Here’s What Research Says About Keto While Breastfeeding

Did you know that soon after babies are born they enter a natural state of ketosis?

Yep, you read that right — research shows that newborn infants are in ketosis and remain in this normal, healthy state while breastfeeding[*][*].

Furthermore, research confirms that breast milk from healthy mothers is actually made up of 50-60% fat, and the cholesterol in breast milk supplies babies with almost six times the amount that most adults consume in their diets [*].

So, if babies are naturally born in ketosis and benefit from using fat and ketones for fuel, then why would it be an issue for a breastfeeding mother to follow a ketogenic diet/lifestyle?

What Does the Research Say About Keto While Breastfeeding?

Unfortunately, the current scientific literature surrounding the ketogenic diet and breastfeeding is extremely limited.

However, one study performed in 2009 compared a low-carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet to a high-carbohydrate, low fat (HCLF) diet in breastfeeding women[*].

Results from this study showed the following:

  • Regardless of the diet, daily breast milk production and daily infant breast milk intake remained the same.
  • Neither diet had an effect on milk lactose or protein concentration; however, milk fat concentration and the energy content of milk were higher during the LCHF diet than the HCLF diet.
  • Infants’ energy intake (kcal/day) was higher during the LCHF diet than during the HCLF diet.
  • The estimated average maternal energy expenditure and the sum of maternal energy expenditure plus milk energy content were higher during the LCHF diet than during the HCLF diet.

Based on these results, researchers concluded that breastfeeding mothers could lose more weight while consuming a LCHF diet than a HCLF diet without affecting milk production and still supplying their babies with the nutrients and energy needed for proper development.

Additionally, a literature review from 2016 looked at the evidence of the impact of maternal nutrition on breast milk composition and concluded that:

The available information on this topic is scarce and diversified. Most of the evidence currently used in clinical practice to make recommendations is limited to studies that only reported indirect associations” [*].

Based on this information, there is no reason why a breastfeeding mother would not be able to follow a ketogenic diet and lifestyle.

Although there are some anecdotal reports that some mothers have had reductions in milk production after going keto, this is most likely due to factors such as dehydration, lack of adequate calories or nutrients, and possible lack of adjustment in cases of rapid carbohydrate restriction.

Tips For Successful Breastfeeding While Following a Ketogenic Diet

Breastfeeding your baby is important, and most mothers don’t want to do anything that might risk their supply. We’ve already seen that you can follow a ketogenic lifestyle while breastfeeding (and it could even help you shed some of the baby weight), but you need to do it properly. Here’s how.  

#1: Start Keto Early

When you first start keto, your body needs to go through an adjustment period, and you may feel flu-like symptoms. This is called the “keto flu” and if you’ve never experienced it before, you may feel as if there’s something wrong.

You don’t want to have to go through this adjustment period while you’re trying to learn the particular art of breastfeeding, so if you’re not already nursing your baby, don’t wait until you are pregnant or breastfeeding — start keto now so that your body has time to learn how to efficiently use fat and ketones for fuel.

Plus, keto has been shown in many cases to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant and contribute to an overall healthier lifestyle.

#2: Avoid Dehydration

One of the biggest culprits of scarce milk supply is not drinking enough water throughout the day.

Drinking lots of water is extremely important to produce sufficient milk for any breastfeeding mother – especially those that are keto due to the higher excretion of water from less carbohydrate intake.

Your body uses extra water to produce breast milk and heal from labor and delivery. Pair that with the hydration necessary to keep your electrolytes balanced on the ketogenic diet and you’ll see you need to drink more water than you thought you needed; certainly more than before you had your baby.

#3: Don’t Forget Your Nutrients and Electrolytes

Consuming enough vitamins and minerals is extremely important to avoid any negative side effects such as headaches, loss of energy, or light headedness.

Check out this article for a more in depth look at the different vitamins and minerals needed to make up a well-formulated ketogenic diet.

#4: Consume Enough Calories, Especially High Quality Fats

It is important to make sure you have a steady supply of energy throughout the day for both yourself and your baby.

Consuming an adequate amount of calories and enough good quality fats will be another key to producing healthy quantities of milk and fueling both yourself and your baby. Refer to this article for a list of high quality fats to incorporate into your diet.

#5: Consume Enough Fiber and Vegetables

Getting enough vegetables and fiber is extremely important for both your health and the health/development of your baby.

Make sure you are consuming lots of vegetables to ensure adequate intake of certain phytochemicals and antioxidants.

If you don’t have time to prepare veggies (because honestly, taking care of a baby is time consuming!) use a greens supplement to nourish yourself.

#6: Try A Moderate Low-Carb Diet Rather Than Strict Keto

If you’re having trouble producing adequate milk, try starting with 50-75 grams of carbs per day and slowly lower the carbs each day (say 5-10 grams) and track how it affects your milk supply.

Make sure you are getting your carbs from healthy sources such as lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds and berries.

Avoid bread, pasta, and other refined carbage (carbs + garbage = carbage).

#7: Track Your Food/Drink Consumption And Daily Milk Production

Use an app such as MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+ to keep track of the foods and drinks you are consuming — this will make it easier to track your calorie and fat consumption as it relates to how much milk you are producing each day so you can adjust accordingly.

Also try to track your daily milk production. This might mean pumping and feeding your baby expressed breast milk for a couple of days. You can use an app like Baby Connect to track your production.

Do remember however that babies extract more milk than a pump, and the quality of your breast pump also impacts your output.

Just like with any diet — even the ketogenic diet — there is no “one size fits all” approach. If you listen to your body and implement the tips outlined above, you will be on the right track to a healthy and fulfilling breastfeeding journey.

Rachel Gregory is a Board-Certified Nutritionist specializing in the science/application of the ketogenic diet for weight loss, performance and overall health

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Responses (11)

  1. Is it safe to consume Perfect Keto Base while breastfeeding? I like to add a scoop of it, and the collagen powder, to shakes in the early mornings before feeding our twins!

  2. I just received keto perform, chocolate sea salt, and keto collagen…is this safe while nursing?

  3. Hi Jani! We highly recommend you to check with your physician first before taking our products.

  4. Hi Deb! We highly recommend you to check with your physician first before taking our products.

  5. I’m a breastfeeding mother following a low carb diet (phase one of the South Beach diet). Today is just my fourth day, but I’m down almost 7lbs.
    I do consume more carbs than recommended because my liquid vitamin supplement & b-vitamin energy drink contains sugar, I still use almond milk in my coffee and I eat fruit at lunch with my students. I’ve been drinking between 96-150 oz of water/water-based beverages.
    My 3 month old baby actually seems more energetic during the day and is sleeping more solidly at night.
    I did notice that my milk supply dipped. Usually I can pump 6 ounces while she nurses the alternate breast, but the last few days it has been closer to four.
    I’m not worried, she is still producing enough wet and soiled diapers, for sure!

  6. Hi fitlizze can u please share ur diet chart my baby is 4 months now dont know how to start please help

  7. If you are a brand new mom reading this article, please do not pump exclusively for a few days to “track” your milk production. This can and will utterly destroy your supply. With all due respect to the author, this is terrible advice and needs to be revised. Please talk to a lactation consultant about how to track your milk production. Or search on Kellymom.com.

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