7 Common Foods that Make Breast Milk Taste Bad

Breast milk is often called “liquid gold” because of its numerous benefits to both you and your baby. It contains all the necessary nutrients and antibodies that a newborn needs to grow and thrive. Breast milk has a naturally sweet taste that perfectly suits your baby’s taste palate (they don’t know anything else!). However, there are certain foods that can make breast milk taste bad. In this article, we will discuss the foods that can make breast milk taste unpleasant and the reasons behind it.

What foods affect the taste of breast milk?

As you move through this list of foods that make breast milk taste bad, keep in mind that these may not impact the taste of your breast milk. The taste of breast milk depends greatly on how much of these foods you consume, as well as other environmental factors (medications, water intake, etc.). The list below are the most common culprits of food that can potentially alter the taste of breast milk. These foods contain compounds that can be absorbed into your bloodstream and eventually make their way into your breast milk.

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1. Spicy Foods – Main Food That Can Make Breast Milk Taste Bad

Spicy foods such as chili peppers, hot sauce, and curry can make breast milk taste bad, or unpleasant, if you will. These foods contain capsaicin, which can pass into breast milk and give it a slightly spicy taste and odor. Some babies may find this off putting, while other don’t notice it at all. In babies with dietary sensitivities, spicy foods may cause indigestion, heartburn, and upset stomach, which can lead to fussiness and discomfort. If you love eating spicy foods, try giving your baby some Gripe Water before digging in.

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2. Garlic – High Quantities of this Food Can Make Breast Milk Taste Bad

Garlic is a natural antibiotic and has many health benefits, but it can also make breast milk taste unpleasant. It contains sulfur compounds that can pass into breast milk and alter its flavor. Moms who consume a lot of garlic may find that their baby refuses to breastfeed or shows signs of discomfort during and after breastfeeding.

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3. Citrus Fruits – High Quantities of this Food Can Make Breast Milk Taste Bad

Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and pineapples contain high levels of citric acid and Vitamin C, which can make breast milk taste sour, acidic, or bitter. These fruits can also cause diaper rash and irritation in babies who are sensitive to acidic foods. Moderation is key here. A small amount of citrus fruit is unlikely to have a significant effect on breast milk taste or the baby’s digestion. But if you’re drinking lots of orange juice, and/or eating 2-3 servings of grapefruits, clementines, or pineapples a day, try to replace it with something less acidic.

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4. Caffeine

Caffeine, blessed, blessed caffeine. The heavenly nectar that keeps all moms going in this phase of life! We hate to say it, and you probably already know it, but caffeine is a stimulant that can pass into breast milk and affect your baby’s sleep patterns and behavior. Breastfeeding moms who consume high amounts of caffeine may notice that their baby is fussy, irritable, and has trouble sleeping. Caffeine can also cause dehydration, which can reduce milk supply and make breast milk taste more concentrated due to lower water content.

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5. Alcohol

Alcohol can pass into breast milk and affect the taste of milk, in addition to impacting your baby’s development and behavior. Nursing mothers who consume alcohol should wait for at least 2-3 hours before breastfeeding to ensure that alcohol is metabolized and eliminated from their system. Alcohol has a bitter taste and strong odor, which can change the flavor and scent of breast milk. The effect on breast milk taste can be noticed as soon as 30 minutes after consuming alcohol and can last up to several hours, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed. Try to limit your alcohol consumption to one glass or can (6-12 oz.) when breastfeeding.

Keep in mind, too, that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, reduced milk supply, and breast milk that tastes bad. Plus, it’s empty calories.

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6. Dairy Products

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, don’t have a significant impact on the taste of breast milk. However in some cases, if you are sensitive to dairy products, then you may notice changes in the taste and smell of your breast milk after consuming them. If you experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products, it can alter the composition and taste of your breast milk.

Additionally, some babies are sensitive or allergic to the proteins found in cow’s milk, which can cause digestive problems, colic, and fussiness. If you think diary products may be causing your baby distress or is causing them to refuse the breast, try cutting those foods out for a time to see if your baby seems happier without them.

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7. Fish – High Quantities of this Food Can Make Breast Milk Taste Bad

Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the baby’s brain and eye development. However, some fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, and shark contain high levels of mercury, which can affect the baby’s nervous system and cognitive function. Some babies may find the taste and smell of breast milk altered by fish to be unpleasant or unappealing, especially if the fish is particularly strong or pungent. Babies also can experience digestive upset, such as gas or colic, if they are sensitive to certain compounds found in fish. Try to choose low-mercury, milder flavored fish such as some varieties of salmon, tilapia, cod, and trout.

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As we mentioned previously, it’s important to note that the effects of different foods on breast milk can vary depending on the individual mother and baby. Some babies may enjoy the taste of breast milk that has been influenced by certain foods, while others may find that it tastes bad to their little taste buds. Therefore, it’s a good idea to experiment with your diet and pay attention to how your baby reacts to certain foods to determine what works best.

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The effects of various food compounds on breast milk and the taste of breast milk can vary, but the general mechanisms of how they affect breast milk are often similar. Moderation is key. Try to not consume too much of any of the compounds listed above. It’s a difficult season of life to eat a healthy and balanced diet, but try your best for you and your baby! If you have any concerns about your diet or your baby’s feeding habits, speak with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant for personalized advice and support.

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Shannon founded Work Breastfeed Mom in 2019 during her second round of pumping at work. She was tired of googling the same pumping questions over and over again, and discouraged at the lack of websites aimed at working breastfeeding moms. So, she created one herself. Shannon lives, works, and doles out Puffs to her little people in sunny Florida. She has her MBA and works as a strategic planner for a large healthcare system. She is passionate about coffee, memoirs, paddle boarding, and skincare routines. Shannon is mom to Scarlett and Ivy, and hopes to have more babies if her career allows.