Have you found yourself staring at the different flavors of ice cream at the grocery store, wondering which one is best for you while you are breastfeeding? Let’s unpack this!
Overall, ice cream is generally safe to consume while you are breastfeeding, with some specific considerations for certain flavors. However, this frozen treat is high in calories and fat, so it should be consumed in moderation.
Let’s do a deep dive into the safety and nutritional considerations of ice cream while breastfeeding, as well as briefly cover a few ice cream flavors that are typically of concern to breastfeeding mothers. Then, read on to learn more!
Is Ice Cream Good for Breastfeeding? Safety Info
It is generally safe to consume ice cream while nursing. However, while there is no imminent danger of eating this treat while breastfeeding, some considerations for your health are important to note.
According to federal law, a dairy-based, sweetened, and flavored product must contain at least 10% milk fat before it can be considered as ice cream (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]).
This holds true for store-bought ice cream, soft-serve ice cream, and more. In summary, ice cream is typically high in total fat and can be high in saturated fat as well.
For example, a half-cup serving of vanilla ice cream (approximately 66 grams) contains a little over seven grams of total fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat (source: USDA).
The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than five to six percent of your daily calories in saturated fat. So, for example, someone who needs 2,000 calories per day should only consume 120 calories, or about 13 grams, in saturated fat.
Consuming excess saturated fat can contribute to high cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. Ice cream is also very high in sugar which can contribute to unwanted weight gain.
All this is to say that you should enjoy your bowl of ice cream in moderation and in appropriate amounts, but consuming it every once in a while will not harm your breastfed baby.
Ice Cream Flavors When Breastfeeding
Now that we have established that ice cream is safe during breastfeeding but should be eaten in moderation. Let’s talk about some common flavors of concern for nursing mothers.
Many breastfeeding women are concerned about peppermint in mint ice cream or mint chocolate chip ice cream. However, peppermint is considered as “Generally Recognized As Safe” or GRAS by the USDA and is therefore safe for breastfeeding women to consume in normal food amounts (source: Drugs and Lactation Database).
Another common ice cream of concern is chocolate ice cream because of its potential caffeine content. Luckily a half-cup serving of this treat contains less than two milligrams of caffeine and is therefore negligible (source: USDA).
Similarly, coffee ice cream is of concern due to the amounts of caffeine it contains. A half-cup serving of it from Ben and Jerry’s contains 45 milligrams of caffeine. It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers limit their caffeine intake to 300 milligrams per day (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]).
Another is oatmeal or oat ice cream (such as the well-known Ben and Jerry’s variety), which many believe can boost their milk production. However, there is, unfortunately, no evidence that oats, oat milk, or oat ice cream can increase breast milk supply.
Cookie dough ice cream is also a concern because of the potential for raw eggs and raw flour. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that everyone, not just breastfeeding women, should avoid eating raw cookie dough and homemade cookie dough ice cream.
However, they specify that commercially-produced cookie dough ice cream is safe to eat.
Can Ice Cream When Breastfeeding Cause Gas?
While many different foods can cause gas in your baby, cow’s milk proteins (such as those found in many dairy-based ice creams) are among the most common (source: Texas Children’s Hospital). However, this often resolves after infancy.
It is important to note that every baby is different in terms of what can cause them gas. Therefore, do not avoid any foods in your diet out of fear that they may cause gas in your baby. However, be aware of what you have eaten when gas does occur to help you figure out what can cause your baby to be gassy.
If your baby does get gas when you eat dairy, such as ice cream, opt for a non-dairy alternative, such as sorbet or Italian ice.
I hope this article was helpful in breaking down the recommendations behind your favorite ice cream flavors and how to enjoy them safely while you are breastfeeding.