We look at why it’s best to avoid restrictive diets like banting while you are breastfeeding.
Not all moms bounce back to their pre-baby body. If you’re considering the banting diet made popular by professor Tim Noakes in his book
The Real Meal Revolution
, read on before embarking on this journey, especially if you are breastfeeding.
Q: I’m following the Banting diet and am breastfeeding my baby. Can it affect my baby negatively in any way since I’m not consuming carbs? I’m also curious if any other diets could affect breastfeeding babies, for example mothers who are vegans or don’t consume dairy?
Nutritional therapist Hannah Kaye answers:
Unless you are avoiding all fruit, vegetables and grains, you are, in effect, still eating carbohydrates. A cup of broccoli contains roughly 6g of carbs and a cup of cauliflower contains roughly 5g. For that reason, following Banting does not mean you are carb free. It only means that you are grain free (and legume free).
However, there are potentially two issues when following a low-carb diet while breastfeeding. The first is related to entering a state of ketosis. This is when the body does not have enough glucose for energy. Stored fats are then broken down for energy, resulting in a build up of ketones (produced when the body burns fat fuel) within the body. There is not enough research to say whether the ketones that are excreted into the blood and urine are also present in breast milk and, if so, at what levels these would pose a danger to the breastfed baby.
The second issue is related to rapid weight loss, which is more than 0.5kg per week while breastfeeding. Gradual weight loss has not been found to affect the mother’s milk supply or the baby’s health, but rapid loss has been linked to a decrease in milk supply. Additionally, toxins are stored in body fat. Rapid weight loss increases the release of these toxins into the bloodstream and if they are not excreted efficiently, this may potentially increase the toxin levels in breast milk.
I would suggest that it might be better to adapt your carb intake to a level at which you do not technically enter a state of ketosis.
Additionally, keep an eye on your breast milk production and increase your calorie intake if supply has been negatively affected.
ALSO SEE: Do you have enough breast milk? Here’s how to tell
There is no reason that excluding dairy from a diet should have any effect on breast milk production. In fact, some babies have transient lactase deficiency or cow’s milk protein allergy, in which case the breastfeeding mother would need to remove dairy from her diet in any case.
ALSO SEE: How to spot a food allergy
Following a vegan diet while breastfeeding
The situation with moms following a vegan diet is a little more complicated. While breast milk production may not be affected, both the mother and baby may have a vitamin B12 and iron deficiency as a result.
Vitamin D levels may also be extremely low. These deficiencies are certainly not limited to vegan mothers, but there is definitely a higher risk and both mom and baby should be monitored closely. If necessary, supplemental vitamins and minerals should be taken.
Finally, nutrient deficiencies are common in mothers following pregnancy. It is usually better to put a restrictive diet on hold for the first few months, allowing you time to recover from childbirth and to establish a good breast milk supply. Once you do start a diet, there are no hard and fast rules. But adapt any diet you do follow so that it still supports both your and your baby’s health while breastfeeding.
ALSO SEE: Your breastfeeding nutrition guide