Have you wondered if you can safely consume chocolate while you are breastfeeding? Let’s discuss!
Overall, chocolate is safe to consume in small amounts while nursing. However, depending on the type of chocolate, it can contain caffeine and theobromine, which should be limited when nursing. Therefore, stick with a square or two of chocolate a day.
Read on to learn more about the specific types of chocolate and how to incorporate them into your diet safely while breastfeeding.
Can I Eat Chocolate While Breastfeeding? Is It Safe?
Eating chocolate in small amounts is considered safe while you are breastfeeding. However, chocolate tends to be high in fat and sugar. Therefore, it should be consumed in moderation as it can contribute to unwanted weight gain, fatigue, or diabetes (source: American Pregnancy Association).
The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day (six teaspoons), while men should consume no more than 36 grams per day (nine teaspoons).
Added sugars are essentially empty calories that do not provide any nutritional value. In comparison, natural sugars are those found in fruits, such as fructose.
Additionally, some variations of chocolate, such as dark chocolate, contain higher amounts of caffeine. Breastfeeding women should consume no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine each day (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]).
Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding can contribute to infant irritability, poor sleep patterns, jitteriness, and other symptoms.
These symptoms are especially likely to occur in breastfed infants who are premature or younger newborn babies (source: CDC).
Therefore, if you are nursing a very young baby, take extra care to avoid consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, including from other sources such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, and more.
Let’s dive into some of the most popular types of chocolate and their safety considerations for breastfeeding women.
- Dark Chocolate: There are 50 to 60 milligrams of caffeine in two ounces of 70% dark chocolate. However, it also contains more concentrated amounts of antioxidants and less fat and sugar than white or milk chocolate (source: Cleveland Clinic). Dark chocolate contains a minimum of 35 percent cacao (source: American Heart Association).
- Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolate contains approximately 10 percent cacao (source: American Heart Association). Milk chocolate has less caffeine than dark chocolate and more fat (source: USDA FoodData Central). However, it still contains smaller amounts of the vitamins and minerals that dark chocolate has, with double the amount of sugar.
- White Chocolate: White chocolate, which does not contain any cacao, is lower in calories but is mainly comprised of sugar with less nutritional value (source: USDA FoodData Central).
- Chocolate Milk: Chocolate milk is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium and vitamin D (source: USDA FoodData Central). However, regular milk is more nutritious because it is lower in sugar.
- Hot Chocolate: Hot chocolate is typically high in sugar and fat, but if made with milk, it can also have beneficial protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Chocolate Cake: Chocolate cake is high in sugar, fat, and calories and often lacks nutritional benefits.
Chocolate also contains a compound called theobromine that potentially has stimulating effects on the infant (source: National Library of Medicine). However, consuming small amounts of chocolate is unlikely to cause harm. Just stick with a square or two each day.
Is Chocolate a Good or Bad Idea When Breastfeeding?
Chocolate has many potential health benefits while you are breastfeeding. These health benefits are more pronounced in dark chocolate, since it contains more cacao.
Dark chocolate contains flavonols, which help relax blood vessel muscles and may even lower blood pressure (source: Cleveland Clinic). Additionally, as mentioned above, dark chocolate contains antioxidants that help protect the body’s cells from harmful free radicals naturally produced by bodily processes such as metabolism.
Chocolate has also been associated with decreased insulin resistance and lower blood pressure (source: American Heart Association).
Of course, aside from these health benefits, a small piece of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can be a sweet treat, even while breastfeeding. After a meal, a piece of chocolate can help you feel satisfied.
If you enjoy chocolate, go ahead and have a small amount. However, if you do not fully enjoy chocolate and are simply eating it for its health benefits, it would be better to opt for an antioxidant-rich piece of fruit or high-protein yogurt instead.
Does Chocolate While Breastfeeding Cause Colic?
You may have heard that consuming chocolate while nursing can cause colic in your baby. A few studies have demonstrated a relationship between maternal caffeine consumption, specifically through coffee and chocolate, and infant colic (source: Swiss Medical Weekly).
However, more research needs to be done to strengthen the body of evidence and determine if caffeine was the cause of the colic.
Overall, chocolate can be a safe treat while you are nursing, as long as it is consumed in small amounts. I hope this article helped break down the benefits and downsides of consuming chocolate while you are breastfeeding.