Is Keto Safe for Breastfeeding Women? 👶
Many mothers contact me after giving birth wanting to lose their pregnancy pounds (soooo over the maternity clothes, right?!) Every single nursing mother I speak with expresses concern over how eating a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet will affect her breastmilk supply. As a fellow nursing mama (that's right, friends - Irie turned 3 in December and is still nursing at least once a day), I want to take the time to explain what a ketogenic lifestyle will do to your breastmilk supply.
Let's all keep a few things in mind before we go any further:
- Cavewomen did not have access at all to refined carbs or sugar - very few carbohydrates at all, for that matter - and they were still able to breastfeed. (Don't believe me? Check the census report... 7 billion people in the world, all whose ancestors were cavemen and women!)
- While I TOTALLY understand wanting to get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes, weight loss while breastfeeding need not be your primary goal. In fact, stressing over your weight will hurt your milk supply more than a change in diet. You'll get there, mama!
- I am providing you with the most accurate information available, and speaking from personal experience. I am not, however, a medical professional so if you are having issues with your body and breastfeeding before starting keto, please make an appointment and get checked out. Your baby's health depends on your health!
Okay, back to the main topic: keto and breastfeeding.
All of your vital organs, including your brain, love running on ketones for fuel. Good news: your baby's do, too - from the very beginning! That sweet little fetus uses ketones in utero, and will continue using them immediately post-birth. Babies are born in a state of ketosis and remain there while being breastfed, as breastmilk is made up almost entirely of fat - mostly saturated fat! Babe will remain in ketosis until s/he is given formula and/or solid foods.
The value of breastmilk and safety of breastfeeding while eating keto is clear, but what about your actual SUPPLY?! Any form of dieting while breastfeeding is going to affect the quantity of your supply, and following a ketogenic lifestyle is no different. It is likely that you will produce less milk, which may make you scared AF, sending you into a panic and eating a bowl of sugary cereal. Don't do it! The quality of your breastmilk is much higher because it is higher in healthy fats.
And there's a study to back me up!!
In 2009 Mohammad, Sunehag, & Haymond studied the effects eating a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet compared to a high-carb, low-fat (HCLF) diet had on breastmilk supply with a group of breastfeeding women. Check out the results!
- Regardless of the diet, daily breast milk production and daily infant breast milk intake remained the same.
- Neither diet had an effect on milk lactose or protein concentration, however, milk fat concentration and the calories of milk were higher during the LCHF diet than the HCLF diet.
- Infants’ daily caloric intake was higher during the LCHF diet than during the HCLF diet.
- The estimated average maternal caloric burn and the sum of maternal caloric burn plus caloric density were higher during the LCHF diet than during the HCLF diet
Because breast milk has a high fat content, in order to produce that rich, fatty, nutrient-dense "Golden Milk", mama needs to be eating lots of healthy fats, and good sources of vitamins and nutrients. That is keto! Yes, folks, you can get all of the nutrients you need from a high-quality ketogenic lifestyle. Organic grass-fed beef is one of THE most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Far more nutrient-dense than broccoli, which is considered a "superfood" and often mislabeled as having more protein than steak (FALSE). Check out the graphic here (courtesy of Ancestral Nutrition) for a side-to-side comparison of broccoli and steak.
Eating keto looks a bit different for breastfeeding women that someone who is following a strict ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting to lose weight.
Here are my tips to helping you maintain quality breastmilk while feeling your best on a ketogenic lifestyle:
Eat at regular intervals. A solid three meals per day is excellent!
Consume a solid 50 TOTAL carbs per day (around 25g net carbs). Carb sources are lots of leafy green veggies, macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, coconut products.
The focus must be on quality whole foods. Avoid processed "low carb" products and bars.
Eat at a 500 calorie surplus, even with weight loss is the goal. Calories are coming from the healthy carbs I mentioned above, along with high-quality fatty protein such as grass-fed beef, avocados/avocado oil, oil, coconut milk/cream/oil (coconut oil is the BOMB! It's got anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties to keep mama and babe supes healthy!), olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, macadamia nuts/oil/butter, almonds/almond products.
Drink LOTS of water! Dehydration may kick you out of ketosis, which is the least of your worries. It can cause major issues with your vital organs, so chug that water, girl!
Continue taking your prenatal vitamins, placenta pills (if you decided to do that), and do supplement with electrolytes and Vitamin D.
Begin your ketogenic journey now!
No one wants to go through the keto flu while pregnant or breastfeeding (and if you're following my Two Week Carb Cleanse, you won't go through it at all!) Not only can keto assist with fertility and overcoming PCOS, but since pregnant women naturally become more insulin-resistant to help their growing fetuses receive more nutrients, eating a low-carb, sugar-free, healthy-fat-filled ketogenic diet is the perfect way to stay healthy throughout your pregnancy!
I wish I had found keto before I became pregnant with my daughters. I wish I had found it immediately after Irie's birth since I was battling with postpartum depression. But, I live and breathe it now! Irie has been nursing for more than three years now. During this time I have traveled for up to a week at a time without pumping and when I returned, had no trouble continue to produce high-quality, nutrient-dense milk for my little girl. Who knows when we will finally stop breastfeeding? On nights like tonight, when she was too tired to eat a substantial dinner, I'm happy to have been able to give her the best going-to-bed "snack" as she fell asleep in my arms.
Are you a woman who is looking to become pregnant, is pregnant, or is breastfeeding?
I would LOVE to speak with you and help you fill your body with healthy fats to nourish you and your baby! Contact me for a consultation and opportunities to work with me 1:1.