Q&A: Breastfeeding While Starting Paleo

Judging by the number of questions we received this week about breastfeeding while eating Paleo, there are a whole lot of nursing moms out there wanting to go Paleo. Here’s one of those questions and my answer to it below.

Hi Neely,

My question relates to detox & breastfeeding, my wife & I have been eating Paleo, but my concern is that whatever her body removes through detoxing is going into her breast milk.
Can you offer any insights into this? Obviously we want to be healthy but we don’t want to put any toxins into our baby.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Very good question. It’s true that toxins can exit the body through breast milk. However, you have to ask yourself if it’s better for your child to have the toxins from the foods your wife was eating or the temporary toxins from the detoxification period.

It’s hard for me to say what you guys should do at this point, not knowing your wife’s health status or your child’s. Are either of them having detox symptoms? If so, are the symptoms very intense or just uncomfortable? If they’re just uncomfortable, I’d say it’s worth it to keep going. Of course, as always, you should watch your child carefully and give him or her medical care if it’s needed.

It’s best if your wife is drinking a LOT of water to flush things out, moving around quite a bit, not wearing super tight bras (the lymphs need to be able to flow in that whole area), eating enough calories in order to keep her milk production up, eating enough carbohydrates to do the same, and eating enough fat to balance things out.

Now is not the time for a super high protein diet or for her to be restricting calories, despite the urge to do that to lose the baby weight. Breastfeeding in and of itself is going to help her lose weight, and so is being on a Paleo diet of any kind.

She should be eating lean AND fatty (pasture-raised) meats, coconut milk, coconut oil, plenty of fruit and sweet potatoes, and lots of veggies. You guys know what Paleo consists of. If you don’t, here’s a list of acceptable foods. The baby needs lots of fat and carbohydrates at this time – that’s what breast milk is mostly made of.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences with breastfeeding while eating Paleo in the comments. Please do share!

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  1. Marie

    Thanks for answering this! I’ve been curious about how that would work.

  2. Max Shippee

    Just for the record. My wife went “yeast free” during her pregnancy for our second child. Her experience breastfeeding was far better than with our first. Yeast free means going essentially uber-Paleo. No high sugar fruits or anything. But it really made a diffferance to her.

    (during our first, she ended up with infections in both breasts, as well as our first developing thrush, not fun)

    So from someone who’s been through it (from the husand side, of course) I’d say go for it! Both you and your baby will love it!

  3. Traci

    I’ve breastfed and Paleo dieted since my son was 5 months old. I ate 4oz meat servings to add some extra calories and kept my water intake high. I felt as though my supply dipped a few times if I wasn’t eating enough and I adjusted accordingly. I lost the baby extra weight slowly and got an extra 10lbs off that I gained with the pregnancy before this last one :) I feel great and know that he isn’t getting all the “junk” from non-paleo food. Hope this helps.

    He is currently 14 months old, so over 10 months I’ve lost 20 pounds.

  4. Vicky

    Thanks for this post! I see it’s just over a month old, but I just stumbled upon it.

    I am embarking on a Paleo diet as well and still nursing my DD who is just 10 months. I was worried about the toxins from breastmilk, too. I’ll be sure to watch her for signs of detox. I am just on my third day but feel really good. I had heard not to eat many fruits or sweet potatoes until I had lost the weight (I’d like to ideally lose 20 lbs to get back to my wedding weight), but I also understand I need to eat enough (in quantity and variety) to keep up my milk supply.

    Thanks! :)

    • Neely

      Vicky – Good to hear you’ve made the switch for you and your baby! Yes, I don’t think now is a good time to skimp on the fruit or sweet potatoes. Try it with them first and worry about the baby weight after you figure out how your body works on a very balanced, Paleo diet that contains a lot of nutrients from veggies and fruits as well as meats, fats, and eggs.

  5. Danielle

    I’m so glad I found this post. My husband and are just starting the Paleo diet because he started a crossfit challenge. I think it’s great and we are both adjusting. My son is 4 1/2 months old. He’s very healthy but I was worried about the breastfeeding thing and the toxins. I’ll just be sure to keep the fruits and sweet potatoes in my system.

    My question is, where can I find the information on detox signs for him?

    Thank you!

    • Neely

      @Danielle – I’d just look out for skin rashes, weight loss, extra fussiness, more phlegm/snot, trouble sleeping, and anything else out of the ordinary. Biggest thing: you need to eat enough food. Good luck!

  6. Natalie

    I have a 6 month old son and went paleo about a month ago. I had eaten primal years back but got out of the habit. This time round I roped my husband into it as well and this has made the transition much easier.
    I only noticed a dip in my milk supply in the early days, along with some light headedness, but I increased my calorie intake and eat all fruits and sweet potatoes on a regular basis so feel much better in myself. I also still take milk in my tea but have cut out pretty much everything else (except red wine – ahem).

    In the beginning I ate masses of food, but I’ve noticed that I actually don’t need all that much as I’m just not hungry. A paleo smoothie for breakfast (and sometimes a poached or boiled egg), cobb salad for lunch sans dressing, pumpkin seeds, pistachios and apples to snack on and a paleo dinner (anything thats in the fridge gets thrown either on the bbq or in a crock pot).

    I didn’t put on much during my pregnancy (not for want of trying but the baby only wanted carrot sticks and spicy hummus apparently!) and I was back to pre-pregnancy weight very quickly, however since eating paleo, I have lost another 14 lbs and am now lighter than at my wedding. In fact, I think this is the lightest I have been. I’m 5ft 8″ and was 143lbs pre-pregnancy whilst doing P90X, was 137lbs at my wedding and am now 134lbs. I genuinely feel fantastic, no more bloating and when I do happen to eat processed foods, I feel lethargic and ravenously hungry. Paleo suits me as it clearly stabilises my blood sugar and I don’t have cravings or sugar spikes.
    I didn’t notice anything different in how my baby reacted to my milk and I still seem to have an abundant supply – when I fall pregnant next time, I will definitely continue to eat this way throughout it all.

    • Neely

      Natalie – Thank so much for sharing your VERY encouraging story! I hope you guys continue down the Paleo road for years to come.

  7. jennifer

    my experience is different once I started the Paleo diet. At about 9 month old, still 100% breastfeeding, I had started the Paleo diet and my milk supply dropped. and then my baby was in the less than 5 % for wt. The doctor told me to start supplumenting formula. I did but was so super sad. now at almost 11 month I wonder if there is any way to increae my supply, my son is barely getting any milk from me I can tell. I did loss wt and that made me happy but I also lost my supply.

    • Neely

      Jennifer – It may just be about calories for you. And perhaps carbs. Can you experiment with eating more carbs and calories and see if it comes back?

  8. Janelle

    I know this is an old conversation, but I am breastfeeding my 7-month old & just started eating paleo this week (also a crossfit challenge), but just started to worry about a lack of calcium with cutting out dairy? Are there certain foods to increase calcium & should I be taking a calcium supplement? And should I be giving one to the baby?

    • Neely

      Janelle – Please don’t give your baby a calcium supplement, whatever you do. There’s no need for that, and there’ve been recent studies saying that calcium supplementation can increase your chances of heart disease. Please read these blog posts: http://www.paleoplan.com/?s=calcium about calcium and the over-recommendation of supplementing and eating it in Western countries. Doctors know very little about nutrition, as can be witnessed by our increasingly bad health in this country. I wouldn’t take their claims about calcium very seriously. You get quite a bit of calcium from certain veggies and nuts and seeds if you eat them. Check out this post comparing Paleo with a normal SAD diet: http://www.paleoplan.com/2011/08-29/getting-enough-nutrients-in-your-paleo-diet/

  9. Jenni

    I just started Paleo, I’m at 6 days so far, and I feel great! My concern is my 4 month old used to be so awake and active, now he is taking more naps, and appears tired alot. Can the detox period cause him to be overly tired without all that processed sugars/caffeine? Also how long does the detox period last? I had one day of headaches, but i increased my sweet potato and fruit intake and haven’t had a problem since. Thanks. I appreciate it!

    • Neely Quinn

      Jenni – To be honest, I’m not an expert in this area, but I’d be willing to bet that your child is experiencing detox just like you were. I highly recommend you keep your carb, fat, and calorie content up. By that I mean, I wouldn’t go too low carb (maybe start at around 100 grams of carbs a day and see how you both do), and make sure you’re not getting much of a calorie deficit. As I said, http://www.myfitnesspal.com is really great for getting a baseline of how much you’re eating and how much you should be eating every day.

  10. Rachel

    My baby is nearly 8 months and still exclusively breastfed. I have been eating Paleo for 8 weeks and have felt great except 2 weeks ago, I suddenly hit complete exhaustion!! I was tired before and I was really struggling with post pardom depression but have been on a high dose of vitamins (doctor prescribed) for 3 weeks now. My brain and emotions feel WAY better :) but my energy is still so low. I think I may not be getting enough calories. All I want is sugar, and today my cravings were for brown rice and oatmeal. Any ideas on what might be going on/how to resolve this? You should also know that my hunger cues have been REALLY low since the baby was born and I have been forcing myself to eat to nourish her. Now that I say that, I wonder if having my mental health stabilizing is affecting my hunger cues and now I’m just as hungry as I’m actually supposed to be. What do you think?

    • Neely

      Rachel – I think you should listen to your new hunger cues :) I’m of the opinion that if your body is craving carbs, you very well might need carbs. Fat can also assuage those cravings sometimes, so add in more fat (coconut oil, coconut milk, fatty organic meats, etc) and more carbs (check out our recipes using tapioca like the tapioca crepes, fruit, potatoes and sweet potatoes). I bet if you do that and you eat more in general you’ll have more energy.

  11. wasatchCF

    Hi there! I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding my baby… She’s 10 1/2 months right now. I usually b-feed my babies for 18 months. I also have Crohn’s disease. And I Crossfit. I have to tell anyone out there worried about paleo and nursing, DO IT!! I started eating paleo before this last pregnancy, and I was pretty darn strict. I felt amazing!! Delivered my baby 2 days overdue…in my opinion is just fine! Healthy fat baby girl. Now 10 1/2 months later, she’s never dipped below the 99th percentile!!! She’s a big healthy girl! As for myself, I feel pretty good. Sometimes I eat too many tapioca crepes/tortillas, and too many fruits. But hey! I’m feeding another, very hungry, human!! My Crohn’s has been in a good remission, very few symptoms. My symptoms uses to be daily. Now it’s rarely, like once every 6 weeks or so that I have any kind of symptoms.

    Bottom line for me… Paleo is the way to go for both mommy (especially this crohns sick mommy), and baby!!!! Thanks for this post!!

  12. Marie

    Hello! I’m breastfeeding my 4 month old baby and started the Paleo diet 2 months ago. Reading about how the toxins can be transfer to her worries me and also makes me realize that it could be the cause of her eczema and congestion? She’s been having this since about the same time I started with the diet :(
    I also think it might be allergies or reaction to something I’ve been eating, but the doctor says baby’s too young to test for allergies (no allergies history in the family).
    I feel really good with the diet, but I’m concerned there might be something causing the eczema and congestion :(

  13. Christina Daley

    We just went paleo. Mines a little different.. Because my son has a little eczema and has had some fussiness so I want to eliminate the grains from my diet. I used to be paleo.

  14. Leni

    I am a breastfeeding mother of a 16 months old son and have decided to embrace the Paleo lifestyle.
    However, I have some doubts concerning milk intake, and cereals like wholewheat grilled grains , muesli. should these really be banned from intake for now? Usually for breakfast I have my 0% skim milk with 2 bar of Weetabix. should that be stopped?

  15. Brittany

    Hi, I just wanted to comment on what Rachel (March 12, 2013) said. If even after eating well and making the dietary changes she notices no differences she may need to have her thyroid checked with blood work. Pregnancy and all the hormones involved can do some wacky stuff to our bodies and it’s worth looking into. I’ve known more than one woman with hypo and hyper thyroid issues after pregnancy. By the way, I’m breastfeeding my 8-month-old son and really looking forward to going Paleo, and thankful for all the comments I’ve read here.

  16. Kristen

    Hi I know this is probably an old thread but I am starting paleo and need some advice. My son is 4 months and exclusively breast fed. I tried atkins 3 weeks ago. Lost 6lvs but my milk supply dropped tremendously. Since then I’ve added fruits and sweet potatoes back into my diet and have not been counting carbs. Milk has increased again. I eat pretty clean since trying atkins but I’m nervous to lose my milk again if i do a total paleo diet. Any recommendations? And I too am concerned about the detox. After my milk dropped, my son got a terrible cold with rash. Doctor said it was a virus but now I’m wondering if I’m not eating enough carbs/fat and he’s detoxing. What is a healthy range for calories/fat/carbs/protein for breastfed baby . Thank you

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