The ketogenic diet, or the keto diet, has been all the rage lately—but how well does it mix with postpartum life? If you want to keep nursing, what you eat (or don’t eat) is extremely important. After all, you’re your baby’s only source of sustenance until they transition to solid food.
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet is essentially the new Atkin’s diet—it’s based on a low-carb, high-fat intake, which causes your body to go into its ketogenic state, also known as ketosis. When your body is in ketosis, it uses fat stores for energy instead of glucose. This is a naturally occuring metabolic process, but one we don’t need to use very often anymore.
The keto diet has you limit your carb and sugar intake to around 5%, so that your diet consists of 75% fat and 20% proteins. By starving your body of glucose, the diet forces your body into ketosis so it burns stored fat instead.
The diet has grown very popular, because lots of people have found success with short term weight loss! The catch? Keeping your body in its state of ketosis is notoriously hard to maintain—this diet doesn’t allow any cheat days, because just one will snap your body back to normal function. The good thing is that most of the foods you can eat while on the keto diet are very filling, so it’s unlike normal diets in that aspect.
Some of the foods you need to eat most while on the keto diet are meat, fatty fish, cheese, butter, and eggs—all of which are good to eat while breastfeeding, too! To remain in ketosis, you should avoid alcohol, sugary food, grains and starches, fruit, and unhealthy fats like mayo and vegetable oils.
There are some possible side effects to the diet, like “keto flu,” fatigue, muscle loss, bad breath, smelly urine, and some digestion issues.
Can Keto and Breastfeeding Coexist?
It’s no secret that breastfeeding takes a lot out of you, and it’s easy to understand why—you’re producing enough nutrients to keep an entire separate human alive! That means your body is burning a lot of energy, and therefore requires more calories than usual. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, you need anywhere from 200 to 500 extra calories every day when breastfeeding. This is especially true in the early stages, before your baby can get any nutrients from solid food. At the beginning, you can expect to nurse eight to 12 times a day.
If you’re eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, those additional calories won’t hang around. They’ll go straight to who needs it most—your baby! It’s not uncommon for breastfeeding moms to lose a few pounds while nursing. In general, diets are not a good idea while breastfeeding. Cutting calories to lose weight can affect your milk supply, and giving your baby all the nourishment they need should be your top priority.
Your body is incredibly smart. If it senses that it’s having to fight for energy, it will try to preserve itself—that means cutting back on breastmilk production and storing fat. Not only will you supply less milk, but your body will cling to those few pounds you were trying to lose in the first place.
The keto diet is different, however, as it emphasizes a large intake of high-fat foods, even if it does cut carbs. There isn’t any evidence that a low-carb diet will affect your milk supply, although it’s important to note that most pediatricians probably won’t recommend anything other than a balanced diet while breastfeeding.
There is a chance that, because most keto foods are so filling, you actually won’t eat as much as you usually do. This could make it harder to reach your daily caloric intake goals, which could lead to a decrease in milk supply. Another thing to consider is hydration—the keto diet can be dehydrating, so you’d have to commit yourself to drinking enough water to make up for it.
Overall, the keto diet does come with some health risks. Our recommendation? Save the dieting for when you’re done breastfeeding! And whatever you decide, always keep your maternity doctor in the loop.
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