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Is The Keto Diet Safe While Breastfeeding?
A mother’s health is paramount after giving birth. Many have seen the resulting rapid weight loss resulting from the keto diet which raises questions about the safety of this diet for breastfeeding mothers. Postpartum consequences, a mother’s milk supply and potential effects on the baby should be examined before committing to this diet.
Understanding the process, background, pros and cons of the ketogenic diet can help provide a clearer picture. The keto diet differs from other common diets as many are used to a low-fat diet when attempting weight loss.
The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet got its name from “ketones” which are produced when a body burns fat. The keto diet can be part of a low-carb diet or more specifically, a low-carb high-fat diet which boosts the body’s ability to burn fats. Included in the ketogenic diet is also the intake of small amounts of protein. Ultimately, the energy needed by the body is produced by burning fats. Hence, a person loses weight .
Starbucks currently offers a keto-friendly “pink drink.” However, this low-carb drink is only available on Starbucks “secret” menu. The pink drink consists of Starbucks’ Passion Iced Tea, sugar-free vanilla syrup and heavy creams .
The Keto Diet Process
The ketogenic diet focuses on reducing carb intake while increasing fat consumption. A standard ketogenic diet includes reducing the consumption of carbohydrates to 50 grams per day inducing the body to go into a state of ketosis. Ketosis affects a person’s appetite as well as insulin production. Since the body is consuming a large number of proteins and fats, it will feel fuller even when eating a small portion compared to filling up on carbohydrates. A low-carb, high-protein diet results in a loss of appetite that is effective in short-term weight loss but may not be suitable for long-term health .
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History Of The Keto Diet
Keto Diet Breastfeeding – The ketogenic diet was not designed to encourage weight loss. This diet plan was initially conceived in the 1920’s after doctors observed that fasting had an anti-seizure effect on patients suffering from epilepsy. The theory behind the diet was to simulate the metabolic effects of starvation by forcing the body to use fat as an energy source. It is the treatment of choice for certain seizure disorders .
Eating The Ketogenic Way
For a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, a patient should follow a diet plan that consists of 60-75% fat, 15-30% protein and 5-10% net carbs to spur their body into ketosis where the fats are broken down to be used for energy .
For those that follow the blood type diet, a ketogenic diet may be contrary to those with type A blood especially as a type A meal plan is a meat-free diet.
While similar to the Atkins Diet, a ketogenic diet is dramatically different. The Atkins diet severely reduces carbs only during the beginning phase while a ketogenic diet reduces carbs for the duration of the diet.
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Concerns About The Keto Diet for Breastfeeding Moms
Now that you know the background of the ketogenic diet, is keto diet safe while breastfeeding:
Many breastfeeding mothers are excited to bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weights. However, breast milk is essential for babies because of its valued nutrition. If you are planning to diet while breastfeeding to achieve weight loss, look further into the effects of a ketogenic diet.
Cutting down on carbohydrates is a positive thing as long as your menu remains well-rounded. However, eating low-carb, high-fat diet foods to lose weight must be done in moderation.
A significant part of how a mom will react to a ketogenic meal plan depends on her overall condition of health. The following are some factors that concern doctors when breastfeeding mothers follow a ketogenic meal plan.
Following a low-calorie diet while breastfeeding may not be a good idea as lactating women need about an additional 650 calories per day for their milk supply to be consistent. Breastfeeding mothers should maintain a well-balanced diet that contains about 1800 calories or more.
A low-carb diet can lead to a nutrient deficiency since certain types of food will have to be removed from your meal plan. Remember, the goal of this diet is weight loss. This may mean that the calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, chloride and potassium which are critical to a baby’s development are not at optimal levels. If a mother suffers from a lack of calcium in their system while breastfeeding, she is also putting herself at risk from osteoporosis.
Bad For Gut Health
Another concern when it comes to a low carb diet is that gut health may be compromised because of a lack of whole grains and fruits. If you are focused on eating non-starchy vegetables and foods that have a high-fat content, your digestive system may not be getting enough fiber resulting in constipation.
A high-fat diet may lead to cardiovascular health problems if too many saturated fats are consumed.
Hydration is a concern with this diet. As a rule, a breastfeeding mother needs to drink more fluids during breastfeeding so that her milk supply will be constant. The body is in a state of ketosis while on this diet. It is constantly eliminating fluids which can lead to dehydration.
If this is the first time following the keto diet breastfeeding, the low carb intake may lead to keto flu and brain fog which can affect your everyday function. Keto flu (carb flu) may result as the body adjusts to a low-carb diet. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headache. Ketosis sends the body into starvation mode-altering blood sugar levels. Alteration in blood sugar may also make you feel ill. Since fruits are not allowed in a ketogenic meal, your body is further diminished from receiving essential nutrients. Suffering from these symptoms may make you a less effective caretaker of your newborn.
Diminished Milk Supply
Some mothers may notice that their breast milk production lessens due to dehydration, lack of sufficient amounts of carbs, fiber and other nutrients. Breast milk production may decrease, especially with weight loss. Even though your intake of fats is high, losing weight at a rapid rate will affect your milk production. Breastfeeding moms should follow a balanced diet to ensure milk and necessary nutrients keep flowing during breastfeeding.
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Keto Diet Breastfeeding – The Effect Of Keto Diet Breastfeeding On Your Baby
Concern and consideration should be given to the mother and child when breastfeeding while on a ketogenic diet.
Babies use the fats from breast milk as their source of energy. Healthy fats are good for both mothers and children which is why breastfeeding mothers should have more fats in their diets. Since the ketogenic diet requires a low-carb, high-fat diet, meal plans may not include enough variety of foods.
So the question goes beyond, “Is keto diet safe while breastfeeding?” The other important question concerns what breastfeeding mothers can do to counteract any side effects of the keto diet.
Get Enough Calories
Breastfeeding and keto diet may work as long as the body is getting enough calories to maintain milk production. While an extreme carb restriction may aid in weight loss, it may cause the body to produce less milk.
Consume More Vegetables And Liquids
When on the ketogenic diet, there is a greater chance for dehydration. This can be rectified by consuming more water and additional vegetables. This allows your baby to gain sufficient nutrients through your breast milk.
Grab A Snack
If you are breastfeeding while you are on a keto diet, ensure you receive nutrients in your meal plan by grabbing a snack. The food that you eat plays a role in your child’s development. Feeding your baby takes time and energy, so make sure to pack some nuts in your bag for eating as you breastfeed. Not only are nuts allowed in this low-carbohydrate diet, but they are one of the best sources of healthy fats.
There is a chance that a mother may develop an electrolyte imbalance while on a keto diet. You may feel dizzy, queasy and shaky. This is a potentially serious side effect of solely eating low-carb foods. An electrolyte imbalance can impede your abilities to take care of your little one and yourself. Consider contacting a doctor if you develop these symptoms. Doctors may suggest drinking liquids with electrolyte supplements.
Keto Diet Breastfeeding – Is Keto Diet Safe While Breastfeeding?
Keto Diet Breastfeeding – Consulting with your doctor may be the best strategy before starting any diet because of any potential risks involved for both you and newborn. The act of breastfeeding on its own burns extra calories to help you lose weight. It is essential for your baby to receive the proper nutrients which may not be possible on a high-fat, low-carb diet. Consult with your doctor and pediatrician to determine if breastfeeding and keto diet is right for you and your baby.
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Keto Diet Breastfeeding Resources:
 Harvard, T.H. Chan; Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss.
 Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Safe Dieting While Breastfeeding, Keto Diet Breastfeeding, Jennifer Buchanan, RN, MSN, IBCLC.
 Use of Expressed Breast Milk With the Ketogenic Diet; December 2015.
 Keto Diet: What It Is, How It Works and Why It May Not Be Safe, Stephanie Pappas, May 21, 2018.
 The Ketogenic Diet: Uses in Epilepsy and Other Neurologic Illnesses, Kristen W. Baranano, MD, PHD, Adam L. Hartman, MD, July 7, 2017.
 Differential Metabolic Effects of Saturated Versus Polyunsaturated Fats in Ketogenic Diets; Brian S. Fuehrlein, Michael S. Rutenberg, Jared N. Silver, Matthew W. Warren, Douglas W. Theriaque, Glen E. Duncan, Peter We. Stacpoole, Mark L. Brantly, April 01, 2014.