You knew to expect pregnancy cravings, but what you might not have expected was the continued sudden hunger urges you’re feeling as you breastfeed your new arrival.

So, if you’re struggling to stay awake for the 3 a.m. feeding and you suddenly feel an irresistible desire to raid the fridge for some jalapeño salsa, you might hesitate. Can you eat hot and spicy foods while you’re breastfeeding?

Go ahead and get that snack, then keep reading for more information about what you should know about eating spicy food while breastfeeding.

Yes, you can eat the spicy foods you enjoy while breastfeeding. There’s no evidence to suggest that spicy foods should be avoided for your baby’s sake, either during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

In fact, research shows that babies who are exposed to a variety of flavors through amniotic fluids during pregnancy and breast milk once they’re born may actually be more open to incorporating a variety of flavors into their own diet once they start eating solids.

Strong flavors, like garlic, mint, and vanilla, can affect the taste of breast milk.

While this may seem like a cause for concern, one study from 1993 found that infants who had not previously been exposed to garlic in their mother’s breast milk fed for a longer duration when the mother was given a garlic capsule.

Even in their earliest exposure to new tastes it seems that newborns are foodies in the making.

Also consider that, around the world, breastfeeding parents consume a variety of flavors. Spicy curries, tom yum, and wat are served at many tables without a second thought.

The more pressing concern for your baby’s safety is probably not eating spicy foods, but not dropping any hot foods on them while you’re trying to eat and nurse at the same time.

Now, if you’re concerned about your own reaction to spicy foods, consider your typical response. If you regularly consume spicier flavors with no issue, continue to enjoy whichever healthy options your cravings call for. Spicy foods can have considerable health benefits.

However, if you suffer from heartburn or stomach upset after certain foods, consider whether the current meal is worth the future discomfort for you. The foods you eat during breastfeeding should be healthy options that leave you feeling good.

Many people, ranging from your grandmother to that stranger in the grocery store, will happily tell you that you need to avoid foods like broccoli, tomato, and kimchi while breastfeeding.

Despite those old wives’ tales, there are very few foods you actually need to avoid unless you’ve experienced previous issues.

A study from 2019 found that many breastfeeding parents unnecessarily restrict their diets thanks to misinformation about the risks or benefits to their babies. The unfortunate reality is that this can decrease breastfeeding duration and cause undue stress.

The truth is that most people can safely continue to eat as they normally would throughout breastfeeding without ill effect.

Those foods you should skip while breastfeeding are items that are unsafe for reasons beyond flavor, including:

  • fish that are high in mercury
  • alcohol
  • excess caffeine (no more than 300 mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to two or three cups of coffee)
  • herbal supplements (unless given the go-ahead by a medical professional)

Your doctor may also suggest examining your diet if your little one is showing signs of a food allergy or sensitivity.

Possible concerns may include:

  • eczema
  • bloody stools
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • hives
  • constipation
  • wheezing
  • congestion
  • abnormal fussiness
  • excessive gas

If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to give your pediatrician a call.

It’s important to know that, in general, evidence shows that breastfeeding is helpful for protecting infants from food allergies, so you shouldn’t eliminate foods without first discussing it with a healthcare provider.

As at any time of your life, it’s important to eat a variety of healthy foods. You want to include plenty of nourishing foods that deliver the needed vitamins, fats, and energy to help you keep up with your little one.

It’s estimated that you need an additional 500 calories a day while you’re nursing. If you want to add in those calories by enjoying something with a little heat, go for it!

While you don’t want to restrict your diet to only Flaming Hot Cheetos and buffalo wings, adding in hot and spicy foods as part of a healthy diet is perfectly acceptable while breastfeeding. Your little one may even develop a taste for some of the spicy foods you most enjoy.