Diet fads come and go, but the ketogenic diet is here to stay. While it is an excellent way to lose weight and reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, the ketogenic diet is not for everyone. For breastfeeding mothers, it’s always important to first ask if a certain diet is safe when nursing your child.
Whatever you eat is what you feed to your baby. While a keto diet provides the nutrients your body needs and that your baby might benefit from, certain risks may be associated with it when done poorly that some mothers wouldn’t want to take.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the ketogenic diet and how it affects your body and your baby.
Everything You Need To Know About Keto
Keto is basically the new Atkin’s diet. It is a low-carb, high-fat plan that has been around for several years and that is used to treat medical conditions such as seizure disorders and diseases affecting the brain such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In recent years, though, it has been touted for its weight loss effect. Keto is often referred to as a crash diet, but some experts also say that you don’t need to crash diet when doing keto.
Keto restricts your body’s main energy source or carbohydrates and pushes it to use fat as your fuel. This causes your body to go into a ketogenic state or ketosis. Essentially, a strict keto diet ensures that your carbohydrate intake is low so that your body begins to turn your fat into ketones in order to continue giving energy to your organs, especially your brain.
While it is a natural metabolic process, we don’t use this as often as we did before.
What is in A Keto Diet ?
You probably know keto because of all the meat its followers typically eat. That’s just a myth—many keto recipes recommend it, but you shouldn’t replace all your food with it.
While a typical keto diet consists of meat, it also is filled with seafood, vegetables, high-fat dairy products such as butter and cream, coconut oil, eggs, avocados, and nuts. On the other side of things, this diet stays away from fruits, beans, unhealthy fats like vegetable oils and mayo, potatoes, grains, alcohol, and sugar.
The rule of thumb is 5% sugar or carb intake, 20% proteins, and 75% fat. With this formula, you’re starving your body of glucose which then forces it to burn stored fat instead.
Is Keto Effective?
If you look around social media and Google, you’ll find several posts claiming that the diet is, in fact, effective. Keto has become popular over the years as a lot of people have found success in a very short amount of time, especially in terms of weight loss. Much like anything that sounds too good to be true, there is a catch.
The ketogenic diet is extremely difficult to maintain. It requires utmost dedication and focus as your body will tend to return to its normal function in no time when you give in to cheat days.
On the upside, the foods you are allowed on a ketogenic diet are quite filling, so it is pretty easy to feel full and satisfied with fewer calories. It also cuts a lot of processed and packaged food, hence less sugar and junk food without nutrients.
Does Keto Have Any Undesirable Side Effects?
The ketogenic diet’s adverse effects are generally mild to moderate. Its short-term side effects during the first few weeks are fatigue, hunger, excessive thirst, confusion or irritability, and lightheadedness or shakiness.
Some may also experience muscle loss, smelly urine, bad breath, and digestion issues.
Keto and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding takes a toll on you and your body as you’re not only producing nutrients to keep yourself healthy and alive, you’re also doing it for an entirely new and oh-so-precious human being. This just means that you need more energy (thus, more calories) than usual.
Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, you would need around 200 to 500 extra calories every single day when nursing your baby. This is very important to note, especially if you’re just in your little one’s early stages. They will solely rely on you to receive nutrients as they can’t do so yet on their own with solid food. Expect to breastfeed your baby around eight to twelve times a day.
So Is It Okay For Me To Go On A Keto Diet While Breastfeeding?
Any kind of extreme diet is not a good idea for anyone breastfeeding. This includes keto.
Here are some things to consider first before even thinking about starting keto while breastfeeding :
Gut & Heart Health
The diet restricts healthy foods like whole grains, potatoes, and beans whose nutrients you and your baby can definitely gain from. Your gut health benefits a lot from these starchy foods as good bacteria feed on their fiber content. The high levels of fat that are required to maintain this diet may not be good for your heart health in the long run.
Cutting calories will certainly help you lose weight, but it can affect your milk supply. While it’s great to be wary of your weight, the top priority right now should be your baby’s nourishment. The human body is extremely intelligent, in the sense that, if it has to fight for energy to preserve itself, it will find other sources, which means it might need to cut back on breastmilk production.
Hydration is another concern for breastfeeding people who are thinking of following a ketogenic meal plan. To keep an optimal milk supply for your baby, you would need at least 13 ounces of fluid daily. This becomes a little bit of a challenge during ketosis as the liver produces compounds called ketones. These ketones are used by cells for energy that is then eliminated in the urine.
Ketosis can be dehydrating. Another food group that isn’t allowed on the diet is fruits which are naturally rich sources of fluid.
With keto relying on low levels of carbohydrates, this diet can lead to lightheadedness during the first three to four days of the diet. To function well, our brains need glucose which is normally supplied by carbs. This will only make caring for your newborn even more difficult than it already is.
What Diet Should I Go For?
Whatever you eat will affect your breast milk which you will then pass on to your baby. The ideal diet for breastfeeding people is a balanced one. Include protein such as poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and beans, three servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit, and whole grains like pasta, oatmeal, and cereal into your daily diet.
If you are a vegetarian, make sure to eat other sources of zinc and iron such as nuts, seeds, dairy, and dried beans. For vegans, you can substitute this with a B12 supplement just to make sure your baby doesn’t develop a B12 deficiency.
Don’t forget to satisfy your thirst by drinking lots of water!
When Can I Do Keto?
If you want to try keto, do it later. With how tough it is and the health risks associated with it, it is recommended to save keto till after you’re done breastfeeding just to make sure that neither you nor your baby experience any nutritional imbalances or deficiencies.
Keto might sound like a good idea to lose postpartum weight, but it is not worth it at the moment as your baby’s health should always come first. A balanced diet trumps any diet trend especially when you’re breastfeeding. Remember, the nutrients you gain from the food you eat are what you’ll feed your child. So follow a diet or a meal plan that won’t compromise the health and safety of both you and your little one.