Is it safe to do the Keto Diet while Nursing?
I am not a doctor and information on this site should not be taken as medical advice. As always, consult with your physician before starting any diet or exercise regimen.
It’s just about impossible to browse social media these days without reading about the all popular Keto diet. As a breastfeeding mama and advocate, this led me to question whether or not Keto is a good idea while you are still nursing your little one?
What exactly is Keto?
According to Ruled.me, A Keto diet is well-known for being a low carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy, versus using carbohydrates. It’s referred to as many different names – ketogenic diet, low carb diet, low carb high fat (LCHF), etc.
When you eliminate carbs (most Keto users aim for no more than 20g per day), you are re-programming your body to operate differently. For your whole life, you body has depended on carbohydrates for energy, and now that is going to change. It is going to use the fats consumed for energy.
The Keto Diet can be tough on your body when you first start out. So difficult on your body that there is even the chance of coming down with the “Keto Flu” which consists of nausea, constipation, sugar cravings and headaches. See how this could be tough with a new baby to take care of as well?
However, there are also a great deal of benefits that come from this diet. Obviously, weight lose is a big one. Furthermore, increased energy, clearer skin and some people even report being in a better state of mind from this diet. I’m sure you can see why it is so well-loved!
So is Keto safe while breastfeeding?
Before we jump into the question of the hour, let’s address one thing… if your baby is less than two months old and you are already searching for ways to lose the baby weight, it might be best to give your body a little more time.
I know the feeling of looking in the mirror 30 days postpartum and being shocked at what you see. On the other hand, I’ve also looked in the mirror after 3 months of exclusively breastfeeding and been AMAZED! Your body is wonderful, give it time to do what it can do naturally before taking on a new diet.
Now, if you are an experienced Keto-er and your baby is well past the 2 month mark, it might not be as much of a challenge for your body to take on these eating habits. But there are still some things to watch out for…
First and foremost, breastfeeding mamas need extra calories each and every day. According to KellyMom.com nursing mothers NOT drop below 1800 calories per day. Starting a diet that suddenly decreases your calories could cause a reduction in your milk production. If you do choose to take on a new diet, take measure to insure you are getting adequate calories. There a ton of apps that can help you track this. Keep an eye out to make sure your baby is still showing signs that they are getting enough to eat and watch out for any decrease in wet or dirty diapers. You can read more about the KellyMom views on Low Carb diets in the resource section below.
However, there are also mom’s who stayed above the 1800 calorie limit and still saw a huge dip in their milk supply (find the blog post link in the Resources section at the bottom of this post)
Water is the main ingredient of your breast milk. It’s also one of the main things your body uses up when it is in ketosis. Dehydration during the Keto diet is common. So when you combine that with breastfeeding, it isn’t difficult to see how combining these two things could lead to a dip in your milk supply.
If you are breastfeeding, aim to drink 12 eight ounce glasses of water a day. And if you are concerned with your breast milk production, be sure to read this post on how I was able to increase mine quickly and naturally.
In an interview with Parents.com, dietitian Elizabeth Ward said is is “best to err on the side of caution” when it comes to the Keto Diet. Her reasoning: Extreme eating plan that restricts mega-healthy foods for a breastfeeding mama (think fruits, whole-grains and beans) and the fact that passing ketones through your breast milk to baby is an uncharted territory. There are no studies that solidify if these ketones are harmful to baby or not, so this is why she suggests it is better to be safe than sorry.
There are also concerns of low fiber on the Keto diet, stemming from the decrease in whole grains consumed. Breastfeeding mothers who are decreasing their whole grains can get more fiber by eating fiber rich veggies like asparagus, zucchini and spinach, which are Keto approved.
Overall, there are experts who are definitely warning mothers to be cautious with the Keto diet. But are there moms who have still successfully done it and continued nursing? You betcha. Read The Keto Pro’s story below in the resource section.
However, like The Keto Pro, most of these stories came from mothers who had also done the diet prior to nursing and knew how their bodies would react and had a long list of healthy recipes that they knew would provide their body the kind of fuel it needed. Other first-time-keto-ers who were breastfeeding reported that easing into it was the best route for them.
So is it right for you?
Just like every decision that needs to be made by a mother, no one can tell you what it best for you and your family. The decision is yours and yours alone to make. If you need some additional help with talking through your nutritional choices while breastfeeding, consider contacting a lactation consultant for help.
If you are searching for more details on how to lost the baby weight and keep a balanced diet, be sure to read this post on how to lost the weight, but not your supply.
KelllyMom.com’s word of caution on Low Carb Diets
Team Healthy Mom- Saw a HUGE dip in her supply on Day 3 of Keto.
The Keto Pro- Began Keto while pregnant and continued through BF.