Is It Safe to Diet While Breastfeeding?

If you’re breastfeeding and interested in pursuing healthier eating habits in the new year, be sure to talk to your doctor about what dietary changes are best for your overall health before making any significant changes. First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients, no matter what diet you choose. Your body still needs extra fuel to make breast milk (approximately 300-500 additional calories per day).

One highly recommended and simple method to consider is moderation. Increase the amount of healthy foods you consume, reduce junk foods with empty calories, and drink plenty of water. But if you’re curious about the feasibility of breastfeeding while on the diets that are trending across the country, read on.

Flexitarian/Plant Based

The flexitarian diet consists of mostly plant-based foods, but allows meat and other animal products in moderation. It is not as restrictive as a vegetarian or vegan diet. Any of these are options for breastfeeding mothers as long as they’re getting enough nutrients.

Mediterranean/DASH

Many people have seen long-term success with the Mediterranean and DASH diets. They focus on creating meals around vegetables, whole grains, fruits, olive oil, beans and seeds -- but they also encourage more fish consumption. As you’re breastfeeding, it’s okay to follow either of these diets as long as you’re eating fish that are low in mercury.

WW (Weight Watchers)/Tracking Food

Weight Watchers is all about moderation whether you’re breastfeeding or not. They have a special plan for breastfeeding moms to follow to make sure they’re still getting the calories and nutrients they need. This diet is easily modified and can be adapted to your needs while helping you work towards your goals. Another option is to commit to tracking what you eat. That step alone will help you have a better picture of what you’re consuming in a day and will help you see when and where you can make improvements.

Whole 30/Paleo

On the Whole 30 diet, you eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy and dairy from your diet for 30 days. If you’re interested in trying this diet, there is a list of modifications recommended for breastfeeding women. The paleo diet is similar in its restrictions, but allows natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. In general, these diets are more difficult for moms to stick to because of the restrictions. The main issue breastfeeding moms run into while on either the Whole 30 or paleo diet is a risk of decreased milk supply resulting from the elimination or reduction of carbs.

Low Carb - Keto

Doing a moderate low carb diet (consuming at least 50 grams of carbs per day) could help you shed weight without compromising your milk supply. However, a strict low carb diet has potential for dangerous side effects. This diet restricts healthy foods like whole grains and fruits. Additionally, ketosis can cause dehydration, which is a major concern because it is recommended that breastfeeding moms drink 128 ounces of liquid per day. In the beginning stages of this diet as your body is learning to use fat for energy instead of glucose from carbs, it can cause brain fog that parents of babies are likely already experiencing.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting can follow several different schedules. Some people choose a 5:2 alternate-day fasting plan (consuming 25% or less of their normal calories on the two days they’re fasting). This could cause your milk supply to decrease and is not recommended. Another way to do intermittent fasting is known as the 16:8, meaning you fast for 16 hours and only eat during an eight hour time period each day. As long as a healthy, nutrient-dense diet is maintained during this eating schedule, it is not dangerous for breastfeeding moms.

There are several benefits for you and your baby if you’re eating healthier. Instead of obsessing over the number on the scales, try to focus on how you’re feeling. Remember that the societal pressures of “bouncing back” after having a baby are unrealistic and often unhealthy. No matter which path you choose, be gentle with yourself and give yourself time.

Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.

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