Is It Safe To Follow a Diet While Breastfeeding?

Woman eating vegetable salad and counting calories on mobile application

A new diet trend crops up seemingly every year, leaving many moms wondering, “Is it safe to do this while breastfeeding?”

The ketogenic diet is one of them. An incredibly popular weight-loss method, it’s creators claim the high-fat, low-carb eating plan trains the body to use fat as its main source of energy instead of carbohydrates. This means meat, veggies, butter, nuts, cream and oils are OK, but beans, grains, fruits and potatoes are a no-go.

All things considered, keto sounds like the best the dieting world has to offer. You can eat lots of foods that are normally restricted, and the heavy fat content can make you feel full on fewer calories. Although it’s hard to find official studies, health experts caution against adopting a keto lifestyle while you’re nursing.

The main issue is that it’s simply too restrictive. Any extreme eating plan, keto or otherwise, prevents you from getting the nutrients you need to breastfeed. Keto in particular reduces starchy foods and fruits, starving your body of fiber and water. A lack of fiber causes digestive issues, while dehydration reduces milk supply. Plus, cutting out carbs can leave exhausted new moms feeling even more tired, as the brain needs carbohydrates to focus.

So if keto and other extreme diets are no good, what’s a healthy way to lose weight when you’ve got a baby attached to your boob?

A young woman holding an apple up to her face.
Nursing moms need a well-balanced diet.

Dieting while breastfeeding: What you should know

Before you focus on losing weight, it’s important to know what nutrients you need while nursing. The last thing you want to do is alter your milk supply or its nutritional content.

What to Expect recommended nursing moms consume the following nutrients each day:

  • 5 servings of calcium.
  • 3 servings of protein.
  • 2 servings of Vitamin C.
  • 3 to 4 servings of leafy green or yellow fruits and vegetables.
  • 1 serving of other fruits and vegetables.
  • At least 2 to 3 weekly servings of Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • At least 1 serving of iron.
  • At least 3 servings of complex carbohydrates and whole grains.
  • Small amounts of high-fat foods.

Now, let’s talk about calories. Just the act of making milk burns between 300 and 500 per day, so breastfeeding is its own type of workout. If you’re trying to lose baby weight, you don’t really need to count or restrict your caloric intake. The average nursing mom needs between 1,500 and 1,800 calories per day, according to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Kelly Bonyata. You only need to diet if you had extra fat before getting pregnant or you gained more weight during those nine months than your doctor recommended.

Finally, wait until your baby is at least two months before starting to diet to give your body enough time to get used to producing a healthy milk supply.

Now that you’ve got all that down, dieting while breastfeeding is really all about cutting calories. Decrease them gradually, as a sudden drop could reduce milk supply. This, of course, means you should avoid quick-fix solutions or diets that try to alter the body’s natural processes, such as keto.

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