Drug Levels and Effects:

Summary of Use during Lactation:

Carrots (Daucus carota) containalpha- andbeta-carotene. A poultice of raw carrots applied to the breast has been used to treat uncomplicated breast engorgement during breastfeeding;[1][2] however, as with topical cabbage leaves, evidence of efficacy is lacking because engorgement tends to improve over time regardless of treatment.[3] Bothbeta-caroteneand carrot flavor are transmitted into breastmilk. Carrot intake can improve maternal and breastmilkbeta-caroteneand vitamin A status,[4][5] but excessive maternal intake of carrots can lead to a harmless, reversible discoloration of the breastfed infant's skin. Exposure to carrot flavor in breastmilk can improve the future acceptance of carrots by the infant.

Drug Levels:

Maternal Levels.

Beta-caroteneis a normal component of breastmilk and supplementation of nursing mothers withbeta-carotenesupplements increases the concentration in breastmilk.[6][7][8][9] However,beta-carotenefrom carrots and other vegetables are less bioavailable than from pharmaceutical supplements.[5]

A sensory panel of at least 8 participants smelled the breastmilk of 5 mothers who had been given 500 mL of carrot juice. The consensus of a panel was that the odor of carrots was strongest 2 hours after ingesting the carrot juice. The mothers were presented with timed samples of their own breastmilk and judged that the taste of carrot was strongest at3hours after carrot juice ingestion.[10]

A study of 15 women given an unspecified quantity of fresh carrot paste containing 15 mg of all-trans-beta-carotenewith a high-fat meal daily for3days. Measurements of breastmilkcarotenebefore, during and after the trial showed an increase inbeta-carotenebreastmilk levels. Study results were published only in abstract form and concentrations were not specified.[11]

Infant Levels.

Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Effects in Breastfed Infants:

A nursing mother was eating 2 to3pounds of carrots a week as raw and cooked carrots. The mother's skin was yellow in color, but her sclera were clear. At 2 months of age, her breastfed infant was diagnosed as having jaundice because of a yellow coloration of the skin. Breastfeeding was discontinued and the infant's skin returned to a normal color. The mother continued her diet and examination of the maternal serum found elevated levels ofbeta-carotenewhich was probably the cause of her infant's skin discoloration.[12]

Nursing mothers ingested either 300 mL of carrot juice (n = 20) or water (n = 18) 2 to3hours before nursing daily for a week. Their infants were then tested for their acceptance of cereal prepared with either carrot juice or water. The infants who had been exposed to carrots in breastmilk consumed less flavored cereal relative to plain cereal than the control infants and they spent less time feeding. The authors interpreted these results to be a form of sensory-specific satiety in which the infants become less responsive to a flavor that they have been extensively exposed to in the very recent past.[10]

Seventeen nursing mothers were given 300 mL of carrot juice or water for 4 days per week for3consecutive weeks during the first 2 months of lactation. Other study groups received carrot juice during the last trimester of pregnancy or water during pregnancy and breastfeeding as a placebo. At a mean of 5.6 months postpartum, the infants were tested twice, once with cereal prepared with carrot juice and once with cereal prepared with water. Infants whose mothers received carrot juice during lactation scored higher on measures of acceptance of carrot-flavored cereal and took in more cereal than those whose mothers received water, but the latter difference did not reach statistical significance. These effects were similar, but stronger among infants exposed prenatally.[13]

Possible Effects on Lactation:

Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.


1. Stapleton H. The use of herbal medicine in pregnancy and labour. Part II: Events after birth, including those affecting the health of babies. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 1995;1:165-7. PMID:9456733
2. Yarnell E. Botanical medicine in pregnancy and lactation. Altern Complement Ther. 1997;3(April):93-100.
3. Mangesi L, Dowswell T. Treatments for breast engorgement during lactation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;9:CD006946. PMID:20824853
4. Ncube TN, Greiner T, Malaba LC, Gebre-Medhin M. Supplementing lactating women with pureed papaya and grated carrots improved vitamin A status in a placebo-controlled trial. J Nutr. 2001;131:1497-502. PMID:11340106
5. Strobel M, Tinz J, Biesalski HK. The importance ofbeta-caroteneas a source of vitamin A with special regard to pregnant and breastfeeding women. Eur J Nutr. 2007;46 Suppl 1:I1-I20. PMID:17665093
6. Johnson EJ, Qin J, Krinsky NI, Russell RM.Beta-caroteneisomers in human serum, breast milk and buccal mucosa cells after continuous oral doses of all-trans and 9-cisbeta-carotene. J Nutr. 1997;127:1993-9. PMID:9311956
7. Canfield LM, Giuliano AR, Neilson EM et al.beta-Carotenein breast milk and serum is increased after a singlebeta-carotenedose. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;66:52-61. PMID:9209169
8. Canfield LM , Giuliano AR, Neilson EM et al. Kinetics of the response of milk and serumbeta-caroteneto dailybeta-carotenesupplementation in healthy, lactating women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;67:276-83. PMID:9459376
9. Gossage CP, Deyhim M, Yamini S et al. Carotenoid composition of human milk during the first month postpartum and the response tobeta-carotenesupplementation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:193-7. PMID:12081834
10. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Experience with a flavor in the mother's milk modifies the infant's acceptance of flavored cereal. Dev Psychobiol. 1999;35:197-203. PMID:10531532
11. Haftel LT, Berkovich Z, Zaiger G, Reifen R . The response of milkbeta-caroteneand lycopene to carrots and fresh tomato-paste supplementation. J Perinat Med . 2001;76. Abstract.
12. Thomson ML. Carotinaemia in a suckling. Arch Dis Child. 1943;18:112. Letter.
13. Mennella JA, Jagnow CP, Beauchamp GK. Prenatal and postnatal flavor learning by human infants. Pediatrics. 2001;107:1-6. PMID:11389286

Substance Identification:

Substance Name:


Scientific Name:

Daucus carota

Drug Class:

  • Complementary Therapies

  • Food

  • Phytotherapy

  • Plants, Medicinal

  • Administrative Information:

    LactMed Record Number:


    Last Revision Date:

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