In this article, we’ll look at foods to avoid during confinement before answering common questions about what postpartum mothers can or cannot eat.
The confinement period is an important time to recover from labour and bond with your baby. Mothers need to focus on getting a balanced diet with nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Taking healthy foods provides postpartum mothers with the energy they need to get through the day (and sleepless nights), recover from delivery wounds, and produce enough breast milk for their newborns.
Foods to Avoid During Confinement
Generally, a balanced diet consists of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy sources. But with all the old wives' tales going around, it might be helpful to know which types of food have been proven to be bad for you and your baby.
Here are 6 types of food to limit or avoid during the confinement period.
1. Fast Food.
Fast food and highly processed food like white bread, burger patties, nuggets, potato chips, and fries only add calories to your diet. These foods are loaded with trans-fat, sugar, and salt but have little nutritional benefit.
Some of the key nutrients lacking in fast food include:
- Fiber. To promote a healthy bowel movement and reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.
- Iron. An essential ingredient to make new red blood cells. Iron is important to recover from blood loss that happens during childbirth.
- Zinc and Vitamin C. To support wound healing and strengthen the immune system.
- Calcium. Postpartum mothers need at least 1300mg of calcium a day1 for healthy bones and to produce breast milk.
Though it is considered acceptable to enjoy fast food every once in a while, it is a good idea to avoid them when you can. Instead, take whole foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
2. Sugary Drinks.
Sugary drinks like soft drinks and fruit juices should be avoided during the confinement period. If taken excessively, sugary drinks may cause weight gain and are linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A study published in the American Journal of Nutrition also revealed the detrimental effects of sugary beverages and juices on breastfed babies. In the study, mothers who frequently take sugary drinks in the first month postpartum resulted in their babies performing poorly in a cognitive test.
3. Fish High in Mercury.
Fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. However, certain fish have a high mercury content which is harmful to babies.
Acute mercury poisoning could impair both the physical and cognitive development of babies. So avoid taking fish with high mercury content like:
- Big-eye tuna
- King mackerel.
Fish with a low mercury content that is safer for mothers during confinement include Atlantic mackerel, salmon, haddock, and flounder.
Alcohol is passed down in breast milk and can be detected up to two to three hours following consumption. According to the CDC, there are two reasons why breastfeeding mothers should not drink alcohol.
Firstly, alcohol disrupts the milk ejection reflex and may reduce milk supply over time. Alcohol exposure also interrupts babies’ sleep patterns and causes developmental delays. The effect of alcohol is more pronounced during the confinement period when the body is regulating milk supply and the baby is smaller and more sensitive to alcohol.
Secondly, alcohol may cloud a mother’s judgment to care for her newborn safely. It is also dangerous to co-sleep with your newborn after taking alcoholic beverages.
While moderate consumption3 of alcohol is not known to be harmful, the safest option is to avoid alcohol during breastfeeding.
Caffeine is another category of food or beverage that you may want to limit during the postpartum period. Similar to alcohol, caffeine enters breast milk in small amounts.
Unfortunately, a newborn’s body is smaller so it takes longer to process caffeine. High levels of caffeine, around 10 cups of coffee per day, may result in your breastfed baby being more irritable, fussy, and having poor sleeping patterns4.
Typically, taking a low to moderate amount of caffeine (of up to 300 milligrams or two to three cups of coffee) is considered safe. But if your baby can’t tolerate this, it could be worthwhile to avoid coffee and other foods and drinks with caffeine such as:
- Energy drinks
6. Colic-Inducing Foods.
Colic is when a baby cries intensely, frequently, and for an extended time. Babies who are colic are difficult to console, and this can be quite frustrating for parents.
Some studies suggest that maternal diet may influence infantile colic. Some of the foods that are thought to cause colic in infants are:
- Highly allergenic foods, like cow’s milk, peanut, fish, wheat, and soy.
- Gassy foods, like broccoli, cauliflower, onions, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage.
- Caffeine. Present in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks.
- Strong tasting foods, like garlic, durian, and very spicy food.
If you suspect that your baby may have colic, you might want to experiment by excluding these foods one at a time. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist before eliminating any types of food from your diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I eat eggs during confinement?
Eggs are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats. They are very versatile too and you can have them for any meal of the day, including snacks.
Generally, eggs are perfectly safe to take during confinement. There’s no need to exclude eggs from your diet unless your breastfed baby shows signs of allergy to them.
2. Can I eat tofu during confinement?
Tofu is a plant-based protein and a non-dairy source of calcium. This popular food is known to be safe to consume for postpartum mothers. So if you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet, tofu can be a go-to option during confinement.
3. Can I eat garlic during confinement?
Garlic is a flavouring ingredient used in many recipes. Some mothers claim that garlic is a potent natural herb that boosts milk supply.
However, the food that mothers eat influences the taste of breast milk. While it is considered safe to eat garlic during confinement, mothers might want to eat this sparingly due to its strong taste and smell.
4. Can I eat bananas during confinement?
Bananas contain vitamin C and provide energy to mothers during confinement. Research also suggests that taking this fruit may ease constipation.
You can take bananas during confinement. But if taking too much worsens your baby's colic, simply opt for other fruits.
5. Can I eat prawns during confinement?
Mothers can take prawns or shrimps during confinement. Prawns are a great source of lean protein that helps the body recover from pregnancy and giving birth.
Moreover, the EPA and DHA in prawns are also thought to reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression. And if you're breastfeeding, your baby could benefit from the choline and Omega-3 fatty acids present in prawns. These key nutrients help develop your baby’s brain.
6. Can I eat chocolate during confinement?
Chocolate is a yummy treat loved by many. It is a mood booster that also has a calming effect. And if you’re a fan, fret not. Taking chocolate during confinement is perfectly fine for most mothers and babies.
But some babies do not tolerate the caffeine in chocolate too well. When you take too much caffeine, your little one might be gassy, restless, and fussy. In this case, you can skip chocolate altogether. Otherwise, try white or milk chocolate as these have less caffeine compared to dark chocolate.
7. Can I eat cake during confinement?
There isn’t any strong evidence suggesting against eating cake during confinement and breastfeeding. The only concern is that cakes are typically high in sugar and fat. So remember to take them in moderation.
8. Can I eat bread during confinement?
If you can safely take bread before pregnancy, then you should be fine taking them during confinement. Bread is a source of carbohydrates that provides energy. Choose wholemeal bread instead of white bread for extra fibre and to keep you energized longer.
Pregnancy and giving birth cause many changes to the body. On top of that, enduring long hours of labour is physically taxing. This is why newborn mothers often feel weak and tired.
So make the best out of your confinement period by fueling the body with nourishing food. Avoid fast food and sugary drinks. Rather, eat whole foods that are minimally processed to optimize the nutrient intake of the body.
It’s also important to know that certain types of fish, alcohol, caffeine and colic-inducing food may harm your breastfed baby or make them colicky.
You may ask, what about the rest of the food out there? Can I eat them during confinement?
There is no standard answer for this. Nutrition is unique to each individual, taking into account allergies, intolerance, and other dietary considerations.
This is where we come in. At Phoenix Signature Kitchen, we want you to get the best postpartum meals tailored to your personal needs. Our team of experts will provide you with the best of traditional and modern, scientific-based nutrition.
Save time and energy by having confinement food delivered to you. Click this link to order your first postpartum meal with us today.
- 纤维 – 能促进肠道蠕动及减少某些癌症的风险。
- 铁 – 是制造红血球的一种基本成分。它对于恢复分娩时所流失的血极为重要。
- 锌和维生素C – 帮助伤口愈合和增强免疫系统。
- 钙 - 产后妈妈每天至少需要1300毫克的钙以确保骨骼的健康和母奶分泌。
- 2001. Healthy Eating during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding. Booklet for Mothers. World Health Organization, p.23.
- Berger, P., Plows, J., Jones, R., Alderete, T., Rios, C., Pickering, T., Fields, D., Bode, L., Peterson, B. and Goran, M., 2020. Associations of maternal fructose and sugar-sweetened beverage and juice intake during lactation with infant neurodevelopmental outcomes at 24 months. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 112(6), pp.1516-1522.
- https://www.cdc.gov/. 2022. Alcohol. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/alcohol.html> [Accessed 5 June 2022].
- https://www.cdc.gov/. 2022. Breastfeeding Special Circumstances. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html> [Accessed 5 June 2022].
- Verywell Family. 2022. Can I Eat Shrimp While Breastfeeding?. [online] Available at: <https://www.verywellfamily.com/can-breastfeeding-women-eat-shrimp-5217787#:~:text=Shrimp%20is%20a%20good%20choice,helps%20with%20your%20physical%20recovery.> [Accessed 6 June 2022].