What is a ketogenic diet: Is This Safe After Having A Baby?

By Sam Kimura

February 22, 2019

Sam is a mother of 2 beautiful children, RN, sleep coach, lactation counselor and prenatal coach. She has a keen interest in maternal mental health and through her work, hopes to decrease isolation and increase community among mothers.

Do a quick search for ketogenic diet and you will see the following descriptions:

“A keto diet is high in fat and low in carbs so you burn fat and have no protein reserves to burn”

“You want your body to be in a state of ketosis”

“Ketogenic diets are one of the fastest ways to lose weight and keep it off”

What is the purpose of a true ketogenic diet?

When I worked in pediatric intensive care, we often saw children who were diagnosed with epilepsy or seizure disorders who were on a ketogenic diet. There is significant evidence to support that ketogenic diets can be helpful for patient who are experiencing refractory seizures (seizures that persist, even with anti-epileptic drugs). The science behind this is that a child’s overactive brain activity can be stabilized when there is less carbohydrate consumption. If a child is very young, they are fed a specific formula and monitored very closely by a doctor and dietician for growth. If a child is older and is able to eat, they often have incredibly difficult dietary restrictions that can impact their life in a significant way.  Children are admitted to the hospital for monitoring for up to a week when they are starting a ketogenic diet because it is so important that they are monitored for any dangerous side effects.

Ketogenic diets are designed to alter your brain chemistry.

So why are recipe books seen on every shelf at the book store? Every celebrity is claiming that they have lost dozens of pounds of body weight by cutting out carbohydrates and only eating high fat foods. Women are believing that it is healthy and possible to lose all of the weight that they gained over 9 months of pregnancy in less than a month — because it sells!

Breastfeeding and Dieting

Phewwwf. That was a lot to take in. Now we can add in breastfeeding with a ketogenic diet.

When you are breastfeeding your sweet babe, you are using approximately an extra 500 calories a day. Many moms claim the easiest way to lose their pregnancy weight is to avoid eating the extra 500 calories and just be in a deficit— however this is not taking in to account all of the mineral and vitamin loss you are losing. Babies will get everything they need from breastmilk and this means that your calcium stores, vitamin D stores, and almost every other vitamin in your body can become depleted without proper nutrition. Without carbohydrates, you are making your body work very hard to produce an adequate amount of breastmilk for your baby. Some of the side effects of a ketogenic include: constipation, bone density loss leading to bone fractures, kidney stones, and high cholesterol. Hemorrhoids are not a pleasant side effect of pushing out your 9 lb troublemaker— add in constipation to this and it doesn’t sound like a good time!

Going on any kind of weight loss diet after having a baby can be harmful to both you and your baby. If your body is struggling to keep up with weight loss and feed a baby, the likelihood of your supply dropping is significant. Anxiety has been proven to be made worse by starvation, and your body will have a more difficult time going in to REM sleep (when you do have a moment to rest).

Bottom line mamas, gentle exercise and a balance in your diet is going to help you feel like yourself after having a baby, not a fad diet. Postpartum is forever— you will always be postpartum after having a child. Your baby needs a happy and healthy mama who values the body she lives in.

Reach out to your village!

Before starting a postpartum weight loss diet, I highly recommend having a consult with a Registered Dietician. They are experts in how your body metabolizes food and can make a safe plan for you. Check out Calgary Family Nutrition for more info!

Every program with The Mama Coach includes a feeding assessment and lactation support. If you would like more information about how breastfeeding is impacting your body, we are happy to provide evidenced-based research for you.

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