What a Lactation Consultant Wants Breastfeeding Moms to Know About the Keto Diet

Breastfeeding your little one can be a powerful form of bonding and provides a myriad of benefits for both mom and baby, but it can also bring a laundry list of questions, including what you should and shouldn’t eat, drink, and do while nursing. Breastfeeding itself burns around 500 calories per day, but many new moms will also employ additional diet and exercise practices in hopes of returning to their prebaby size. With the ketogenic diet increasing in popularity, many new moms may wonder if it’s a safe and effective way to shed pounds without compromising the quantity or quality of their milk supply.

Brandi Jordan, MSW, IBCLC, a board certified lactation consultant, postpartum doula, and founder of The Cradle Company Parenting Center and Boutique, advises that breastfeeding isn’t the time to take a hard core approach to keto, which is a low-carb, high-fat diet. “If a mother desires to follow a ketogenic diet, she will want to modify it to ensure she will have enough intake of carbohydrates to maintain her milk supply, which is sustained on this complex part of our diet,” advises Ms. Jordan. “Previous lactation clients who have used this diet have found that maintaining their net carbs at a level of ‘maintenance’ has been enough to shed unwanted pounds while maintaining their supply.”

Although scientific research on the matter is still limited, a 2009 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the effects of a high-carbohydrate diet versus a high-fat diet of the same calorie content in breastfeeding mothers and found that “milk volume, lactose, and protein concentrations were unaffected.”

Ms. Jordan recommends that new mothers stick to a meal plan that is “sustainable, easy to manage, and allows them to eat a variety of foods which are good for their milk supply, baby, and their waist line.” Because a keto diet has a much higher fat content than a typical diet, some people will experience side effects like low energy or even kidney stones, making breastfeeding an ill-advised time to try it out for the very first time. If you’ve already experimented with a keto diet in the past and found it to be manageable, following a keto diet while nursing may be a great option for losing weight and staying healthy.

Having a new baby can be a joyful experience, but we know it can also bring up issues related to body image and self confidence,” continues Ms. Jordan. “Of course every mother’s body is different, and she should speak with her healthcare provider to ensure this is a diet that works for her particular medical history and that of her baby.”