Does A Low-Carb Diet Affect Milk Supply? (Is A Low Carb Diet Worth It?)

An extremely low-carb diet in breastfeeding women can lead to a reduction in breast milk supply. Foods that are low in carbohydrates decrease caloric intake. When it happens, the body interprets the low calories as starvation mode and preserves its energy resources. A lesser amount of it is allotted to milk production, which also decreases its production. While engaging in a diet that promises postpartum weight loss is tempting, it is not always a promising idea. Breastfeeding alone burns about 500 calories a day. With a balanced diet and proper physical activity, you can lose much of the pregnancy weight without restricting your nutrient intake.

What are low-carb diets?

Low-carb diets are the current trend in meal plans for people wanting to lose weight. It’s essentially cutting down on carb intake to lose weight or manage health conditions like diabetes.

You probably heard about its various names as the fad continues to become widespread without slowing down. Keto diet, Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, and Low-Carb Mediterranean diets are just a few of the most popular.

The guidelines for their daily carb limit differ in every plan. But they are mostly heavy on fat, protein, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and non-starchy food.

Are low-carb diets worth it?

Accordingly, a low-carb diet (LCD) may help in weight management but only for a short period.

One published study concluded that low carb intake puts a person at risk of cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, and cancer.

Furthermore, a low-carb diet may make you miss out on other essential nutrients. It includes fiber, B vitamins, folate, and magnesium, as well as the energy in calories needed in milk production.

Low-carb diets in breastfeeding women

After the child’s delivery, a mother’s predicament does not end in feeding her newborn or easing postpartum issues. Losing weight is also on the list as moms struggle to regain their pre-pregnancy body.

Who would want to keep all that fat, right? More than just keeping a healthy and fit body, losing weight is also important for boosting your self-esteem.

It is not wrong to think about dieting or getting physical activities after birth. You just need to work out the right timing and perform them in moderation.

But when breastfeeding, a low-carb diet is not the ideal way to shed off excess weight.

Your baby depends on you for their nutrition. And during this time, you need a balanced intake of nutrients to boost your milk production and its nutritional value.

Your body also demands more nutrition to meet the demands of milk production.

Breastfeeding moms need more calories and liquids to keep a sufficient milk supply. As your body produces milk, it churns and burns more calories in the process.

So when breastfeeding, you need to consume a nutrient-dense diet from all the food groups without being restrictive or overeating.

How can a low-carb diet affect milk supply?

The term eating for two (or more) does not end after delivery. Instead, it prolongs until your baby is ready for weaning and becomes more dependent on solid foods.

Mom is breastfeeding her baby, and she looks noticeably tense as she has one hand over her face

Low-carb diet plans are still under ongoing studies to prove their effectiveness and risks. But one of its potential downsides is the possibility of affecting the milk supply.

1. A sudden decrease in caloric intake

When a mom goes into a low-carb diet, there is a sudden decrease in calories. You need about 1800 and more calories to sustain your bodily process and milk production.

If you’re active, your caloric intake should be closer to 2400. Unfortunately, most LCD restricts the caloric intake to 1700, making them a poor choice for nursing moms.

While the LCD meals by themselves are filling, lesser carb tells the body it is going into starvation. As a result, it preserves its resources to sustain its functions. It apportions the energy resources, giving little to milk production, ultimately reducing the milk supply.

Women who go on a low-carb diet would notice an increase in milk supply once they get off the diet.

2. Dehydration

Many moms would agree that the whole ordeal of breastfeeding would leave them starved and parched. That’s why simply reducing food intake can be a struggle for some.

A mom has a headache from being dehydrated, which happened as a result of her low carb diet

They could chug on gallons of water, eat in between meals, and still feel depleted. Dieting in whatever form can be challenging while nursing, especially when it limits calorie intake.

Low-carb diets are unbalanced, and instead of using carbs, the body will utilize fat in a state called ketosis. It will also use fluid in the body, which leads to dehydration.

Dehydration is prevalent in LCD, even for people who are not breastfeeding. And for nursing moms, dehydration can lessen the milk supply, making it less filling for the baby.

3. Decrease mom’s appetite

The fat and protein content in a low-carb diet tends to be more filling than carbohydrates.

Thus, a breastfeeding mom feels less hungry than she would with high-carb food. And if she does eat to curb her hunger, LCD still does not offer enough calories to sustain her milk supply.

If you want to eliminate carbs in your diet, make sure to get sufficient calories in other forms to fuel your body. 

When and how to try the low-carb diet?

The most appropriate diet for a breastfeeding mom is a healthy and balanced meal with plenty of fluid intake.

LCD may be recommended for moms with health conditions like diabetes and hypertension but only upon their doctor’s advice.

But if you want to try low-carb diets, consider the following tips:

  1. Wait for 6 to 8 weeks after delivery before engaging in any weight loss plan.
  2. Waiting until the baby is on solid foods before dieting is more favorable.
  3. Start gradually.
  4. Follow diet plan recommendations of professionals. Most diet plans have phases, and breastfeeding moms are not allowed to participate in Phase 1 of the diets.
  5. Pair dieting with exercise.
  6. Drink plenty of water and other liquids to keep hydrated.
  7. Watch out for signs of low milk supply in your baby, like fewer diaper output and slow weight gain.

FAQs

I am on a keto diet due to a pre-existing medical condition, can I still practice it while breastfeeding?

Generally, keto diets are not recommended for lactating women and are resumed after the baby is weaned.

If you have an existing health condition, talk to your doctor for further analysis and recommendation.

What are the safest diet plans for breastfeeding mothers?

Atkins, Paleo, and the basic low-carb diets are somewhat safe as long as you load heavily on vegetables, fruits, and proteins to reach the required calorie intake. 

What’s the worst that could happen in a low-carb diet?

A strict and extremely low-carb diet may cause ketoacidosis, although it is rare.

Low calories trigger the release of ketones or chemicals in the bloodstream that form when insulin production is low. Ketone build-up can cause serious illness for the mom and baby. 

Takeaway

Breastfeeding moms should not participate in a nutrient-restricting diet without a doctor’s consultation. Right after birth, your focus should be on spending quality time with your baby and getting back to your feet.

Do not rush into weight loss and engage in crash diets. Some of it works for other people, but most diet plans are not recommended when you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding your baby is a lifetime gift you could give.

So please make the most out of it by supplementing him with the right nutrition through your food intake.

Additional recommended reading

If you want to learn more about breastfeeding diets and breastfeeding weight loss, check out this list.

  1. Paleo Diet and Breastfeeding (Safe or Too Many Side Effects?)
  2. Why Can’t I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding? (5 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight While Breastfeeding)
  3. Do You Gain Weight When You Stop Breastfeeding? What Every Breastfeeding Mom Should Know

Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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