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Is it safe to participate in the #JanuaryWhole30 even though I’m breastfeeding? Will it tank my supply? Help! – All of the breastfeeding mama on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
I’ve been eating a whole foods, paleo-style template for the past 5 years. While I was pregnant, I occasionally indulged in things like frozen yogurt (with candy on top, of course), grass-fed and full-fat dairy, and chocolate, but overall my diet has been pretty clean. I was lucky to escape morning sickness and food aversions, so I even did a Whole30 while pregnant. While it wasn’t always easy, I know how important quality nutrition is and I was determined to continue my good food habits.
My Reality Check
After my son was born, life got real. I was no longer sleeping 8-9 hour stretches at night. Another human needed me 24 hours a day, so I had to to “take turns” with my my husband to do routine things. One of us would eat dinner while the other cared for our son. My gym membership was a waste of money. The craziness of motherhood was beyond my wildest expectations.
I am fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed my son. He’s currently 16 months old and we are still going strong. The first few months of his life, he spit up. A lot. I tried every trick in the book, including removing every possible food that could bother him. At one point, my diet consisted of only squash, turkey, lamb, baked sweet potatoes, and pears. It was ridiculous.
During this time, I tried a Whole30, to see if that would eliminate the problem. Unfortunately, it didn’t, but at least it made me feel pretty dang good! I never dealt with supply issues during my Whole30. I drank tons of water, napped when I could, nursed on demand, ate lots of calories (at least 2,200/day), and bumped up my intake of carbs and fat. I had a starchy carb or fruit at every meal, had closer to 2 servings of fat per meal, and included snacks.
After trying multiple diets, I decided to try feeding him from just one breast at each nursing session. Previously, I had been feeding him from both breasts at each feed. This turned out to be too much volume for his tiny stomach and he responded by spitting up the extra fluid (for more on this, check out this article). I was terrified to try this because I assumed he wouldn’t get enough milk. After just a few feeds he stopped spitting up. It was a light bulb moment, and I kicked myself pretty hard for unnecessarily restricting my diet. I had to remember: I can only do the best I can with the information I have.
Why I’m doing the #JanuaryWhole30
Now, Otto is 16-months old. I am back in the gym 3-4 days a week and I’m sleeping much better. I found a nanny that helps 2-3 days a week. I’m starting to focus on my career. Life is pretty good. So when I heard about how huge the #JanuaryWhole30 was going to be and saw interest from the moms in the VIP Healthy Mama, Happy Baby Facebook group, I thought … why not? Here’s why I decided to join the January Whole30:
I like structure. I thought I was someone who liked a flexible schedule and less rules, but I’m finding that I do well with rules and structures. I’m an upholder.
I’ve started emotional eating since Otto was born. Being under-slept and over-stressed will do that to you!
I’m craving sugar. When I was pregnant, I ate a ton of fruit and starchy carbs. Then I started introducing things like Larabars, dried fruit, and other sugar-dense foods. In reality, that’s really not that big of a deal, but I hate how it feels when my Sugar Dragon is in control.
I’ve gained weight. I actually lost all of my pregnancy weight within a few months postpartum, but gradually gained weight as the months past (see #2 and #3). I’m ready to take a slow and steady approach to get my body composition to where I feel more comfortable.
I enjoy supporting those I love. My brother and his girlfriend decided to do a Whole30 in January as did the mamas in the VIP Healthy Mama, Happy Baby Facebook group. Because I know this program works, I’m happy to support them by doing the program with them and sharing my tips, tricks and experience.
I want to encourage a healthy relationship with food. Being a role model for my son is my top priority. I want him to continue to see me experiment with new healthy dishes. I want him to see me have a positive relationship with food and my body image. Kids are smart and they pick up on these things. This is so important to me!
We’re thinking about Baby #2. My husband and I want to have kids similar in age which means it’s probably time to start thinking about a second baby. I think the Whole30 program is one of the best ways to get your body and mind in shape for conception. We shall see what 2016 has in store for us.(After all … Whole30 has a reputation of knocking people up.)
#JanuaryWhole30 breastfeeding strategies
If you’re a breastfeeding mama who is currently doing a Whole30 (or considering one), here are a few things to keep in mind:
EAT!! Focus on the higher end of the recommended servings on the meal template. You may not need that much protein (I tend to eat 4-6 oz at each meal), but enjoy plenty of healthy fat, fruits, and veggies! A sudden drop in calories or carbohydrate intake may put your milk supply at risk. If you’re concerned that you aren’t eating enough, this may be a situation where you track your calories for a few days to make sure you’re not dropping below 1,800 calories per day.
Drink! Make sure you drink plenty of filtered water since hydration levels can affect your milk supply. Take a water bottle with you when you leave the house!
Take care of yourself. Stress and sleep deprivation will make your supply tank. Reducing stress, taking naps, and going to bed early are harder said than done, but it’s so necessary. Hire a sitter or have your partner/family/neighbor watch the baby for awhile so you can sleep, shop, or play!
Enjoy snacks. This is a smart modification for mamas who are both pregnant and breastfeeding. I enjoy bone broth mixed with collagen peptides, veggies with guacamole, olives with approve deli meat, and fruit with nut butter. Don’t feel like you need to stick to the meal template recommendation of just 3 meals a day. Feel free to include a “second” breakfast or lunch!
Nurse or pump often. An empty breast means faster milk production, so make sure you empty each breast either by nursing, pumping, or a combination of both every time your baby feeds.
Babies sometimes fuss at the breast. There were many times during these past 16 months that I freaked out about my milk supply. Most of the time it was because my son was fussing after feeding. This is actually common and may have nothing to do with your milk supply. Your baby may be going through a growth spurt, a developmental stage, may be teething or need to burp, or may be dealing with a faster or slower than normal let-down. Is your baby still having the same number of wet diapers? Is your baby still gaining weight? Does he/she appear to be happy, alert, and active? If you’re concerned, check in with a lactation consultant.
Consider supplementation. There are lots of great herbs and galactagogues out there (fenugreek, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, etc.) that may help your build your supply and your confidence if you notice a drop in supply.
It’s okay to stop your Whole30. If you truly think the Whole30 is tanking your supply, just stop! I know it can be hard to stop something that you know is so healthy, especially if you’re more than 1/2 way through, but it may be necessary. We are all different and feeding your baby the way you desire is extremely important. Continue eating whole, nutrient-dense food and avoid foods that don’t work for your body. That way you can still nourish yourself while nursing your little one.
Check back next week for the second part in this series on Whole30 and Breastfeeding, where I share what a typical week of Whole30 meals looks like for me.
Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice, RockYourHormones.com.