The ketogenic diet (KD) or keto diet is a high fat, moderate protein, and restricted or very low carbohydrate eating pattern, which could help an individual lose weight. This diet differs from other healthy diet recommendations since many carbohydrate-rich foods, such as fruits, cereals, and whole grains, are also a source of vital nutrients.
Although a keto diet while breastfeeding is not known to affect the milk supply, it may cause other health problems in many mothers. Breastfeeding requires additional calories daily. Therefore, a well-balanced diet, moderate physical activities, and eating to satiate hunger could be more beneficial to breastfeeding moms.
It is recommended to start weight loss plans at least six to eight weeks after postpartum since your body needs time to recover from childbirth (1). The postpartum period is also the time for a woman’s body to establish a good milk supply to nourish the infant. Read this post to learn about the ketogenic diet, how it works, and the safety of the keto diet while breastfeeding.
How Does A Keto Diet Work?
Carbohydrates are usually the primary energy source for the body. They are converted into glucose and transported around the body to fuel various functions. Excess carbohydrate is stored in the muscle and liver as glycogen, and it is converted into glucose and used when there is a shortage. You may have to keep your daily carbs below 50 grams per day in a keto diet. This may require a significant shift in your eating habits (2).
During the keto diet, fats are broken down into ketones to fuel the functions due to insufficient carbs for fueling body functions. Ketones become an energy source for the body during the keto diet. It could be considered a partial fast since the body breaks down fats in the absence of carbohydrates. A complete fast or starvation state may break down the lean muscle mass for fuel. However, the keto diet helps maintain lean muscle mass.
Can The Keto Diet Reduce Breast Milk Supply?
Although there is no evidence that low-carb diets could reduce the milk supply, a well-balanced diet is always recommended for breastfeeding mothers to maintain or lose weight. Most people on a keto diet may eat less than required since high-fat foods can be filling. This may make it harder for you to meet the daily calorie requirement. In addition to this, the keto diet may lead to dehydration.
Less calorie intake and dehydration could affect the breast milk supply unless you strictly stick to the recommended amount of calories and fluids daily. You may also consider the health risk of the keto diet on your baby’s optimal growth and development while planning for it. Always keep your dietician or doctor in the loop whenever you decide to follow a keto diet while nursing.
Is It Safe To Breastfeed On A Keto Diet?
A keto diet while breastfeeding is not contraindicated. However, restricting good carbs can also increase the risk of missing out on essential minerals and vitamins in the body and breast milk (3). These micronutrients are essential for the optimal growth and development of the baby. It may not be a good idea to try strict diets such as the keto diet while breastfeeding.
The keto diet may often cause the following problems.
- Keto flu is the set of symptoms experienced in the initial days of the keto diet. When the body adapts to ketosis, you may experience dizziness, low energy, mood swings, and an upset stomach.
- Kidney stones
- Low blood pressure
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Constipation and other digestive problems
- Risk for heart diseases
- Smelly urine and bad breath
Experts say that no one diet is good for everyone. A ketogenic diet can be safe for some nursing mothers. However, it may not be the case with others.
Tips For Breastfeeding While Following A Ketogenic Diet
The following tips can be beneficial for breastfeeding mothers adhering to a keto diet.
1. Get an expert guidance
It is recommended to consult a certified dietician before you go on a keto diet. They could plan meals and snacks for you based on your energy requirements and prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements as needed. Dieticians can also help you choose good-quality fats, proteins, and keto-friendly vegetables. You may also ask the expert about the other types of diet or eating habits, which are more convenient while nursing.
2. Try the keto diet before pregnancy
A keto diet before pregnancy may reduce the impacts of the keto diet on your baby. When your body is adapting to a keto diet, you may experience keto flu, and practicing earlier may reduce the inconvenience during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Do not forget to ask your doctor about contraindications before beginning the keto diet. It is also essential to ensure that you are not nutrient deficient due to the keto diet in the preconception period and early weeks of pregnancy.
3. Stay hydrated
Nursing mothers should drink plenty of water to increase their milk supply. A keto diet may cause you to lose more water from the body than usual. Thus, you may drink even more water to avoid dehydration.
4. Consume enough calories
Many may consume fewer calories than required while following strict keto diet rules. Try to add good fats and nuts to your diet to meet the required calories. You may also try keto snacks, such as guacamole (avocado dips) with low-carb vegetables, half avocado stuffed with chicken, and cheddar cheese and almonds, between meals to meet the caloric needs.
5. Eat fiber-rich keto foods
Fewer fiber-rich foods may increase the risk of constipation in many. You may add fiber-rich keto foods to avoid it. Leafy greens, lettuce, celery, cabbage, broccoli, and zucchini are some keto-friendly fiber-rich foods.
6. Keep a record of diet and milk supply
You may record what you drink or eat in a day and how it affected the milk supply. Monitoring baby’s diapers help to understand how well they are fed. Fewer soiled diapers a day may indicate that the baby is not well-fed. You may also notice your baby’s weight and length to know how well they are growing.
Why Should You Postpone Diet Plans While Nursing?
500-700 calories are used to produce breast milk per day. Although additional calories are required for breast milk production, weight loss may depend on the mother’s diet, feeding, physical activity levels, and pre-pregnancy weight. Eating a well-balanced diet may help nursing mothers to lose weight over time.
According to La Leche League International, consuming at least 1800 calories per day can help mothers lose around one pound (around 450 grams) per week (1). Although this may not allow you to lose weight as much as cutting calories, moderate exercise may let you lose weight at a safe pace.
Adding healthy vegetables and fruits and avoiding junk foods and empty calories from your diet can also be beneficial. Most exclusively breastfed mothers eventually notice weight loss in postpartum months.
Keto diet while breastfeeding is often considered for weight loss. However, you may reconsider weight loss in the immediate postpartum period unless your doctor recommends it. It is essential to enjoy your new motherhood and nurse your baby. You may try moderate carb diets instead of keto or try low glycemic carbs. Talk to your doctor or dietician to know the best recommendations based on individual factors.
2. Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss;The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
3. Babies Gone Keto: Low-Carb Diets and Breastfeeding;PeaPod Nutrition & Lactation Support