WHAT IS KETO? | IS KETO SAFE WHILE BREASTFEEDING? | KETO AND MILK SUPPLY | MY EXPERIENCE BREASTFEEDING ON KETO | TIPS FOR GOING KETO WHILE BREASTFEEDING
So you’ve got yourself a brand new baby— congratulations Mama! AND you’re breastfeeding? Oh my! YOU are a champion! As a first-time Mama, I had no idea how challenging breastfeeding would be. In fact, there’s a whole training process involved (for Mommy and baby). Who knew you had to hold your breast like a hoagie and shove the boob in so aggressively?
If you’re anything like me, after sharing your body for the past 9 months, you’re itching to get back to looking (and feeling) like yourself! With 44 pounds to shed, I was eager to jump on a diet plan. However, the last thing I wanted was to compromise my milk supply (and baby’s health). As a Keto Coach, naturally, I was most curious about the ketogenic diet. I wondered if keto was the optimal diet for Mama and baby. Ultimately, I wanted to know if the ketogenic diet was breastfeeding-friendly. Here’s what I found.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet. As it’s commonly called, keto shares many attributes with primal diets such as paleo and carnivore.2
The ketogenic diet involves reprogramming the body to rely on fat (rather than glucose) for fuel. This is accomplished by eliminating sugar and drastically reducing carbohydrate intake. Doing so effectively prompts the body into a state of ketosis.3
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body relies on ketones for fuel. Ketones are produced in the liver from fat. During ketosis, the body directly breaks down its fat stores into energy instead of slowly converting fat and muscle cells into glucose for energy. Essentially, your body is in a state of ketosis when it’s feasting on fat for fuel. You can achieve ketosis through diet (such as the ketogenic or carnivore diet), fasting, exogenous ketones, or a combination of a few.4
Is Keto Safe While Breastfeeding?
It’s no secret— the ketogenic diet is wildly successful at slimming the waistline— which explains its recent popularity.5 Beyond weight loss, keto is catching the attention of postpartum women for other reasons as well. Research supports the ketogenic diet may significantly boost energy levels and aid in hormone restoration.6,7 Yes, please! Regardless of numerous ketogenic benefits, the concern remains— is keto safe while breastfeeding?
The truth is, there’s not a lot of empirical evidence supporting the health claims (or hazards) of consuming a ketogenic diet while breastfeeding. That said, you should be aware (in rare cases) going keto while breastfeeding can lead to a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis.8
According to Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt of Diet Doctor, “There have been fewer than 10 published cases of ketoacidosis specifically connected to breastfeeding on a low-carb diet. So the risk is likely quite low, and apparently, each case ended happily.” However, things could have easily gone the other way.
To answer the question— no, keto is not 100% safe while breastfeeding.
To be safe, Dr. Eenfeldt suggests considering a liberal low-carb diet instead. This means striving for the high-end of carb restriction (at least 50 grams per day).
Does Keto Affect Milk Supply?
For some women, that sweet nectar flows in such abundance that they’re able to donate the excess.
Unfortunately, I am not that woman. My ladies produce just enough to feed the little man. Don’t get me wrong— I’m grateful— at least the milk is a-flowin’! To keep up with demand (and pump a little extra), I’ve noted various factors that can affect milk supply.
Factors that Affect Milk Supply
- Calorie consumption. In order to keep that beautiful baby alive, your body is burning a LOT of energy. Keeping up with your baby’s energy demands requires consuming more calories than you normally would. Based on a 2000 calorie diet, you can expect to consume anywhere from 200-500 more for baby.9 By this measure, underconsuming calories will inevatelbly affect milk supply.
- Alcohol and nicotine use. Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can decrease milk supply.10 Studies suggest alcohol can affect the balance of hormones (prolactin and oxytocin) that control breast milk production.11 Smoking cigarettes has a similiar affect. Smoking can interfere with the release of oxytocin and oxytocin is the hormone that stimulates the breasts let-down reflex.12
- Medication. It is always wise to conuslt your doctor before taking medications while breastfeeding. Some are safe, others are not. Furthermore, some medications such as Sudafed, Advil Cold, and Sinus, or Claritin-D may even contribute to low milk supply.13
Of course, there are plenty of other factors that affect milk supply, such as frequency of feeds, quality of latch, and individual physiology.14
My Experience with Breastfeeding on Keto
Although I really struggled to stay keto while pregnant, I was excited to get back to it for several reasons. First of all, for me, keto is truly a lifelong commitment. I feel my optimal self on a keto–carnivore diet— and after giving birth— I was anxious to get back to optimal health! What’s more, focusing on my diet was a way of returning to some sense of normalcy, and that’s something I was craving as a brand new Mama. Beyond that, I knew damn well keto would help restore hormones, increase energy, and shed excess weight.15,16,17
Understanding the potential risk of consuming a ketogenic diet while breastfeeding, I decided it was best to monitor my experience. Here are a few steps I took to ensure a successful ketogenic experience for myself and my baby.
Tips to Breastfeeding Safely While on Keto
- Schedule regular Pediatric checkups. This one should go without saying. Regular checkups will ensure your baby is gaining (and maintaining) healthy weight. Nikola was born 20 days premature. Fortunately, upon birth he was in the healthy weight percentile (although he was on the low end). 4 months of keto later and Niko had moved into the average zone of the healthy percentile. This means, regardless of my weight loss, Niko was gaining weight.
- Monitor ketones using a blood meter. Ketoacidosis is no joke. Although rare, ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition, and not one to be taken lightly.18 Fortunately, blood ketone levels can be accurately measured using a blood meter.19 Using a ketone blood meter will allow you to track your blood ketone levels while breastfeeding. I used the Keto Mojo blood meter daily during the first few months of ketogenic breastfeeding. To be safe, you’d be wise to test your ketone levels every day you plan on breastfeeding.
- Listen to your body. Signs and symptoms of ketoacidosis often develop quickly, sometimes within 24 hours.20 Pay attention to your body, if you’re feeling off consider easing up on the diet. Some of the initial signs and symptoms include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Weakness or fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Fruity-scented breath
- Listen to your baby. My experience with breastfeeding on keto has been a positive one. I’ve been able to produce ample milk to feed the man exclusively with breast milk. I also dropped 40 pounds of baby weight within the first 4 months— and at 40 years old— I was SUPER proud of that! However, if you’re not producing enough milk to adequately feed your baby, scratch the diet. You have the rest of your life to focus on weight loss and hormonal restoration. Focus first on fattening up the little one.
Tips to Going Keto While Breastfeeding
- Eat a clean keto diet. Dirty keto is not the best option while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is demanding on the body. The best way to ensure your baby is properly fed is to appropriately nourish your body. When properly formulated the ketogenic diet is one of the most nutrient rich diets on the planet.
- Stay hydrated my friend. Breastfeeding is super dehydrating. I learned this the hard way (no pun intended— oh my)! The last thing you want to face while healing from childbirth is constipation. Trust me— drink a TON of water while breastfeeding!
- Track your macros. Remember that breastfeeding requires additional calories. Therefore, it’s espcially important to calculate your macros accordingly. I would suggest calculating them with a small defecit, say 5-10%. That way you’ll be able to lose weight without compromising baby. Once you’ve calculated your macros it’s important to track them. You want to be sure to eat enough fat and protein to properly fuel your newborn.
- Try low-carb rather than keto. If milk production seems low, you could try upping your carb count. When Niko was first born I eased into keto by keeping it cyclical. After the first few months I felt more confident going all-in.
- Don’t focus on the weight. Take it easy on yourself. You just pushed a small human out of your hu-ha. Rather than getting all hung up on the scale, why not try focusing on your health? First things first— the health of that baby should come first. I trust you’ll get that weight off, you just might want to until after you’ve finished breastfeeding to focus on that.
- Now may not be the best time to go keto for the first time. Being a brand new mama is exciting, but it’s also super challenging. However, if you’re an A-type and there’s just no talking you out of this one, you may want to consider hiring a coach. Seriously though, I’m not just trying to plug my services here— but if there was ever a time in your life that you need serious support— that time is now! I’m available for a 30-min chat— I’d love to connect and help you on your way!
I’d love to hear about your experience with the ketogenic (or carnivore) diet and breastfeeding. Comment below and fill me in on your story!
Ready to “go-keto,” but have no idea how to begin?
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- What to eat on a CLEAN ketogenic diet
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Whether you’re well-versed or brand spankin’ new to keto life and looking for some help, you should check out Katie’s coaching program. Coach Katie lives keto all day, errryday. She keeps up to date on the latest science, so you don’t have to. But more importantly, she addresses your specific goals to help you achieve ultimate success on your keto journey. And it’s always better to have someone in your corner, guiding you along. So if you’re ready for total life transformation and ultimate keto success, schedule your FREE keto strategy sesh today!
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Katie Rodriguez nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.