Many moms, myself included, strive to nurse their babies and lose "baby weight" while doing so. Personally, my body holds on to fat while I'm breastfeeding. All that means is that I have to get a little more creative with my weight loss strategy. I'll admit, even though I ate a low-carb diet while I was pregnant, I strayed pretty far from the path after my kids were born. The morning after their births, I gorged myself on pancakes and syrup and spent the next few weeks snacking on candy. Nursing makes me voraciously hungry and I needed to give myself a mental break from the diligence around my diet. Of course, I was a little paranoid that keto would make my milk bad, or would hurt my baby. I looked into the research and I am sad to say there have only been four valid studies conducted on mothers who nurse while eating a ketogenic diet - only four in the whole world! Many Keto/LCHF websites even suggested that mothers follow a "moderate" carb diet of around 50 g net carbs per day. What I could learn, I gathered from personal experience, anecdotal evidence, and the few studies I could find. Rest assured, keto while nursing is doable and actually great for your little one!
Keep Calories Up
When a mom is producing breastmilk, she's burning an extra 500 calories per day! With such a big energy expenditure, it's important to keep calorie levels reasonable. Dipping too low in an effort to lose weight faster can be harmful for both the baby and your breastfeeding relationship. To be safe, track your calorie intake and aim for 2,000 calories to start. Without lifting a finger, you're already at a net 1500 daily calories, which should lead to steady weight loss! If you find it hard to take in that much food, try a ketogenic fat bomb! Be careful not to stay too low-calorie for too long as that can tank your supply.
Babies Are In Ketosis
Babies are born in an intrinsic state of nutritional ketosis, which is great! Breastmilk itself is around 65% fat, so babies are fueling their rapid growth off of a high-fat diet from the start. When I eat keto while pumping, I can see a visible difference in the amount of fat in my milk. Instead of just a slim skin of creamy fat on top of the milk, Rory's bottles have a substantial fat deposit floating on top! Maybe that's why she's a chunkier baby than Shep ever was?
Healthy Fats Grow Healthy Brains
Avocados, nuts, and fish aren't just great brain food for adults - they're perfect for little kids, too! Especially since newborns are making all sorts of neural connections, a diet high in residual omega fatty acids will only support healthy brain development. All that fatty breastmilk will be put to good use!
Grab A Snack
A well-stocked breastfeeding basket will include lots of healthy snacks for a hungry mama. When you're pinned under a sleeping baby, you'd better hope that you remembered to toss a few bags of nuts in there! It's easy to stay satisfied with keto snacking - high protein and high fat options maintain steady energy levels long-term. My personal favorite snacks include cocoa roasted almonds, cheese sticks, Siggi yogurt, and raw vegetables with hummus.
The Electrolyte City
Several of the moms from my Keto breastfeeding group on Facebook stressed the importance of electrolytes during the keto diet. Because of the way keto works, it can be easy to get "the keto flu". Basically, this is just an electrolyte imbalance that makes you feel shaky, queasy, weak, and a bit faint. Some might find it difficult to keep electrolytes up while also breastfeeding, since that is a second (significant) drain on nutritional intake. I recommend Powerade Zero, bone broth, or Calm magnesium supplement. Don't get the keto flu! You're too busy taking care of a baby to feel like crap! But if you do feel yucky, drink some pickle juice, hydrate, and rest. (I'm not kidding about the pickle juice, it's great for replenishing electrolytes!)
C Is For Cookie Carbs
A lot of new moms think they need all sorts of extra tidbits to help boost or maintain their breastmilk supply. I know I sure did! I bought special teas and cookies, and realized soon that I didn't have any issues with supply and didn't need to supplement. In truth, the vast majority of moms will never need a galactalogue (or a supplement designed to increase milk production). That's great news for keto mommies, since all of the recommended "lactation cookies" are chock full of grains. They're delicious, sugary blobs of carb - and odds are, your milk supply will be just fine without them!
Drink All The Water
Seriously, just do it. There is no secret formula, just drink to thirst. Remember that in the first few weeks following birth, your body is rapidly shedding retained fluid and that means your body is going to be craving hydration. Don't forget to include a full water bottle in your diaper bag for these hot summer days. Heck, I just broke a sweat buckling my toddler into his car seat! Normal exertion + breastfeeding = thirst like the Mojave desert.
Cut The Cheese
(Oh, I'm so punny!) If your baby, like many others, shows a dairy intolerance - you can still eat a keto diet and nurse them! Yes, it's possible - if you're dedicated enough to pull it off. Going dairy-free on Keto is actually one of the surefire tricks to shaking yourself loose of a weight-loss stall. Lots of people do better without milk in their diet anyway, and while cheese is wonderful and heavy cream is a godsend, they're not necessary to remain on a low-carb diet.
Take A Break
Having a baby is hard. Breastfeeding a baby? Also hard. If it feels like too much pressure to lose weight or be strict about the way you eat - don't do it! There's no shame in taking a few days to walk away, get some mental rest, and decide what you'd like to do in the future. Keto isn't for everyone, but if you're determined, you can pull it off. I'm writing this article during one such break myself. We bought a house (as in, we closed on Tuesday!) and life has been really really busy since. In all the rush around, I've found the cheapest and easiest way to feed my family is for everyone to eat the same meal. Shep still eats carbs, so we're all eating carbs at the moment. And I'm almost 7 months into nursing baby Rory - my personal goal is one year. I'm glad to know that if I want to go back to a low-carb lifestyle, both she and I will reap the rewards!
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