Breastfeeding on a Paleo diet

by (50) Updated May 20, 2014 at 10:31 AM Created May 10, 2012 at 8:59 PM

My wife is breastfeeding our 5 month old son. We just started a Paleo diet this week. Because our previous way of eating consisted of a lot of oats and grains, she is not getting a lot of the "filler food" or empty calories she is used to. From such things as breads, tortillas, oats, etc. that she has eaten her entire life. This has resulted in never being full. She isn't so sure that she can sustain breastfeeding and eat in a Paleo manner. She understands that because she is breastfeeding, she needs a lot more (good) fats and needs more nutricious food in order to generate nourishment for our son and herself. She and the baby have also been having a lot of gas. He is very uncomfortable with this gas (on top of the fact that he is about to pop is first tooth out, and all of the discomfort that comes with). She is also very thin and cannot afford to lose any weight.

I have been scouring the internet trying to find food ideas for her, good paleo snacks, and ways to help her realize that a Paleo lifestyle is a benefit, and not a bad consequence that I am "making" her go along with. So far, most of the suggestions are more fruits and vegetables, which we think is causing the gas problems... Any suggestions? I can tell she is getting close to quitting. She broke down and had a sandwich today because she felt she didn't have enough options...


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18 Replies

10878 · May 10, 2012 at 9:09 PM

More potatoes. I've been breastfeeding on a mostly paleo for 17 months now (with some breaks for soaked oats white rice, or buckwheat.) I was pretty low carb the first 6 months after my son was born because I was still following a somewhat more orthodox view. I didn't, however give up raw or fermented dairy which I found very helpful in those early Months (under 12 Months.) I'd just say plentiful offal, shellfish, red meat, fish, and then pad out her diet with either more Starches, fruit, or dairy. That first year is critical and She should feel well nourished. I regret not taking others on Paleohack's advice to increase my carbs that first year. I'd recommend reading the Weston price Foundation's diet for pregnant and nursing Mothers and adjust it to your needs. I do eat a more orthodox paleo diet now but my son eats a goodly portion of his diet from solids now so I don't feel depleted eating this way anymore.

Sorry for any typos I'm on my Phone.

310 · September 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM

Breastfeeding for 2.5 years and largely paleo. Eggs! Clean dairy. Lots of healthy fat. and yes, soaked oats. Nuts. It was near impossible for me to feel sane and healthy until babe was 8 mos. old and eating paleo on her own. Now she nurses 2-12 times a day and eats like a champ. Maybe your wife could ease into paleo for a few more months for the sake of breastfeeding.

1458 · May 10, 2012 at 9:49 PM

I was breast feeding when I first started paleo as well. She needs to have lots of snacks already prepared and ready to go for her. You could help with this. She is too busy to think about making something in a rush when she is starving and just needs something to grab and go. This is why she resorts to the old bread etc. here are some examples..

Beef jerkey or any other jerkey Kale chips Veggies with dips/almond butter Paleo egg muffins Trader joes tuna Penang or green curry pouch over sweet potatoe Beet chips Nut cheese spred and paleo crackers.

You get the idea, search around the web for paleo snacks and just make sure the fridge is always full of yummy stuff that she can just grab and doesn't have to cook. If you see her opening the fridge and closing it without grabbing anything that means you need to cook something for her fast. The feeling of starvation you get while breast feeding is overwhelming and kinda an out of body experience.

24412 · May 11, 2012 at 12:23 AM

Meat and taters at least twice a day. At least that is what has worked for me to feel full and stick to the program. I tried to go low carb while breastfeeding a few times, and each time my milk supply dropped off dramatically, so if she has good supply and everyone is healthy let them keep eating whatever they are eating until the baby is about a year old and milk fluctuations won't be as big of an issue.

(Pssst...over here. This might get me kicked out of the tent, but I think oats are awesome, especially for nursing moms. Just try to go for the best quality oats you can find and prepare them properly by soaking and chucking the soak water to reduce the phytates. Alton Brown has a great crockpot oatmeal recipe).

1807 · May 10, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Avocado (sprinkle salt and squeeze a lemon wedge for an easy treat) and bacon are good ways to get good fats, as are hard boiled eggs. Bacon I simply lay in a pan covering the green vegetable of the day (Brussels, greens, broccoli, asparagus), place in a cold oven, set to 400, and walk away for 15-20 minutes. Apple-sized balls of mozzarella (typically $3 or so) are a perfect easy snack: 40g protein + 40g fat.

Tbsp olive oil is 119 calories, and will gratify the satiety center of the hypothalamus. Spoonful of coconut oil is also easy. Finally, a whole baked sweet potato, minus the skin, with half a stick (1/4 cup) of pastured butter melted in, spiced however you like. These are my quick tricks!

Also: don't forget the value of soaked white rice as a vehicle for more fats (butter, ghee, coconut oil, bacon fat, etc.) and relatively safe carbs. Also pretty low-intensity in terms of prep, like the above!

20 · January 19, 2013 at 3:01 PM

I have done both the Weston A. Price diet (while pregnant) and the Wahls Diet, a nutrient dense paleo, (while breast feeding). My thoughts are to take both with a grain of salt in the figurative sense. It is tempting to say, "This one diet is better for mom and baby so go full steam ahead and only eat that right now!". Many nursing mothers have eaten many different diets and had healthy kids and research has shown slow change is more sustainable.

With the Wahls Diet I started by working the 9 cups of veggies, 4 oz of grass-fed/wild protein and 1 teaspoon of minerals a day into my diet. This is a gluten and dairy free diet about two week in I stopped buying gluten and dairy products and let my pantry run out gradually.

As for my baby she is 7.5 months now. At 6 months we started her on solids. I pumped and froze a lot of extra breast milk and I have been making overnight oats with breast milk for her (1 tablespoon organic old fashioned rolled oats with 1 tablespoon breast-milk, let set in the fridge over night and it's ready to eat in the morning). She also eats what I eat as far as veggies and fruit, we'll start proteins at 8 months. Again there are lots of ways to eat, this is what works for us.

As for the gas, I am experiencing, but just me not the kid. I don't know how to get rid of that. I stopped taking my probiotic and I'm hoping my body will balance out on it's own. Searching for how to get rid of the gas is what brought me to this board!

Good Luck!

20 · September 02, 2012 at 2:25 PM

I was unable to do low carb/paleo while breastfeeding and I think the reason was because grains help stimulate the body's production of prolactin; the hormone that is key to making breastmilk. Within 2-3 days of low carb/paleo my milk supply decreased DRAMATICALLY! Perhaps if she was eating Paleo while pregnant or before pregnancy, her body would have adapted prior but I think it is probably best if you do not have her radically switch dietary directions while her body is already going crazy with post-pregnancy hormones and milk production hormones. Remember - insulin is a hormone too and they all work in concert with each other to keep milk production where it needs to be for baby.

As for weight loss while breastfeeding... I was in the camp of not losing at all no matter what I did. As soon as I started weaning and milk production was no longer a major concern, I switched to low carb/paleo and 10 pounds just disappeared and the scale has been trending downward with ease.

Leave her be for now. Breastfeeding is stressful in the beginning and radical dietary changes will just add to that, especially if she is not felling well on the low carb/paleo diet.

148 · May 10, 2012 at 10:19 PM

I also started paleo while breastfeeding, and I love jerky, avocado, and apples with almond or peanut butter. It was easy to roast up cauliflower or brussel sprouts as a snack with salt, pepper & apple cider vinegar, and I'd make paleo dips for veggies. I also counted calories, because I wanted to make sure I was getting enough to support breastfeeding.

I also had to learn to just make more food. If we weren't having a pasta or rice anymore, then I needed to have another vegetable, or larger servings of everything.

This: http://joythebaker.com/2010/06/wild-rice-salad-with-yogurt-vinaigrette/ was also a lifesaver. I'd make a huge batch - but I used red quinoa instead of rice - and it would be a super-hearty salad (I call it super salad) for lunches for the week.

10 · March 18, 2013 at 11:10 PM

I am currently breastfeeding and my baby is 7 weeks old. I started Paleo 5 days ago and my supply is extremely low. I am going to try the oats. I'm glad I found this post. I didn't want to stop the Paleo diet.

0 · May 20, 2014 at 10:31 AM

@MiMintzer can I ask the proportions of your treat please?

0 · May 20, 2014 at 10:30 AM

@MiMintzer can I ask the proportions of each for your treat please?

5 · August 31, 2013 at 9:16 AM

I would give it a try with the following NOT low-carb paleo diet:

  • sweet potatoes as a carb staple
  • buckwheat as an alternative staple (many many ways to eat buckwheat: buckwheat flour in pancakes & French "crèpes", bread, buckwheat seeds delicious as such, etc.)
  • quinoa is a nice possibility too
  • fruits: young coconuts (water and meat) and bananas
  • dairy: Kefir is a must
  • veggies: as much as she feels like (maybe limit cruciferous veggies to reduce the gas)
  • plenty of grass-fed meat
  • cod liver oil each day

I agree with the comment above remarking on the fact that your wife should not switch to a low-carb diet now; the good news is that she can be paleo while eating lots of (healthy!) carbs :-)

If she does not feel great under the suggested diet then I would stick to her past habits for the period in which she's breastfeeding. But I'm optimistic that diet should work fine on her.

20 · August 30, 2013 at 6:28 PM

I'm trying to change back to paleo too. I was mostly paleo last year and we ended up pregnant (surprise!). I have PCOS, and I guess it regulated my cycle and bam.

Anyway, I went way far off the diet, and now my baby is almost 3 months old and I'm really trying to get back to it. I am also STARVING all the time, so I'm going to take yous guys advice and eat as much good fats as I can. That may be the key. I was eating 3 scrambled eggs in coconut oil/3 natural sausages for breakfast and I'm still starving after that. Then I had a couple of pretty good paleo days, then I noticed a dramatic drop in BM. I went back to eating carbs/sugar and it went back up some.

I'm not a great milk producer (envious of Rachel's output!). I usually pump 3-5 oz each time at work (2-3 times a day) then I pump in the morning after he feeds, and sometimes he'll feed on one breast and I pump the other. He's eating well and I at least get 2-3 3 oz frozen a day. I'm paranoid about drying up, becuase I do have PCOS and my first son, BF'ing and pumping didn't go well at all, and I was dried up by 6 weeks. I really want to make it 9-12 months for this baby as my first had lots of allergies, skin issues, asthma, etc. I want to make sure I can give my second the best chance possible.

Anyway, I'm worried about that, and I've read oatmeal is good for BFing, so I'll try to at least keep some in for breakfast and lots of sweet potato, and fats.

0 · May 20, 2013 at 3:05 AM

We just started a mostly Paleo diet about 4 weeks ago. While we didn't eat much processed food before, we no longer put bread or cheese in the house and verrrry rarely eat anything outside the house. I say mostly Paleo because I see a benefit to organic whole milk and whole plain yogurt. My daughter is 8 months old and still breastfeeds multiple times a day as well as eating just about all solid foods. While I haven't seen a decrease in my supply, I can tell eating Paleo that it can be more difficult to get enough calories to sustain myself and her esp on top of my physcial activity level with taking care of her and exercise. What saves me everyday is a huge smoothie in the morning with a ton of spinach (usually the only time I eat it all day), frozen berries and water or coconut milk. I also usually add a half of an avocado and a banana for extra easy calories and stuff to fill me up. So if you add that to whatever breakfast you are having (paleo pancakes, eggs, etc) you have at least an extra 200 calories. I have hardboiled eggs, almonds and a trail mix with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, coconut shreds and dried fruit all ready to go. I know as a pretty fresh mom, remembering to eat and needing something quick are both necessity, even now that my daughter can entertain herself while I make something, I'd rather eat something healthy quick and enjoy time with her than have to slave over a snack or meal in the kitchen. Finding all clean things that are a lot of nutritional bang for your buck (both literally and metaphorically) is the best way to go about this. Lots of snacks ready to go and LOTS of leftovers easy to reheat. I also highly recommend the supplement Fenugreek for a quick supply boost. Going gluten free with some oats and using those as an addition to just her diet to keep her supply up and help her feel more full can help too. I know that some of the high quality dairy and oats aren't technically Paleo but as long as they don't cause a major slide in other areas (like high in saturated fat cheeses or over processed breads, etc), I am of the opinion that using them to supplement a breastfeeding mamas INSANE caloric needs, should be generally ok.

0 · May 02, 2013 at 7:35 PM

We started Paleo 2 weeks after the baby was born, I lost all my pre preggo weight plus an additional 12 lbs and our baby is 2 months old. My supply was super high but not diet related its water intake, I drink water like a camel approx 15 min glasses a day and I pump an hour after every feeding. I generally pump between 6-14 oz per session, the most at the beginning of day and night before bed. I bag and freeze about 18-24 oz a day. I strongly believe water is the answer there especially since breast milk is 90% water in makeup

20762 · January 19, 2013 at 4:38 PM

I'd say you're over thinking it. My wife did a 100% Paleo pregnancy and breast fed for 16 months on a Paleo diet (and now the little guy only eats Paleo food). Just have her eat real food to satiation. That might be a lot of food, but she's also making food so that's ok. Don't worry as long as its high quality real food (nothing that comes in a package or had ingredients is a good rule of thumb). Maybe try to get some more EPA and DHA because baby's brain needs that. But really just don't over think it. Jane cave woman did it just fine.

I'd also say "more fruits and veggies" is rarely ever the right answer to any question. The right answer is usually "more meat and fat" is the right answer.

5179 · June 02, 2012 at 8:40 PM

Coconut oil. Good fat with lots of mct's (also present in breast milk). I use it to cook just about everything in. Also mix it (melted) with cocoa powder, vanilla, and a little stevia for a special treat.

344 · June 02, 2012 at 7:29 PM

I find it very interesting that there are two camps for breastfeeding women, one in which breastfeeding hinders weightloss and the other in which breastfeeding accelerates weightloss.

Wonder if the line is drawn along the same lines re how your body reacts to stress? (some people lose weight when stressed and others gain)

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