The Impact Of Spicy Foods On Breastfed Babies

Are you an adventurous food enthusiast who relishes the delights of spicy cuisine? Spices have become an integral part of global culinary experiences, adding a burst of flavour to lots of dishes. However, for breastfeeding mothers, a genuine concern arises – what effect does consuming spicy food have on breastfed babies? In this article, we will delve into this topic, exploring the potential impact of spicy food on nursing infants and shedding light on evidence-based insights to help mothers make informed dietary choices. 

Nutritional composition of breast milk

Breast milk is an extraordinary and intricate natural substance, containing a vital blend of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals that are perfectly tailored to support an infant's development and growth. Beyond providing essential nutrients, breast milk plays a crucial role in safeguarding against allergies and diseases, given its rich content of various antibodies (immune cells).1 

The maturation of breast milk occurs in distinct stages, with the initial milk produced after the baby's birth known as colostrum. Often referred to as 'liquid gold,' colostrum holds immense significance in nourishing and protecting the newborn. While it shares the same ingredients as mature breast milk, it boasts higher levels of vitamins A, E and K.

In accordance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, exclusively breastfeeding is strongly advocated for at least six months after birth, followed by continued breastfeeding up to two years and beyond.

Considering the profound significance of breast milk in a child's development and well-being, it is only natural to be conscientious about dietary choices, as they can directly impact the composition of breast milk, including the intake of specific spices.2

Transfer of spicy compounds to breast milk

Research has shown that when spicy food is eaten by breastfeeding mothers, capsaicin (a compound commonly found in spicy dishes responsible for the burning sensation) significantly reduces its concentration and only small amounts end up in breast milk.

Another spice commonly found in curry dishes is piperine, which, according to research, can be detectable in breast milk for several hours after consumption. However, the amount of spice compound that makes it into breast milk (between 14 to 57 micrograms per litre), is approximately 70 to 350 times below the taste perception threshold (TUM) of an adult. As a result, the baby will be unlikely to taste any spices despite the presence of these compounds in breast milk. 

However, it's essential to note that the amount of spice transferred into breast milk can vary depending on factors such as:

  • The type of spice consumed
  • The mother's metabolism 
  • The timing of breastfeeding after consuming the spicy meal

Studies and research findings on the impact on breastfed babies

Recent research suggests that consuming spicy food while breastfeeding does not have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of infants. Concerns that spicy food consumed while breastfeeding could exacerbate an infant's colicky symptoms were also squashed by a study review of how the condition responds to diet during breastfeeding.

While several studies have investigated the effects of a mother's diet on breast milk composition, the specific impact of spicy food consumption remains relatively underexplored and the findings have been inconclusive, with some showing only minimal associations and discomfort in breastfed infants. Therefore, further research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of this topic.3

Recommendations for breastfeeding mothers

While completely abstaining from spicy food may not be a necessity, it is crucial to emphasise the significance of moderation in your diet while you are breastfeeding. By doing so, you can enjoy a relatively unrestricted, varied diet while attentively observing and monitoring your infants' reactions. Monitoring your diet alongside your baby's reactions to feed sessions can help you identify specific spices that may be causing discomfort. 

It is also important for parents to decrease their spicy food intake as their breastfed infants may exhibit fussiness, intestinal issues, or allergic reactions (MOH). 

Because every infant is different, what may fit one baby's palate may not necessarily suit another. In order to achieve a harmonious balance between appreciating the flavours of spicy food and making sure the infant is comfortable and well-cared after, a balanced approach is necessary.

Interestingly, some infants might actually benefit from the strong flavours of breast milk stimulated by spicy food. This could lead them to feed for longer durations, enhancing their appetite. These compounds could potentially have positive effects on the baby's digestive system and may even help alleviate symptoms of colic. Furthermore, exposure to diverse tastes through breast milk may foster a broader palate and tolerate stronger flavours as they continue to develop and grow.4

Myth vs. reality: cultural and regional perspectives

The topic of spicy food and breastfeeding has been influenced by diverse cultural and regional perspectives. One prevalent belief is that consuming spicy food while breastfeeding can lead to issues such as colic or irritability, and even cause conditions like 'diaper rash' in babies. This is a common belief in many Asian cultures (for example, in Korean culture) where spicy food is widely perceived as harmful, leading to the strict avoidance of such dishes to safeguard the baby's well-being at all costs.5

Another study analysed the perception of breastfeeding diets in a European population and the results showed that while some people believe that a breastfed baby cries because of the mother's diet, a vast majority of respondents (96.3%) correctly identified this statement as untrue. 

Similarly, many people (89.5% and 88.9% respectively) recognised that eating spicy food or legumes while breastfeeding does not cause colic or bloating in the baby. The study also found that first-time parents and those new to breastfeeding were more likely to be cautious of diet than those experienced in breastfeeding.6

Misinformation about the risks and benefits of dietary choices can lead many to unnecessarily restrict their diets while breastfeeding. This can also cause undue stress surrounding feeding and potentially impact the duration of breastfeeding. 

It is therefore crucial to base decisions on scientific evidence rather than unsupported beliefs, allowing you to make informed choices about your diet and potential effects on your infants' well-being. By dispelling myths and embracing evidence-based knowledge, you can approach their dietary choices with confidence, ensuring a balanced and nourishing breastfeeding experience for both yourself and your baby.7


The effect of spicy food on breastfed babies is a complex and captivating topic thus, it remains under-examined and requires careful consideration. According to existing studies, the transfer of spicy substances to breast milk is overall insignificant and its effect on the short and long-term effects on the health and well-being of newborns is uncertain. Although some infants may tolerate and prefer the taste of breastmilk after consumption of spicy food, some may have adverse reactions and effects like becoming agitated or fussy. Therefore, it is essential to enjoy spicy foods in moderate amounts while carefully monitoring the baby’s reactions. Depending on this you can increase, decrease or completely eliminate spicy foods.

It is also critical to differentiate between myths and reality of the effects of spicy food on breastfeeding. Holding unsupported, false beliefs can result in unnecessary diet restrictions which can in turn cause stress. Overall, every baby is individually unique - what may suit one may not suit another.  As our current understanding of the relationship between spicy foods and breastfeeding continues to evolve, further research needs to be conducted to provide conclusive evidence. As of now, consuming spicy foods during breastfeeding should be done in moderation and with attentiveness to your baby.


  1. Martin C, Ling PR, Blackburn G. Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula. Nutrients [Internet]. 2016 May 11;8(5):279. Available from: Accessed 31 July 2023.
  2. Martin C, Ling PR, Blackburn G. Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula. Nutrients [Internet]. 2016 May 11;8(5):279. Available from: Accessed 31 July 2023.
  3. Jeong G, Park SW, Lee YK, Ko SY, Shin SM. Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding. Korean Journal of Pediatrics [Internet]. 2017;60(3):70. Available from:  Accessed 31 July 2023.
  4. D’Auria E, Borsani B, Pendezza E, Bosetti A, Paradiso L, Zuccotti GV, et al. Complementary Feeding: Pitfalls for Health Outcomes. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [Internet]. 2020 Nov 1;17(21):7931. Available from:  Accessed 31 July 2023.
  5. Jeong G, Park SW, Lee YK, Ko SY, Shin SM. Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding. Korean Journal of Pediatrics [Internet]. 2017;60(3):70. Available from:  Accessed 31 July 2023.
  6. Karcz K, Lehman I, Królak-Olejnik B. The link between knowledge of the maternal diet and breastfeeding practices in mothers and health workers in Poland. International Breastfeeding Journal. 2021 Aug 9;16(1).  Accessed 31 July 2023.
  7. Radzyminski S, Callister LC. Mother’s Beliefs, Attitudes, and Decision Making Related to Infant Feeding Choices. The Journal of perinatal education [Internet]. 2016;25(1):18–28. Available from:  Accessed 31 July 2023.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Rania Abbas

Bachelor's degree, Biomedical Sciences, General, University of Westminster

Drawing upon a background in Biomedical Science and completion of a PGCE, I am a seasoned writer committed to captivating crafting content. With a passion for informing, inspiring, and entertaining readers, I bring a wealth of experience and expertise to every piece. Whether unravelling the complexities of technology, exploring the wonders of science, or delving into the realms of literature, I am dedicated to delivering articles of the highest quality. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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