Breastfeeding on a Ketogenic Diet
Breastfeeding on a ketogenic diet: my personal experience
Having a baby is one of the most exciting and nerve wracking times in your life, one great big cocktail of emotions. With nine months to prepare, trying to absorb as much information as possible can make you panic rather than put your mind at ease. There’s an abundance of general information on the internet but a lot of this is conflicting and very confusing! I’ll seek to answer the question I know you’ll all be wondering. Breastfeeding on a ketogenic diet: Is it safe?
I began my ketogenic journey during pregnancy in preparation for our daughter being born. Searching the internet for information on the ketogenic lifestyle and new mothers, I found the information on breastfeeding on a ketogenic diet was limited and very conflicting. Every mother wants to do what’s best for their child – I desperately wanted to give myself the best chance of breastfeeding our daughter as possible. My ultimate concern was that the keto lifestyle may prevent my ability to do this. I wanted to share my story with you in the hope that it may provide some of that missing resource that i was desperately seeking when my journey first began.
After 12 weeks of being fully keto adapted, I was feeding my baby one afternoon and noticed that she was becoming very frustrated. She had only been feeding for a short while and began pulling at my boob, becoming very restless. Whilst looking for the cause of her frustration, to my horror I realised that my milk had completely dried up! I was immediately overwhelmed with blind panic.
A moment of weakness, fuelled by sheer panic and a lack of sleep, resulted in me finding an excuse to get my hands on the forbidden foods – refined carbs and sugar!
The cravings part of my brain had unearthed my weakness and was about to take full advantage of the scary situation that I had found myself in – looking for an excuse to get its hands on what I’d been starving it of for the past 12 weeks! I began to raid the cupboards for any sugar and carb loaded foods that I could get my hands on. The result? Me binging on a huge bowl of Weetabix, milk and if that wasn’t bad enough, HEAPED tablespoons of sugar!
Like a hungry ant, I was seeking out my next ‘food high’. I then had an equally enormous second bowl, followed by a third bowl consisting of cornflakes, milk and even more mountains of sugar. My stomach was like a bottomless pit of despair: cramming in as much sugar and refined carbs in as possible.
After 20 minutes it hit me. My stomach swelled to the size it was when I was 9 months pregnant (no kidding). Then came the cramps. I was doubled over in agony, screaming in pain. That evening I was keeled over, worshipping the porcelain god and power-puking my guts up!
Never look back
It was right there and then, at that very point, that I swore I’d never binge on refined carbs and sugar ever again! I was foolish to let my brain trick me into thinking I needed the carbs and sugar in order to produce breast milk. It gave me the perfect excuse to binge. In my mind, that was all the justification I needed to go all out and have a massive carb and sugar loaded party.
The green light that said “Go on … go and eat those refined carbs and sugar. It will magically fill your boobs with milk and you will be able to feed your baby again instantly”. Of course this was just a great big lie. A trick that my mind had played on me and I had been foolish enough to let it happen. Thankfully, nursing returned to normal in the hours that followed, almost as if that dreadful experience had never happened.
The logical thinking part of my brain now asks…
How on Earth did cavemen ever survive without refined carbs and sugar? How did cavewomen manage to feed their babies? They didn’t have refined carbs and sugar in their diet to help them produce breast milk.
The same question can be applied to today’s world, where indigenous tribes exist in some of the world’s most remote and isolated locations. How do they continue to not only survive but thrive without access to refined carbs and sugar? Like the caveman, these tribes have never been exposed to refined carbs and sugar at any point in their lives. They simply do not exist in their diets and the evidence is clear that they do not need them by the fact that they are still thriving today.
I was concerned that ketones may be present in my breast milk as a result of being in ketosis and I didn’t want to undertake a lifestyle that would put my baby’s health at risk. I heavily researched the subject and discovered that soon after a baby is born they enter into a mild state of ketosis, using ketones and fat for energy. This was a complete shock to me!
This gave me reassurance that no harm would come to my baby if I continued to breastfeed while eating keto. Breast milk has a high fat content and in order to produce the rich, fatty, nutrient dense milk, the mum’s diet must contain healthy fats and a good source of vitamins and nutrients. The ketogenic way of eating is exactly that!
The weight loss that I have experienced as a result of living a ketogenic lifestyle has resulted in my boobs dramatically shrinking. The size reduction is due to me shedding body fat and has not affected my milk production whatsoever.
My smaller boobs now feel less full throughout the day because my skin was stretched when they were larger. This is not a reflection of my milk production and occasionally I do wake up with them feeling very full (like the old days) if we have been blessed with a solid night’s sleep. My daughter has adapted her latch to account for change in my breast tissue and continues to be an extremely happy and content baby – always having a full tummy after each and every feed. The milk that I produce for her is filled with the vitamins and nutrients that I get from following a ketogenic diet as I now eat far more leafy green vegetables and healthy fats than previously. Everyone’s a winner.
A moment of reflection
Looking back upon my moment of weakness and the pain that consequently ensued, I’m pretty sure that the lack of milk production I experienced was due to dehydration and a massive lack of sleep (teething has a lot to answer for!). I’m now armed with not only knowledge but experience, and feel confident that I made the right decision in breastfeeding on a ketogenic diet.
After plenty of sleep and several glasses of water, I continue to successfully breastfeed my daughter to this very day. I have experienced no further issues and have gradually lowered my carb intake to less than 15 grams net carbs per day. Being aware that electrolytes have a role to play in the production of breastmilk, I ensure that I incorporate electrolyte rich foods into my daily meal plans. My favourite sources are spinach and organic cocoa powder (not at the same time though!).
Whilst I’m not a medical professional or a doctor, I speak to you as a mother who has gone through this experience personally. If you are considering undertaking breastfeeding on a ketogenic diet do your research and make your own mind up. That’s exactly what I did and I have never looked back. From my perspective, keto and breastfeeding is a perfect combination.