Is It Safe to Eat Low-Carb While Breastfeeding?
Yes, it is safe, as long as you don't go under 50g of carbs per day. To enter ketosis, you can consume anything under 100g of carbs per day. This is called a moderate keto diet. 30% protein, 40% fat, 30% carbs. Prehistoric women breastfed their children with hardly any carbs, sugar or grains in their diets; they ate mostly meat. So, keeping your carbs at 30% should not affect your supply, unless you drop your calories too low.
Some mothers have reported a reduction in milk supply during ketosis; this is mostly due to other related factors such as the following:
- Dehydration. Drinking enough water is vital while breastfeeding. How much water should a breastfeeding mother drink?
- Not taking extra Vitamins, Minerals, and Electrolytes.
- Not consuming enough calories.
- Not consuming enough fiber.
- Not keeping track of food consumed.
Why Should You Consume at Least 50g of Carbs per Day?
While breastfeeding, you lose lactose (sugar) via the breast milk (approximately 30g per day).
Most vegetables, nuts, seeds, and berries contain carbohydrates, but avoid all refined carbs such as those found in baked goods and pasta.
There is research that suggests that babies are born in a natural ketosis state. In fact, while nursing they remain in this ketogenic state. Your breast milk is about 60% fat! So, if babies are born to cope in this ketogenic state, then surely it should not be an issue for the mother to follow a MODERATE keto diet.
Here are the results from one study done in 2009, where they compared high-fat (low-carb) vs. low-fat (high-carb) diets in breastfeeding women.
- Daily milk production stayed constant on keto.
- Lactose production stayed constant; however fat concentration in the milk increased on keto.
- Babies consumed more calories on keto.
- Mothers experienced higher energy consumption on keto.
Based on this study, they concluded that mothers could follow a high-fat/low-carb diet safely, without affecting the milk quality and quantity produced. Even though we have the results from this one study, most information on this topic is diversified and scarce; therefore, it is best to adopt a moderate keto diet (at least 50g carbs per day) while breastfeeding.
Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers on a Ketogenic Diet
- Anticipate an adjustment period. You might experience flu-like symptoms; this is often referred to as “keto flu." Because of this, I would not recommend starting keto during the first few weeks after birth. You need to make sure that your milk supply is fully established before you begin this new lifestyle. 6 weeks of exclusive breastfeeding is used as a rule-of-thumb when it comes to establishing supply.
- Stay hydrated. On a ketogenic diet, water requirements are high. A breastfeeding mother needs extra water to recover from labor as well as produce sufficient milk. So the combination of these two will require a much higher increase in water intake. Drinking electrolytes mixed in your water is a fast and easy way to stay hydrated. Coconut water is excellent at hydration and is a wonderful galactagogue (it increases milk supply).
- Vitamins and minerals on a ketogenic diet are imperative. A high-quality greens powder can provide you with all the added nutrition you need. It is also healthier because it is derived from real food, just in powder form. Be sure to get in enough calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Ensure that you know how many calories you need to consume. Use our breastfeeding calorie calculator to calculate your daily calorie needs while breastfeeding. Not eating enough calories will decrease supply and your energy levels. Be sure to reduce your calories gradually. A sudden decrease may cause your body to enter “starvation mode" in which case a drop in milk supply is inevitable. Do not over-restrict your calories.
- Consume plenty of keto-friendly vegetables to ensure that you are taking in enough fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
- Always keep track of your macronutrients. To keep track of your fats, carbs, protein, and calories “Fat secret" and "SparkPeople" are great options.
If you are aware of what your body is telling you, keep an eye on your milk supply, your baby’s diaper output, and weight gain, and implement the above information, you should be on your way to healthy weight loss while successfully breastfeeding your baby. Please always talk to your doctor before changing your diet, especially if you are taking any medication.
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