Every celebrity mum seems to have some special way of eating, post-pregnancy, that delivers glowing skin, washboard abs and a happy baby! It’s no wonder many of us feel the pressure to get back into our pre-baby clothes super-fast, but do these special diets really help us lose weight, and are they good for a mum who wants to breastfeed?
The ketogenic diet
Understanding the ketogenic diet is crucial to recognising why it isn’t necessarily a good idea for women who are breastfeeding. ‘Keto’ as it is familiarly known, was designed to help people with epilepsy combat their fits. It is an extremely high fat diet which suits some people, who feel they get more mental clarity, rapid weight loss, and overall better health. However, here’s the thing – producing breast-milk request around an extra 500 calories a day, and while some of those calories come from a woman’s fat stores created during pregnancy, the rest need to come from extra food – and few keto weight loss plans offer enough carbs and sugar to support breastmilk production. The maintenance phase of a ketogenic weight loss does offer more carbs and fruit, which will support a breastfeeding mother better.
The vegan diet
The difficulty for women on a vegan diet who are breastfeeding, is that they need a minimum of 1000 mg of calcium daily. Vegan usually obtain their calcium from greens such as broccoli spinach and bok choy, tofu, and nuts like almond and Brazils. There are also enriched products like soy milk which can help boost calcium intake. Another issue for breastfeeding women who eat vegan is Vitamin B-12, which is generally found in animal products – some breastfed babies may experience a deficiency in B-12 which shows as lethargic behaviour, loss of appetite and in severe cases, muscle atrophy. While there are limited sources of B-12 such as fermented soy beans and yeast, any woman who plans to breastfeed and maintain a vegan diet would be well advised to talk to her GP and find out if she, or her baby, would benefit from B-12 supplements. Our maternity nurses are well used to helping vegan mums find the diet balance to ensure they eat according to their principles and still produce great milk for their babies.
The paleo diet
Eating ‘paleo’ advocates no processed foods and very few carbohydrates. That puts it right next to the keto diet as a problematic way of eating to support breast-feeding. Strict paleo mums often notice they struggle to produce enough milk. The paleo approach is varied though, and while diets containing less than 25% carbs will definitely make it tough to lactate, may paleo diets can be adapted to support around 45-65% calorie intake from carbs, which is what most authorities recommend – but it’s ongoing hard work to keep that balance right, so if you weren’t paleo before becoming a mum, you might want to wait until you’ve stopped breastfeeding before trying it out.
The juicing cleanse or detox diet
Doing a ten day ‘juice’ or a week’s ‘detox’, is definitely not going to help you lactate! Juice cleanses are low calorie and also low in fats and proteins, both of which are essential to milk production. Remember that point about needing an extra 500 calories a day? Well that would be a huge amount of juice. While there’s no reason not to have a juice, or a smoothie, every day, as it’s a great way to consume food easily and it gets a lot of fluids into your system, which is a real benefit to any breastfeeding mother, it’s definitely not going to help you breastfeed, and while you may lose weight, the loss will merely be water, which you’ll put back on as soon as you stop juicing. Balanced juicing, consuming one meal a day as juice, can work well. Let your maternity nurse help you find the best route to combine juicing and a diet that ensures you can breastfeed confidently.