Poor Breast Milk Production May Be A Sign of Inadequate Calorie Intake
A friend of mine was asking about the effects of a low carbohydrate diet on breast-feeding. She was told to increase her carbohydrate intake while breast-feeding in order to maximize breast milk production, and wondered if this is true or just some outdated advice.
She’s been following a low carbohydrate lifestyle for a while and didn’t want to increase her carbohydrate intake unless it was necessary for her child’s health.
I hunted around and found that the vast majority of studies recommending an increase in carbohydrates to promote breast milk production involved breast-feeding women from developing countries.
These studies are focused more on the fact that many women from these cultures are undernourished (i.e., not getting enough calories on a daily basis). Inadequate maternal nutrition seems to be the drive cause of poor breast milk production.
Remember breast milk contains lots of energy and if the mother doesn’t have enough nutrition (i.e. dietary energy) to sustain herself, she certainly won’t have enough to adequately produce breast milk.
Low Carb/High Fat Makes a Good Combo for Breast Milk Production
I did find this study which suggests that a low carbohydrate/high fat diet for breast-feeding mothers seems to be very healthy and safe during pregnancy.
A reduction in maternal carbohydrate intake (and an intake of fat) did not affect the amount of lactose (milk sugar), protein or volume of breast milk produced.
The amount of milk fat, energy and infant consumption was actually increased. These are all good things in terms of providing nutrition to breast-feeding infants.
My take on this is that a high carbohydrate diet (typical American diet) combined with inadequate net caloric intake (i.e., mommies trying to get thin too quickly) causes a reduction in breast milk volume post-partum.
The time-honored solution is to increase carbohydrate intake (i.e., up the calories).
The better solution seems to be to decrease your carb intake, increase your fat intake and your breast milk production problems should end.
Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids are very important during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Your baby has a massive need for omega-3 fatty acids to support the rapid brain growth that begins after birth.
I recommend 1-2 fish oil capsules (about 300 mg DHA+EPA, the amount found in the standard 1000 mg fish oil capsule) twice daily.