Can You Have Pesto When Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding baby

Short answer
The NHS advises that unless your baby starts to show signs of an allergic reaction to your breastmilk, there is no need for breastfeeding mums to avoid any of the ingredients found in classic basil pesto.

Long answer
Speak to enough residents of Genoa, the birthplace of pesto, and sooner or later one of them will tell you that pesto is the second thing a baby tastes, after its mother's milk. Even though we suspect that's a slightly embellished story, we think it sums up rather nicely the fact that in moderation pesto is fine for breastfeeding mums to eat.

The NHS states that the seven ingredients in the recipe for traditional pesto - basil, oil, pine nuts, garlic, Pecorino, Parmesan and salt - are all perfectly fine to eat during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding. In fact, it takes a surprisingly relaxed approach to the diets of breastfeeding mums and broadly advises that as long as you follow a healthy, balanced, and varied diet then there is very little that is off limits.

Anything you avoided during pregnancy (fish high in mercury, unpasteurised cheese, cured meats etc.) should continue into your breastfeeding journey. However, unless you are consuming a particularly wacky pesto (such as Sacla's 'nduja pesto that contains a salty, cured sausage) then you're unlikely to encounter any of them.

Fat and salt content are two things to avoid eating excessive amounts of whilst breastfeeding. By its very nature pesto is high in fat and even though it falls into the "good fat" category (i.e. high in polyunsaturated fat and low in saturated fat) it's still very high in calories so should only be enjoyed in moderation.

The jury is out on spices. Some mums worry that eating sauces with very strong flavours like chillies, onions and some spices may upset their babies' tummies, but you certainly don't find millions of Asian mums cutting back on spicy food whilst breastfeeding.