Many new moms have tried a keto or low carb diet prior to breastfeeding with success. It’s only natural that they might want to try it while breastfeeding.
I was one of those moms myself! In this post, I’m going to share my research along with my own experiences on if it’s safe to do keto diet while breastfeeding.
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Is It Safe To Do Keto While Breastfeeding?
Yes – it is safe to do keto while breastfeeding!
However, you should follow a modified keto diet from the start and do not do any prolonged fasting. There are 2 main reasons why this is really important.
- You don’t want to release toxins to your baby by going into a calorie/nutrition deficit too quickly. When you eat drastically fewer calories, your body is essentially detoxing to get rid of fat. These detox substances can be processed through your milk and released to your baby which you don’t want. An average of 0.5 to 1 pound of weight loss per week is a good pace for breastfeeding moms on keto. Slow and steady wins the race here.
- If you want to maintain your milk supply, it is important that you start with a moderate carb intake, especially at first. You want to ease your body into this way of eating. An elimination of carbs would drop your blood sugar levels, reduce milk production, and send your body into a shock for a few days while it figures out what is going on. Therefore, its best if you start with real, whole foods as your carb sources and maintain at least 50-100 carbs a day. Start on the higher side if you eat mostly carbs/processed foods before starting.
Is It Safe To Be in Ketosis While Breastfeeding?
Yes, you can be in ketosis safely while breastfeeding.
If you’re still getting the nutrients you and your baby need, producing enough milk, and eating enough calories, you can still lose weight this way. As mentioned, follow a modified keto diet while breastfeeding.
Can I Take Keto Pills While Breastfeeding?
Keto pills vary across manufacturers so it really would depend on the ingredients listed in them. Some herbs are okay while breastfeeding and others are not considered safe or ideal. Some may even reduce milk production.
If you’re looking to supplement, you can try moringa which is a real, super food that also acts as a milk boosting herb. In lieu of keto pills, you can also supplement with breastfeeding friendly protein powders that are low in carbs and ideal for keto while breastfeeding.
Another alternative can be using electrolytes as that is what many of them contain. Save yourself some money, and either use Himalayan salt and a squeeze of lemon in your water once a day or buy electrolyte drink packets.
Be sure you’re drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water. Your body needs it and so does milk production.
Reasons To Do Keto When You Are a Nursing Mom
The main reason why moms choose to do keto while nursing is because they want to lose the baby weight they gained during pregnancy. Other reasons include having more energy to take care of your baby and better sleep.
Keto actually helps balance your hormone levels due to low sugar and processed food intake. It is important to eat healthy for these benefits.
The types of food you will eat include green vegetables, animal protein, and lower sugar fruit like berries. You can also include nuts and seeds and some dairy if your body and baby can tolerate it.
I chose to do keto as a nursing mom because I gained about 50 pounds with both my son and daughter. I did it after both pregnancies with success.
In order to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight quickly, I followed a modified keto diet eating healthy foods (with an occasional treat) and lost weight.
I waited until both of my babies were 3 months old before starting though. I recommend other moms do the same. You want to ensure your milk supply is regulated and off to a good start before introducing a modified keto diet.
The Best Low Carb Foods For Breastfeeding Moms Eating Keto
When you’re following a low carb diet, it is important you choose foods that are healthy for your body. Real foods that will give your body the energy it needs to thrive and produce breast milk.
Here’s a list of the best low carb foods to eat while breastfeeding.
- Leafy greens – kale, spinach, and other dark leafy greens are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens also offer fiber to keep you full longer. Kale chips are a fun snack that helps you get in more greens.
- Salmon – Omega-3s are so important in postpartum and for your baby’s growth and development. Healthy fats are also a great way to keep you full and satisfied while reducing your cravings.
- Pasture-raised or wild-caught animal protein – healthy proteins are important during postpartum recovery. You can also add in bone broth to aid in recovery and help you feel full with minimal carbs. Full-fat yogurt is also a good source of healthy fats, probiotics, and protein. If you’re a vegetarian, be sure you’re eating enough beans, nuts, and seeds to get protein in your diet.
- Eggs – pasture-raised chicken or duck eggs (or your poultry of choice) are a great source of protein, choline, and many other vitamins and minerals which are essential to a baby’s development and your recovery postpartum. They are filling and can be used for baking or eating by themselves.
- Nuts – Walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts all offer healthy fats that are good to eat in moderation. You can add them to your homemade trail mix or put some on top of your salad.
- Seeds – Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds are all great additions to your smoothies or salads. They offer milk-boosting ingredients and will help you get energy, healthy fats and feel full. Trail mix is another way to get in these yummy seeds.
- Coconuts – coconut can be used for all kinds of things- from coconut bites (unsweetened) to coconut water (without added sugar). They can be a great low carb snack for breastfeeding moms.
- Avocados – another great source of healthy fats that help your baby’s brain development are avocados. They also offer a great source of fiber. You can scoop them out of the shell to eat as a snack, pair with your favorite crackers for guacamole dip, or add it to your salad. You can also use avocado oil in your cooking or salad dressing if you need some healthy fats.
- Berries – if you’re craving something sweet, berries are a lower sugar fruit that you can eat. While not part of a traditional keto diet, berries can be eaten on a modified keto diet, which is a better solution for moms wanting to do keto while breastfeeding.
- Grass-fed beef jerky – offers a high protein snack, but be sure to look for the zero sugar varieties to eliminate added sugar. If you’re on a modified keto diet, you may be able to opt for original flavor, but still keep an eye on your sugar intake (the lower the better – get your carbs from real foods rather than added sugars).
- Popcorn – offers fiber to fill you up while giving you a fun snack to eat. You can still enjoy a serving of popcorn while doing a modified low carb diet. No need to completely deprive yourself. Opt for real butter or coconut oil and Himalayan salt if you need to put some toppings on it. Avoid kettle corn because of the added sugar/sweetness. Popcorn can also help reduce those pesky cravings for cakes and cookies.
Things To Watch Out For When You Eat a Keto Diet While Breastfeeding
Let’s take a look at the things you need to be careful of and aware of in order to make sure you are eating a keto diet safely while breastfeeding.
Always keep an eye on your milk supply when you are doing the keto diet while breastfeeding. Monitor your baby’s diaper output (wet and dirty).
You can also do a pumping test if you’re unsure if you’re making enough milk for your baby. When in doubt, nurse your baby more and add more carbs into your diet.
Eating the Right Amount of Carbs
It’s important to follow a keto diet that is modified for a breastfeeding mom. You can always start at a higher amount of carbs and slowly lower the amount you’re eating. It is much more effective and safe to do it this way than to do an extremely low carb or keto diet.
Drinking Water (with Electrolytes)
Water is important to drink while you’re following a keto diet while breastfeeding. Breast milk is made of 75% water, and your body is made up of about the same.
It is so important to drink water and add electrolytes at least once a day to your drinks. You can use a simple Himalayan salt + lemon combination in your water once a day or add a powdered mix like Ultima. This is what I used in pregnancy and still use while breastfeeding.
Eating Enough Calories
It is important that even though your carb count may be reduced, that you are eating enough calories for your body weight and goals. Calories make milk, so you really need to be sure you’re consuming what your body needs to thrive and to also produce milk.
For most moms, this means at least 1,800 calories a day – this could be more or less depending on many factors such as your activity level, height, and other maternal factors.
Does Eating a Keto Diet While Breastfeeding Put You At Higher Risk for Ketoacidosis?
It could, yes. If a mom is diabetic especially, I would recommend working with your medical provider to create a diet that is more suited for your medical needs.
You can get lactation ketoacidosis from eating a low-calorie diet while breastfeeding especially if you are tandem nursing or nursing twins because you are using even more calories to produce milk for two babies. When there is both insufficient carbohydrate stores combined with an inadequate intake of carbohydrates, this can lead to ketoacidosis.
If you are experiencing vomiting, nausea, and abdominal cramping, seek medical attention and stop the diet.
When you are making milk for your baby, you are using more calories than a non-breastfeeding woman. Your body is using more calories in a “resting” state (while still producing milk).
You are also under a lot of stress as a new mom, so it is important that you are eating a modified keto diet (no extreme low carb versions) and not doing any prolonged fasting. Prolonged fasting (more than 12-16 hours) can put breastfeeding moms at risk of starvation ketoacidosis so it should be avoided.
Yes, it is safe to do Keto while breastfeeding! However, you have to be smart about your choices and eat a modified Keto diet instead of a traditional one.
Following a keto diet while breastfeeding is possible, but you definitely have to make modifications. Avoid super low carb counts, eat healthy whole foods, eat enough calories for your body type and activity level, and drinks lots of water.
Aim to lose 0.5-1 pound per week and the weight loss will happen for you. Slow and steady is the best method to lose weight while breastfeeding.
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