Q&A: Should I stop eating garlic if I’m breastfeeding?

Keen on chowing down on a garlic-laden dish, but worried it may affect baby through your breastmilk? You’re not alone, lots of breastfeeding mums assume garlic is off the menu. But is it?

I have a suspicion that garlic is upsetting my baby’s tummy. The last few meals I’ve made had garlic in them, and it’s giving bubs a sore tummy I think, as he has been super unsettled. Should I stop eating it while breastfeeding?

Claire, Mum's Grapevine Baby Group Member

Science suggests that the bad rep garlic is getting isn’t entirely justified. According to the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are a couple of studies that refute claims garlic in breastmilk causes colic.

In one study 153 mothers who answered a questionnaire were no more likely to report colic in their infants in the previous week if they had ingested garlic than if they had not. And in another, mums who were given either 1.5 grams of garlic or placebo capsules once daily in blind tests for three days were asked if their infants had any signs of were fussier, cried more or had more gas after the capsule ingestion. Four out of 20 women who ingested garlic thought their infants had colic; however, 4 out of 10 women who took the placebo thought they had received garlic and reported colic in their infants. Interesting.

However, a study by Germany’s Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg found that a garlic aroma is evident in the breastmilk of women who have eaten it. But they concluded that further research is needed to see if the aroma has an impact on which food preferences children develop. The study didn’t mention anything about how the aroma impacts a baby’s behaviour.

Bowl of garlic

In another fascinating twist, a study from the 1990s found that breastfeeding mums who were given a garlic pill had babies who nursed longer, sucked harder and drank more garlic-scented milk than those who had the placebo.

It seems science says (at this stage at least) that a mum eating garlic has little to no negative impact on a breastfeeding baby. But, as always, if you’re concerned have a chat to your lactation consultant.

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