Is it Safe to Eat Spicy Food While Breastfeeding?

There are several myths about eating spicy food while breastfeeding. To what extent is it true that spicy foods should be avoided?
Is it Safe to Eat Spicy Food While Breastfeeding?
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 30 September, 2022

Many mothers refrain from eating spicy food while breastfeeding because they think it could affect the baby. In fact, some people claim that it leads to discomfort and irritability in the baby. Is this true?

There are even those who claim that eating spicy food while breastfeeding causes the baby to have colic and stomach problems. They also say that this occurs more often if the mother also has some gastric discomfort after ingesting the products.

It must be said that most of these claims are nothing more than myths. At the moment, there’s no evidence. Let’s take a closer look.

It’s safe to eat spicy food while breastfeeding

All experts agree that it’s safe to eat spicy food while breastfeeding. This shouldn’t cause any discomfort to the baby. If the baby is more irritable, gassy or seems restless, it’s most likely due to something else.

The essential composition of breast milk is always the same, regardless of what the mother consumes in her diet. In other words, it isn’t true that the mother’s food passes directly to her child when she breastfeeds.

What can happen when eating spicy foods while breastfeeding is that the milk may change a little in taste. The acids from the spicy food haven’t passed to the breast milk, just some of its flavor, but in a very subtle way.

We should bear in mind that, in many cultures in the world, spicy food is an indispensable element in meals. In those areas, there’s no restriction on breastfeeding mothers.

Are there benefits to eating spicy food?

To the surprise of many, not only is it safe to eat spicy food while breastfeeding, but it could even bring valuable benefits. The first of these is the change in taste in breast milk.

When the baby picks up that mild and subtle hint of spiciness in the mother’s milk, it begins to broaden the range of its taste perceptions. In one way or another, this enriches their palate and prepares them to be more open to new flavors.

There’s a study that shows that babies who are more exposed to diverse flavors through the amniotic fluid during pregnancy are more receptive to incorporating multiple flavors into their own diet when they begin to eat solids.

Some foods with strong flavors modify the taste of breast milk. These include garlic, vanilla, mint, and spicy foods. A research study found something very interesting fact in this regard. A change in the baby’s behavior was observed when a new element was introduced to the mother’s diet. The infants’ response was that they drank more breast milk than usual.

Spicy food while breastfeeding.
The spicy flavor can come in the form of spices, condiments or seasonings, which are sometimes a subtle addition.

Are there any risks in eating spicy food while breastfeeding?

No evidence has been found that eating spicy foods while breastfeeding affects the baby in any way. Even if this type of food does affect the mother, research shows that there’s no impact on the babies.

Spicy foods don’t make the milk taste bad in any way; it won’t have an unpleasant taste. The flavor traces are very subtle and the baby won’t receive the acids present in spicy foods. They’ll only experience a slightly different taste than usual.

Some parents are also concerned that eating spicy foods while breastfeeding will lead to allergy symptoms in the baby. It has to be said that there’s no evidence this is true either.

On the contrary, all indications are that children whose mothers are exposed to a wide variety of foods during breastfeeding then tend to develop fewer food allergies and intolerances. There still hasn’t been enough research on the subject, but it is an interesting hypothesis to look into further.

The right diet during breastfeeding

A breastfeeding mother should increase her daily calorie intake by 400 to 500 calories a day. She should only avoid food that causes her discomfort.

It’s recommended to be cautious with some food, although not because of its taste:

If the baby shows any type of reaction during breastfeeding, such as hives, vomiting, constipation, excessive gas, eczema, diarrhea, bloody stools, or similar manifestations, it’s advisable to consult your pediatrician.

A baby breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is full of myths, but it’s so important for the baby, that it’s good to remove all doubts during pregnancy.

Ask if you have any questions

Although there’s no basis for thinking that eating spicy foods while breastfeeding is harmful to the baby, if the mother notices any reaction in the little one, it’s best to clear things up with your doctor.

Each baby is different, but, generally, all of them develop a taste for foods that their mothers enjoy the most. However, if you notice a strange reaction in your baby after eating certain food, get in touch with your doctor.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Forestell CA. Flavor Perception and Preference Development in Human Infants. Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;70 Suppl 3:17-25. doi: 10.1159/000478759. Epub 2017 Sep 14. PMID: 28903110.
  • Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling’s behavior. Pediatr Res. 1993 Dec;34(6):805-8. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199312000-00022. PMID: 8108198.
  • Segura, S. A., Ansótegui, J. A., & Díaz-Gómez, N. M. (2016, June). La importancia de la nutrición materna durante la lactancia, ¿necesitan las madres lactantes suplementos nutricionales? In Anales de Pediatría (Vol. 84, No. 6, pp. 347-e1). Elsevier Doyma.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.