’d awake. To stay awake to feed during the nights I’d have three pieces of Lindt Lindor chocolates and she reacted with lots of gas, hyper fussiness and just waking up more often.
    If it feels wrong it is wrong. There are consequences to indulging in artificial foods. I will push myself to leave out the chocolate and dairy (as that is artificial as well)
    So excited to see the results!
    All the breast in the New Year! xox

  • Kerri,

    At least you figured out what was causing the gassiness and can reduce your chocolate intake now to help your daughter. It sucks when you can’t eat chocolate but as her digestive system matures you should be able to slowly reintroduce it.

    Happy New Year.

  • Sher're says:

    It was comforting reading what everyone said about chocolate. My 6 wek old has been miserable and when I feed him I can hear and feel his little belly rumbling. He cried and screamed and although he constantly exhibited signs of being hungry, he simply wouldn’t eat. If he did eat it was very little before screaming again. After an absolutely exhausting day, during his middle of the night feeding time, he blew out sooo much gas that it was unbelievable. Sure there had been a little throughout the day but never enough to make him happy. I can only think that the culprit was chocolate. As I thought about it, these seemed to be the days that he was super gassy. The left over chocolate from Halloween that I was not allowed to eat during my pregnancy due to gestational diabetes. Since he was born I have indulged in chocolate, some days more than others. Days without it meant a happy gas free baby. Chocolate days equalled an unhappy gassy baby. Giving up my chocolate isn’t easy but worth it. I can’t think of anything else that would be the cause except the chocolate. It makes sense. Don’t be selfish and but your little ones comfort before your need for chocolate. :0)

  • Sher’re,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that eliminating chocolate does the trick for your little one and he feels much better. A gassy baby is an unhappy baby.

  • melissa says:

    My 6 week old has been a super fussy and gassy baby. He was doing better overall the last week or so and then it all started full blown last night again. When I thought about it, I hadn’t eaten chocolate for 2 weeks but did Saturday night for valentines and therefore looked it up today and found this. How long will it take for my little one to notice improvement again after stopping? I know I won’t be eating chocolate again! I hate seeing him in this pain!

  • Melissa,

    It shouldn’t take too long. With my daughter I saw some improvement immediately and full improvement within a few days. I hope that chocolate is the cause you get your happy little baby back and your little one starts feeling better.

    Lisa

  • Brandi says:

    My 3y/o son is allergic to dairy, wheat and soy. When my now 3mth old was born, she was in nicu and i wasnt able to spend those first nights with her because of this. Well long story short, after bringing her home and dealing with a super fussy baby i decided to check my diet. I’d eaten lots of dairy and chocolate during the nights in the hospital after birth and also the week of her being in nicu. At 6wks old she just became this very fussy baby and it would last for two-three days and then stop. At 8wks she had blood in her stool and it freaked me out to the point that i started searching the web because my pediatrician hadnt said much about allergies either. I found a few sites out there that blamed dairy in my diet for the blood in her stool. I finally eliminated dairy and chocolate from my diet and all was well until i found dairy free/nut free chocolate. I started eating it like crazy and my baby developed reflux. So the LES is real and yes it is caused by chocolate and also for my baby…it was caused by over active letdown. Its hard giving up foods that you like and chocolate is one but i enjoy the breastfeeding and the comfort it gives to my baby. I have tried eating small bits of chocolate every other day but no more than 3 times and week and that seems to work fine but if i do 2-3 days in a row she starts spitting up alot alot. Other food that i gave up Peanut Butter…i think it causes fussiness too.

  • Brandi,

    Good for you for being diligent and figuring out what was causing your baby’s fussiness. It can be hard to give up foods that we love, but in the end it is worth it to be able to keep breastfeeding and to have a happy comfortable baby. Good luck with continued success with breastfeeding your second child.

  • Actually it’s not the cocoa in the chocolate itself it’s how the chocolate is processed. If you are a true chocolaholic you can actually eat the Xocai Healthy Chocolate and stimulate your breast milk production as well as create a happy baby without the gassy mess. There have been many studies on the cocoa bean and I am more than happy to share them with you. Email me at lori@loriloanlady.com and I can get the info to you. I am also a Healthy Chocolate distributor so let me know if you want more info on that as well.

  • Janna says:

    I was actually wondering why our pediatrician said that the reason why she told me to avoid chocolate is because it may cause ecsema in the baby at a later stage. It is something I have never heard of. So, I was curious if there have been any studies done on that subject. Where would she get such information from? Or maybe some one heard this, too. I appreciate all the insights :)

  • Janna,

    It is possible for some foods that are common allergens to cause eczema in babies, especially if there is a family history of either eczema or food allergies in the family. I have heard of doctors recommending that a mom avoid food such as nuts, eggs and diary when a baby shows signs of eczema or food allergy. Since chocolate contains some, if not all, of the common food allergens it makes sense that it should be avoided as well. I found this site from the UK that mentions it, http://www.homehealth-uk.com/medical/eczema.htm. Hope that helps.

  • Janna says:

    Thanks, Lisa!
    I know that some foods could be strong allergenics and cause eczema. What was strange is that no one in our family has any kind of history of eczemas and me being a chocoholic I’ve been eating chocolate through the pregnancy and with my first child. It was just something new that the doctor said and got me curious. I did notice that when I don’t eat chocolaty things my baby is calmer and sleeps better, so I stopped the chocolate for now. I was simply curious of why the doctor would say that. Thanks any way! :)

  • Michelle says:

    What I also find amazing is that, when you’re in the hospital and breastfeeding, think about the foods you’re given on your tray! Milk, coffee, beans. All typical “triggers” for fussy baby (if he’s so inclined). And it’s at a time when you AND baby are most vulnerable. Now that my 4mo is starting solids, I may try a bit of chocolate back in my diet. Strangely enough, he’s never objected to my Italian food impulses! :-) Best of luck to all…

  • Michelle,

    That is interesting isn’t it! Hope you enjoy your first bite of chocolate when you finally reintroduce it :)

  • Kirsten Harris says:

    I have a neighbor/friend who is breastfeeding a newborn. The newborn cries and seems to be in discomfort much of the time. My neighbor has recently disclosed how she is addicted to chocolate and that she eats a lot everyday and “will not give it up”. This neighbor has also recently been prescribed “Zantac” (a drug) for her baby as he has gastric reflux! ~ wow I say Give up the Chocolate!!

    Chocolate in quantity can be very hard on the bodies adrenals,
    stomach (intestinal track) & colon.

    “chocolate also contains caffeine and theobromine, which can overstimulate the adrenals leading to further adrenal fatigue”

    “Caffeine such as Chocolate [ high in caffeine & theobromine that rob adrenals. Anyone craves chocolate means the body lacks magnesium”

    Oh and the “list of the most common foods that cause gassiness and fussiness in breastfed babies”….

    Chocolate
    Gassy vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and cauliflower
    Citrus fruits, including orange juice
    Coffee and other caffeinated beverages
    Overly greasy foods
    Onions and garlic, even in seasoning form
    Dairy products, particular if you consume a lot.

    As a 45 year old woman I can say I get gassy when I eat all of the above as well….

    So let’s start thinking of what we put into our bodies and how are bodies are affected and please consider moderation when eating chocolate & breastfeeding or even better don’t eat chocolate for 1 week and PUMP the “Good Stuff” with out the chocolate so baby stays unaddicted and happy.

    p.s…most mothers will not admit to an addiction, chocolate or other…nor will they admit to a childs discomfort from that addiction.

    I write this out of love for all babies & children who deserve to lead happy healthy lives and who can choose to eat chocolate as adults… hopefully unaddicted and in moderation.

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