SLIM & STRONG MOMS
Ariane Hundt, Clinical Nutritionist (M.S.) & Fitness Expert + Mom of Two
LOSING MILK SUPPLY
If you’re currently breastfeeding, we want to make sure you’re also maintaining your milk supply. Your change from higher carb to lower carb should be done gradually over the course of 4-7 days. A change too drastic can affect your milk production because it can create a stress effect and dehydration - two main issues that can cause a drop in breast milk volume.
Dehydration can affect breast milk production. Immediately after giving birth, your body starts releasing several pounds of water that it held on to during pregnancy. You will notice this through increased peeing, as much as night sweats. This is a normal process, but if you don’t keep up with proper water intake, especially while breastfeeding, you can end up dehydrated and with lowered breast milk production. Dehydration also happens as you lower your carbohydrate intake. Since every gram of carbs makes your body retain 2.5 grams of water, you will be shedding a lot of water weight as soon as you lower your carbs. This is a normal, healthy and temporary process, but you need to ensure that you drink more than usually to help rebalance your water household.
Stress is anything that your body perceives as unbalanced. Believe it or not, the body of a new mom is in a state of stress for months after delivery, hormonally speaking. You may be completely blissed out with your little bundle, but your body just went through almost 10 months of pregnancy with raging hormones, then went through the stress of delivery on the body (it’s massive work, whether you had a c-section or delivered vaginally), and the complete change of lifestyle and sleep hours.
Making drastic diet changes, such as cutting calories too low or changing from a high-carb diet to lower-carb approach overnight, can make the body go into stress mode. The body releases stress hormones that put the body into fat storage mode and it will do anything it can to preserve its resources (body fat, milk supply, calories, energy). Here’s how you can reduce carb intake without creating a stress response or affecting milk supply:
Gradually shift from high-carb to
lower-carb over the course of 4-7 days
If you’ve been eating a high-carb diet, such as bread for breakfast, pasta for lunch, snack on oatmeal cookies between meals and have a plate of rice with dinner, start by replacing the starchy and sugary carbs with more veggies and limit your starch intake to 5-7 bites per meal. Aim to eat 5 smaller meals during the day to keep your blood sugar balanced.
Assess your milk supply during this process.
If you notice a drop, make sure you increase your vegetable intake even more and also increase water intake.
If your milk supply is maintained, you can experiment with reducing the amount of starch at every meal further.
After about a week or ten days of this gradual shift towards lower carbohydrates, you should notice your blood sugar balancing out, while your milk supply is maintained.
As you lower your carb intake, you will lose several pounds of water weight. Why? Every gram of carbohydrate makes you retain 2.5 grams of water. Once you reduce your carbs, the body lets go of this water (which is typically unhealthy bloat water that’s held outside your cells). If you don’t keep up with sufficient water intake, you may get dehydrated and your milk supply can drop. Make sure you drink more water than usual and eat more veggies than you think is normal in the first week to prevent this effect. If you find that you can’t eat enough veggies to fill up on carbs, add a few bites of good starches, such as sweet potato or squash to your meals. After several days of lower-carb eating, your body will naturally rehydrate (this is a healthy rehydration of the inside of your cells). It will also adjust to this balanced carb intake with more balanced blood sugar. As a result you’ll find your appetite, cravings and energy (ACE) are better balanced.
Please make the adjustment to a veggie-focused diet slowly by initially eating more veggies than you thought was possible. Add them to your protein smoothie, snack on bell peppers, carrots and celery, put them in soups and stews, roast them and steam them and eat them several times a day for the first 10 days. You want to ensure a moderate carb intake that allows you to feel energized, full, keeps your digestion happy and your milk production on stand-by. I personally didn’t eat sugar or grains during both my pregnancies, but had only occasional indulgences. I kept up that approach after pregnancy and my milk supply was never affected, except when I was dehydrated.
DO YOU HAVE DIASTASIS RECTI?
If you’re a new mom, assess if you have diastasis recti as that determines which ab routine you want to follow. This video will help you assess if you have it. You will see my diastasis and stretched belly right after delivery, so you have an idea what I’m talking about
MILK SUPPLY PRODUCTS | There are a lot of products on the market, such as breast milk cookies, that promise a boost in milk supply. The truth is that there is no need to eat grains, starches, and sugar to make milk, contrary to what the breast milk cookie companies tell you. This type of food didn’t exist until a few years ago and we were able to survive as humans. These types of foods load up on sugar and starches, including inflammatory grains that can cause digestive distress, blood sugar imbalances, sugar cravings and energy fluctuations, so they’re not the answer you want.
REALITY CHECK | Your appetite spikes with breastfeeding. When you first start breastfeeding, you may find yourself ravenous. Making milk is a new feat for your body and it will require more calories at first. I suggest you simply honor your appetite and eat accordingly. You will need the extra calories and will likely not gain weight as the caloric requirements are used for milk production. You may find your appetite and sugar cravings being spiked for several weeks after delivery and that is normal. It is the combination of the new stress on your body (caloric demands of milk production, hormonal stress, sleep deprivation, a new lifestyle and the emotional stress you may feel from this complete lifestyle change).
Aim to focus the majority of your food intake on high-quality and nutrient-dense foods and fill in the gaps with a treat here and there. Protein and veggies in regular amounts of about 5 small meals a day is a good starting point. Add starches based on how large your appetite is and be sure to add something you really want to have, such as your favorite pastry or pasta infrequently - at a rate of 2-3 meals a week. After all, you want to enjoy the treat, but not create blood sugar imbalances or constantly feed into your cravings and gain weight.
REALITY CHECK | Metabolic Adaptation. After a few weeks or months of breastfeeding, your metabolism adapts to the caloric demands of milk production and burns fewer calories. So, if you're wondering why your fat loss has stalled despite the high calorie needs of breastfeeding, chuck it up to metabolic adaptation. Your body is used to the milk production process and can do it with less calories. Your metabolism has slowed its calorie burn because it simplyis your new normal to produce milk and not a new challenge that requires energy. It’s hard to predict when that will happen, but you know it’s happening when your appetite quiets down and you find you’re putting on weight despite not having changed your food intake. When that happens, simply reduce the carb intake by reducing starchy and sugary foods and filling up on fibrous veggies instead.
If you’re not breast-feeding and want to lose body fat, you can make the shift from higher-carb to lower carb quicker by reducing the carbs over the course of 3-5 days. You will move from carb-burning mode into fat-burning mode in a matter of 3-4 days.
How do you know you’re in fat-burning mode? Your ACE is in check, meaning your appetite, cravings and energy are balanced - not too high and not too low. All three signs tell you that your blood sugar is balanced. That’s when your body not only burns the food that’s coming in, but also dips into your body’s fat stores. And that’s where the magic of fat loss happens.