Can I Diet While Nursing?

QUESTION

Dear Lactation Consultant,
I have a two-month-old son who is breastfeeding and hopefully will continue to do so for at least a year.

My diet has always consisted of tons of carbohydrates throughout the day. I would like to cut back on them to feel better about myself (sometimes after eating lots of carbohydrates it's hard for me to get up and move around because I feel so full) and to loose some of this after pregnancy weight. I am 5'3" and weigh 150 pounds. I am still about 25 pounds more than before my pregnancy.

My question is will this affect my baby in any way while I am breastfeeding or my milk supply? I have heard mixed reactions from friends about dieting while breastfeeding but cannot find any information from an expert. Could you please help?

Thank you.

ANSWER

What a good question! It is fine to diet while breastfeeding as long as you get at least 1800 calories per day, which should be easy to do if you are just cutting back on carbohydrates.

Your body provides first for your baby, taking what it needs to make the milk from your nutritional stores. Studies done on breastfeeding women in developing nations have found that women produce very good milk supplies on very inadequate diets. In fact, it takes famine conditions for at least several weeks before the quality or amount of milk produced begins to be a concern. In our country, a breastfeeding woman would need to be on an extremely restricted diet or have an eating disorder before it was a problem.Isn't it nice to know that you can feel free to lose the extra weight while giving your baby the best?

-- Nancy, IBCLC

Kathleen Tackett

Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Research Associate Professor of Psychology specializing in women's health at the Family Research Lab, University of New Hampshire. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in both the Divisions of Health Psychology and Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a La Leche League leader, chair of the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Taskforce, and the Area Coordinator of Leaders for La Leche League of Maine and New Hampshire.

Dr. Kendall-Tackett is author of more than 140 journal articles, book chapters and other publications, and author or editor of 15 books including The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood (2005, Hale Publications), Depression in New Mothers (2005, Haworth), and Breastfeeding Made Simple, co-authored with Nancy Mohrbacher (2005, New Harbinger). She is on the editorial boards of the journals Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse and the Journal of Human Lactation, and regularly reviews for 27 other journals in the fields of trauma, women's health, interpersonal violence, depression, and child development. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is the "Ask a Lactation Consultant" columnist on Pregnancy.org and serves on the Board of Directors of Attachment Parenting International.

Dr. Kendall-Tackett received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in psychology from California State University, Chico, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in social and developmental psychology. She has won several awards including the Outstanding Research Study Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and was named 2003 Distinguished Alumna, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico.