Here's The Deal With Trying A Keto Diet While Breastfeeding, According To An Expert

by Cat Bowen

I've tried all the diets. All of them. I've done Weight Watchers and juice fasts and Paleo and low-fat diets. After I had my daughter, I knew I wanted to lose the weight I'd put on, but I was also worried that it would affect my milk production. I'd heard good things about a type of Paleo diet that a lot of my mom friends did to great results, but was it safe? Is it OK to try a Ketogenic diet while breastfeeding?

Ketogenic diets are very high fat and very low carbohydrate diets, like Atkins and Paleo, which force your body into what is called "ketosis." Ketosis, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is when your body runs out of normal energy (carbohydrate) stores in your body and begins burning the fat reserves as energy instead. There have been several studies showing many benefits of a keto diet. For instance, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) often find that their symptoms are lessened when they follow a strictly keto diet. For women who've had a baby and have PCOS, the first period after birth is often horrific. I know mine was. Therefore, anything to ameliorate its effects is more than welcome. Your body is shocked enough from having a human ripped from your loins, and then a few months later, your ovaries decide to declare war on your abdomen. Even so, can you stay on a keto diet while breastfeeding?

There is some research out there that points to possible consequences for the baby if the mother chooses to maintain a ketogenic diet while breastfeeding. According to The American Journal of Physiology, the maintenance of a ketogenic diet while pregnant and breastfeeding may correlate to a decreased level of triglycerides in the liver of the offspring. However, this was a scientific study performed on rats, and therefore requires further analysis and more in-depth study on the human reaction to the ketogenic diet.

I spoke with Amber Edwards, board-certified lactation consultant, to get her opinion on whether or not a ketogenic diet is a feasible solution to kicking the baby weight or improving your overall health postpartum while still maintaining a good, healthy supply of breast milk for your baby. She tells Romper that "ketogenic diets do tend to work very well for weight loss." She told me in the interest of full disclosure that she herself follows a strict Paleo-style ketogenic diet, but eschews the allowed artificial sweeteners.

"Sometimes, when something works well, it can work too well, and that is the case with a keto diet." Edwards remarks that a sharp drop in weight during lactation may cause your milk production to slow or cease depending on how much weight you're losing. "You may think that with all of the fat you're eating that it would be safe and healthy, and it can be, but you have to lose weight slowly for that."

Edwards suggests that women who are looking at ketogenic diets while they breastfeed should adapt to whatever the maintenance plan of the diet is. "You need more carbohydrates and sugar to produce milk than most keto plans allow in the weight-loss phase. However, in the maintenance phase, you're allowed significantly more carbs and fruit, which means that you can continue to produce an adequate supply of milk."

Edwards presses that it's extremely important that you don't fall into a fast-casual junk food keto follower, noting that eating a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables will make your milk as healthy as possible.

If you're planning on going keto, make sure you understand that your body needs more than the bare necessities to keep making milk. Edwards says that making milk burns 500 calories per day, and that's on top of whatever your basal metabolic rate might be. Be aware of that, and you should be on your way to a healthy breastfeeding period — and maybe fewer cramps.

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