Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
5 Jul

Dear Mark: Nursing and the Primal Eating Plan

I’ve received the question numerous times, and last month several readers raised the issue in my “Ask Me Anything” post. For all the innumerable benefits of the Primal Blueprint diet, there are a handful of situations that oblige a few modest accommodations. In the past I’ve suggested Primally-minded adaptations for endurance athletes. Today I’ll take up the question of nursing. Do the long-term, intensive demands of breastfeeding require modification of the typical Primal diet? What special considerations are there for nursing mothers? And what about specific scenarios readers have mentioned: ketones, reflux, ammonia-scented urine? There’s a lot of Primal ground to cover today, so let’s jump right in. But first a reminder that I’m not a doctor and that everything on this site should be viewed as my opinion and not medical advice.

First, a little background. Nature made the nursing process extremely efficient, which is great for baby and potentially not so great for the mother. The body not only prioritizes nutrient intake for breastmilk but in fact scavenges the mother’s stores, leaching calcium from the mother’s bones, for instance. Even under starvation conditions, the body still produces breastmilk with a remarkably nutrient dense profile. As comforting and ingenious as this phenomenon might be, it’s important for mothers to nourish their own health and wellbeing during these months. Although a shortchanged day here and there won’t do much, over time deficiencies can develop – especially if you’re practicing extended breastfeeding. As a result, research suggests that breastmilk displays a remarkably stable nutrient profile regardless of the mother’s food intake. Nonetheless, some nutrient levels are more dependent upon dietary intake because the body simply doesn’t store these in any substantial volume. As a result, optimal nutrition is crucial both for the baby’s development and the nursing mother’s overall health.

In keeping with these substantial needs, the more nutrient dense a nursing mother’s diet can be, the better. Of course, there are those additional 500-700 calories required for breastmilk production. (I remember Carrie being ravenous during those early months of nursing.) Yet specific nutrient needs escalate throughout the exclusive nursing duration as well. With only the basic RDA intake, women can stand to lose substantial bone, muscle and other organ stores.

For a comprehensive breakdown of nutritional secretion in breastmilk as well as RDA comparisons, check out this book from The National Academies Press. The report, for example, illustrates how an average nursing woman who eats only the basic RDA for protein can expect to lose approximately 20% of her lean tissue to cover the nursing related shortage. The most common deficiencies for nursing women are zinc and calcium. Additional “at risk” nutrients include magnesium, thiamine, vitamin E, vitamin D, B6 (especially if mothers have used oral contraceptives prior to conception), and iron (if/after menstruation resumes during nursing). Other nutrients like folate are of concern because the body keeps no ready stores and excretes any excess. In considering ample dietary intake, it’s important to realize that absorption efficiencies vary nutrient by nutrient. Protein absorption, for example, comes in at around 70%. Zinc absorption has been measured at approximately 20% in the general population, but some research suggests a higher absorption rate in nursing mothers.

Now for the carb controversy. When it comes to low carb diets and breastfeeding, the conventional message sounds very familiar: back away or risk great peril. There’s little research on this topic, but rest assured there’s no support for the anti-low carb alarmism. In the absence of modern confirmation, reason and evolutionary precedent can lend context. Prehistorical mothers always breastfed, of course, and there’s no reason to believe their diet was consistently or substantially different than anyone else’s of their time.

Given the impetus toward nutrient density, carb-based foods (like grains) remain relatively poor and unnecessary choices. The nursing mother has greater energy expenditure than she did before; however, her body’s natural metabolism and conversion abilities function just as well if not better. Additional clean protein sources and natural, intact fats not only provide excellent nutritional value for their volume; they offer satiation, a feeling hard to come by in those early post-partum months.

That said, I’m not one to suggest a no- or very low- carb diet during exclusive breastfeeding. Although I know there are plenty of mothers who have successfully done very low carb diets throughout their nursing duration, I generally suggest staying in the moderate carb range (100-150 grams/day) for a number of reasons. Although the presence of ketones, some of which can potentially be passed through breastmilk, might throw off the taste of a mother’s milk, I haven’t read anything to suggest that they compromise the health of the baby. The real issue, I think, with going extremely low carb is nutritional. It’s just flat out difficult to obtain fully rounded nutrition from very low carb diets. Cutting carbs too low generally means doing away with not just sugars and grains but antioxidant rich vegetables and fruits. With the increased needs for vitamins and minerals during nursing, I wouldn’t suggest giving up or cutting back on their best sources. It’s infinitely better, I believe, to get the full scope of nutrition for you and your baby. And though I believe wise supplementation has an important role for modern living, I don’t see supplements as stand-ins for a nutritionally comprehensive diet. A quality multivitamin and mineral supplement as well as additional omega-3 can offer a little extra assurance, but it can’t take the place of a solid diet itself.

Second, I tend to think that weight loss should be pursued carefully and selectively during breastfeeding. If a nursing mother is carrying a substantial amount of excess weight, it’s a reasonable choice to wisely – and Primally – diet once her milk supply is fully established (at very least six weeks but more conservatively twelve weeks’ time). Even in these circumstances, experts generally recommend not going below 1800 calories/day for the sake of maintaining adequate nutritional intake for the baby and basic needs of the mother. I would suggest a bit more as a rule of thumb. Nursing is a time to go a little slower on weight loss, especially because rapid loss can potentially release built up environmental toxins from fat stores. If extra weight is modest or simply pregnancy related, I recommend letting time take its course. Target your eating with healthy Primal fare, but I wouldn’t suggest restricting your caloric or carb intake for quick fat loss. The caloric demands of nursing itself, the moderation of a Primal diet plan and as much regular activity as possible will consistently and safely chip away at the remaining excess pounds.

Finally, to those final specific questions about Primal nursing…. A lot of babies have reflux, and it can sometimes be related to food sensitivities. If it’s a significant or ongoing problem, it’s worth eliminating certain food groups for a couple weeks at a time to see if it makes any difference. Although gluten and dairy get the most attention and warrant initial test runs, you might want to consider doing the same test runs with nuts, nightshades, eggs, citrus and any remaining soy in your diet. Readers might have other tips for sensitivities they’ve discovered. As for the ammonia-scented urine, it’s likely an issue of dehydration. Try adding a couple extra nursing rounds for a few days. The baby won’t take as much in but will get more of the watery foremilk to fill his/her fluid needs. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water yourself during these times. Nursing requires additional water intake, and it can be easy to skimp when you’re balancing the many responsibilities of early parenthood.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts, tips and additional inquiries about nursing while Primal. Keep those questions coming, and have a great week!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. As a nursing mother myself I was anxious to see your thoughts on your subject. I have been paleo for a good while(yrs now) and continued that during pregnancy and nursing. Personally I found no difficulty for me or the babe with carbs at 50-100 and some days lower.

    Personally I feel better on the lower range. Babe is happy, healthy and growing well. My supply is plenty abundant and I feel wonderful with lots of good energy and mood.

    I do try to keep a nutrient dense diet- with leafy greens- liver(grassfed of course)- cod liver oil and of course plenty of fats. I figure if I feel great and the baby is great we must be doing something right.

    amanda wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • I have a 10 month old baby and I just stared going Primal in the last two months. I exclusively breastfed my baby for the first 6 months of his life and now I breastfeed and supplement with solid foods. Since going Primal, I’ve had no trouble with my milk supply and my baby has shown no differences whatsoever with my now low-carb eating. Even on days when I go below 50 g of carbs, my baby seems just fine and he has always been ahead of the developmental curve. Thanks for the great info!

      Amanda wrote on August 23rd, 2010
      • Oh, I forgot to mention that I’ve also lost 14 pounds in the last 7 weeks since going primal while nursing! :)

        Amanda wrote on August 23rd, 2010
  2. I’ve been BF’ing exclusively for the past six months while eating Primally (~90 carbs a day, in general) and I’d lost my pregnancy weight by month 3. So you don’t even have to go all out with it and you see a huge benefit.

    The hardest thing to remember is that Mark’s advice regarding water (that he doesn’t see a huge need for it if you’re getting enough veggies) doesn’t apply in a BFing situation. You have to drink extra water while you’re breastfeeding or your supply suffers. Anytime I have a drop in supply I always check my water intake. Add in a few extra glasses and BOOM, all better.

    Katie wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • Whoops, I missed that he covered the need for an increased water intake in the last few sentences. His normal advice is to not worry about it due to the water in fresh veggies.

      Katie wrote on July 5th, 2010
  3. This is a great topic and I hope you write more. So many mothers nowadays talk about issues with their babies’ digestion. Clearly, there are issues with the mother’s diet and most are not willing to do what it takes to get to the bottom of this. This is a major excuse for giving up nursing altogether, which is such a shame because formula is an absolute last resort, not a, “well, what the heck, this is easier” alternative. If only it could be made clear to women that it’s not suffering to “give up” all the crap that is upsetting the baby’s tummy or skin or whatever. If moms could helped to understand that it can be simple and wonderful. Of course, it does help hugely when the family goes along, especially the dad, and if he’s not suffering, he may not be willing to give up his addictions.

    Naomi wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • i’ve been lurking for a while, but just had to post on this one. i’ve really only been primal for about two weeks, the previous 2 months have been about 70%. but what i have experienced is not only do a lot of women think formula is sooo much easier, but a lot of times it’s so heavily promoted by doctors. (i think every obgyn appointment i left with a “gift” of formula, even though i voiced several times that i would be breastfeeding) all i was ever told is that breastfeeding is very difficult and nearly impossible to do exclusively. once my daughter was born she had all the reflux, gi and skin issues. my pediatrician said she was allergic to my milk, not what i ate. i found this extremely hard to believe so we went to a gi doctor and was told the same things. that is about the time we discounted all advice and went for the well baby checkups and just nodded through everything (well mostly… i was told b/c my daughter sleeps in our bed she will be overly dependent on me, thus leading to obesity and a habitual drug user as an adult, all from where she sleeps! wow! i had to speak up on that one, and switch drs.) by eliminating foods from my diet we found out she was sensitive (not allergic) to wheat, dairy, eggs, tomatoes and apples. unfortunately it took about 3-4 months to figure it all out and it was a lot of pain on her part and lack of sleep for all. but once everything was pinpointed all gi issues and eczema cleared up. the whole time i was pressured by the pediatricians to give her formula because it would be so much healthier and easier to digest. looking back i guess her intestines knew much more than i did about cw and “healthy whole grains” and such. i was advised by lactation consultants to only drop these foods for the first 6 months. i did so for 9 months, and gained weight when i started reintroducing them into my diet. needless to say my daughter will be 3 this month, still nursing and sleeping in our bed. i have restricted my calories and been consuming about 35g carbs. this has not altered my milk supply and my daughter hasn’t noticed any differences.

      kelly wrote on July 5th, 2010
      • @Kelly. Wow! I just have to respond to this… Good for you for not listening to the doctors (who I, quite frankly, think should not be allowed to say such things. They are trusted experts spewing out complete nonsense!) but instead to your instincts. Kudos to you and your partner. You went through a lot of hard work for your daughter! She no doubt is lucky to have you!. And I hope you have found a better doctor. :)

        Ashley wrote on May 26th, 2011
        • I have to second this! Awesome, way to go on pinpointing it and not giving up! Love, love, love cosleeping. Instinct is still strong and grand!

          Beth Swan wrote on December 11th, 2011
      • What types of issues was she having with her gi? I have been eating about 90% paleo for about 4 months. My daughter seems to be having issues with constipation. She is eb and does not take baby food so I know it’s not the solids. I am thinking maybe I’ve cut out too much of something she needs nust don’t know where to start.

        Candice wrote on September 30th, 2014
        • Candice, how old is your daughter? It’s virtually impossible, I think, for an exclusively bf baby to be constipated. My son (4.5 months old) only has a vowel movement once every four days and it’s totally normal. As long as the poo is loose, not formed.

          Izabela wrote on October 22nd, 2014
  4. Great article, I’m glad you addressed this important issue – eating primally begins at birth after all :^)

    Michelle wrote on July 5th, 2010
  5. Thanks for this summary, Mark. I’m a primal ‘convert’ as of 6 months ago, and also an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for the last 9 years. I can’t believe I’m the first person to comment! There are just a couple things I would comment on in this terrific posting. First, this statement “The body not only prioritizes nutrient intake for breastmilk but in fact scavenges the mother’s stores, leaching calcium from the mother’s bones, for instance.”

    yes, many moms have lower bone mineral density while breastfeeding, but there are many studies that show it is recovered or even increased after weaning. Even long-term nursing has not been found to affect bone mineral density. We also see a decrease in the risk of hip fractures as women age if they have breastfed their children.

    Second, “Also, be sure to drink plenty of water yourself during these times. Nursing requires additional water intake, and it can be easy to skimp when you’re balancing the many responsibilities of early parenthood.”

    While I would agree that many of the moms with whom I work are finding the responsibilities of early parenthood overwhelming, nursing moms should be instructed to listen to their bodies about thirst. One study (Dusdieker 1985–yes, I know that’s old!) found that moms made no more milk if they drank 25% more fluids than when they just drank to thirst. Don’t forget that fluids are also found in fruits and veggies, as well as their juices.

    Just as a personal aside, many of the lactation-related challenges I see are caused by expecting a stone-age baby to live in our modern world, and to follow our modern ‘schedules’. I suspect most on this board would agree that many of our adult health problems have been affected by our ‘modern’ diet as well, and that is why many of us are doing much better eating primally. Thanks to everyone who posts here. I’m learning a lot, and am down 31 pounds so far this year. For the first time in many years, I’m feeling hopeful that my future will include ever-improving health!

    Jenny Morris wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • Jenny, as an IBCLC also, I couldn’t agree more with your input. Those are definitely things that jumped out at me.

      Keeping baby skin2skin as much as possible and dropping any thoughts of “schedule” for at least the first 2 weeks would certainly help so many women in their breastfeeding journey. I like to call it The Newborn Immersion Course. The baby will teach you what you need to know.

      Judy (strawboss) wrote on July 5th, 2010
  6. I have a biochemistry book that says: “B-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate also serve as
    precursors for the synthesis of brain lipids during
    neonatal period.” So, I think ketones will not be a problem for baby’s health…

    Mingmen wrote on July 5th, 2010
  7. Great! Finally something a little more in depth to do with breastfeeding. I’m breastfeeding my two year old, and I just found out I am anemic, so I’m quite weary-not of the diet, but of breastfeeding! Anyway, I’m unclear on this: “considering ample dietary intake, it’s important to realize that absorption efficiencies vary nutrient by nutrient. Protein absorption, for example, comes in at around 70%.” Basically, I need it explained (sorry I may be a little dense right now). Thanks for the post!

    Jessica Slattery wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • Anyone that is anemic should be tested for celiac disease. Iron anemia is the number one symptom of it. This as iron is absorbed in the first part of the small intestine, and that is where the gluten causes the most damage.

      Disregard any argument that a woman’s anemia is caused by menstrual bleeding. Women would have evolved to be able to handle this without becoming anemic.

      Don Wiss wrote on July 6th, 2010
      • Hey thanks, Don. I will also do best to ignore ideas that relate anemia to extended breastfeeding. With a proper diet, there’s no way anemia would be the natural order of things.

        Thanks also for the celiac tip: I’ve been gluten free for over a year, though undiagnosed.

        Jessica Slattery wrote on July 6th, 2010
      • One correction: women aren’t made to menstruate monthly for 30-40 years. We’re made to start around 15, have a baby followed by 3 years of lactational amenorrhea about every 3 years, and then stop, for a total of maybe a few dozen menstrual cycles, not hundreds almost nonstop over decades.

        A lot has gone wrong with this process, obviously, in the last century or three. But we’re not made to bleed every month. That said, I appreciate the note about anemia & celiac – I did not know that and will share that with my anemic friends.

        MamaGrok wrote on July 17th, 2010
        • True, and in fact, women who have less cycles have lower rates of breast cancer when they get older!

          jen cordova wrote on June 17th, 2014
  8. Great post.

    I was trying to find some infos about that and guess I found it here.


    Jean-Patrick wrote on July 5th, 2010
  9. Thanks for a great article. I am currently nursing my third child and have wonderful results in following a grain free diet. Both my previous children spit up constantly and my second child had reflux. I wish I would’ve known about the paleo/primal diets then as it would have saved a lot of tears. Eat when you are hungry ( feel like I eat as often as my newborn) and drink lots of water

    Michelle wrote on July 5th, 2010
  10. I am 39 weeks pregnant and have followed the Primal philosophy for a good part of this pregnancy. I am have gained a healthy amount and baby is of a healthy weight too.

    My plan has been to go 100% shortly after birth as I know from my previous nursing experience that most of baby’s sensitivities were to items not “allowed” on this diet. SO I plan to be proactive and cut it out upfront. I know it will be great for babe and great for my post-partum weight loss.

    Now to get all those well meaning people delivering us food/meals to “get it”!

    Heatherly wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • A couple of my friends asked if I would be wanting the other squadron spouses to bring meals for me post-partum (I’m 39 weeks too)… I hesitated and said I might feel like a picky b*tch because of my “weird way of eating” and that I might just be better to decline the offers and ask for help in other ways… (asking someone to walk my dog, or pick up a couple things at the store for me, or whatnot).

      One of my friends was VERY quick to say that of COURSE they still wanted to make meals for us – just to lay out what I can/cannot eat and they’ll do their best. I thought it was very sweet and it made me feel better about being “picky.”

      Joyful Abode wrote on July 5th, 2010
      • Of course they can still bring food to you! I think most people like to be told specific things to bring, so I would urge you to have a specific answer when they ask. Tell one friend to bring some fresh veggies, sliced and ready to eat, and tell another to bring sliced fruits, ready to eat. Ask another to bring a roasted chicken, and another to bring a salad. It can work. Hope your delivery goes well!

        Jenny Morris wrote on July 5th, 2010
  11. Thanks Mark!

    I enjoyed this article greatly. I’m currently nursing twin boys who are now 2 months old. Anxious to drop those unwanted baby pounds I had been restricting calories but found that just drove me to binge after a few days! I’m encouraged to just focus on getting plenty of the right nutrient dense foods and steer away from the quick fixes.

    Thanks for refreshing my perspective. :o)

    Melanie wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • Just enjoy feeding your two little ones, the weight will take care of itself when your body is good and ready!

      Breastfeeding was about the only thing I think I did well as a parent (son now 21 and daughter now 18), I really loved it, so convenient, the ultimate in ready meals LOL!

      Once they get mobile burning off the excess pounds will NOT be a problem!

      Kelda wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • I am nursing a 3 month old and have also been anxious to lose the 20 extra lbs I am carrying. I have tried restricting and have not been successful either. I just keep telling myself to be patient, although it’s hard. Good luck to you!

      Thanks Mark for the great article.

      Sam wrote on July 6th, 2010
    • OMG, never restrict calories. I’m nursing twins too, but never restrict calories. I learned the hard way — talk about exhausted. I am on the primal diet also but prefer to say ‘low-carb unrestricted’ and believe me I eat, eat, eat my FATS, FATS, FATS. I’m losing all kinds of unwanted belly fat & my milk only fluctuates if my calories are too low. Been weight training here & there, enjoying hour long walks with my babies and sleeping as much as I can. You can do it, and lose that muffin, stick with it (the BF and PRIMAL.) 😀

      Macska wrote on July 2nd, 2013
  12. Hey MArk! Thanks again for what you are doing, writing all thoses articles!


    frank wrote on July 5th, 2010
  13. Thank you! I am 7 months pregnant, been following a primal diet 95% of the time and gaining weight slow and steady. Baby is at the perfect weight too and my doctor is pleased. I was very curious what I was going to do once I start breastfeeding. I am glad to hear that keeping the carbs low should still work without issues. I honestly do not feel good eating grains and tons of carbs, never have. With the primal diet I feel that my baby is getting a much more nutritious diet!! Thanks for the post!

    Heather wrote on July 5th, 2010
  14. I was excited to see the topic today – I’m nursing a 17 month old baby girl, and maintaining my milk is a top priority for me (and her!). My daughter is a Primal baby – healthy, strong and still very, very attached to nursing. Thanks for thinking of us nursing moms!

    Puddymama wrote on July 5th, 2010
  15. I breastfed my son about 6 months & took prenatal vitamins. It was a joy bonding w/ him this way. You tend to fall asleep during this time lol. Until I was scared to continue cause he was an aggresive eater & bit me lots of times. It was very painful. I then used the manual pump. (Good workout :D) & alternated w/ powdered formula (Enfamil DHA) later down the months. He took the bottle & breast very well. I also gave him a pacifier & weaned him off that a little after a yr. (I would do it differently if I had another baby).

    Madeline wrote on July 5th, 2010
  16. Thank you for addressing Primal nutrition and breastfeeding! I wish I had known about this when I was nursing my daughter.
    Maintaining adequate intake of food and water while nursing is so essential. Women are in such a rush to lose the baby weight that they often sacrifice what they need for their own good health in an effort to drop pounds. I couldn’t believe how much I had to eat every day in order to nourish me and my baby – and I still lost too much weight (particularly muscle mass.) I also ended up with a major vitamin D deficiency. I didn’t know then what I know now about Primal nutrition!

    Dana Young wrote on July 5th, 2010
  17. Thank you for posting this article Mark! What I would have done to have this knowledge during pregnancy and breastfeeding!

    Breastfeeding is truly a primal activity and the more people do it the better!

    melanie wrote on July 5th, 2010
  18. My experience with breast feeding and dealing with the medical community back in the late 60’s sadly doesn’t sound a whole lot different than a few of you experience now.

    We were in the Army when our first child was born. The army nurses insisted I feed our baby cereal. When I ignored them they became angry. There was actually a pretty good verbal battle.

    While in a civilian hospital after the second one was born, I was nursing him when the nurse came in and said. “You know, you don’t have any milk and you may never have any.” I said I knew what I was doing since I had nursed my first child while at the same time thinking that comment would not be helpful for a first time mother.

    Meanwhile the pediatrician kept stopping by and telling me if I didn’t give my baby water he would develop jaundice. He too got angry when I ignored him.

    I was also the first mother in their memory to give birth in that hospital without medication and have husband in attendance. On my first visit to my gynecologist he said they were still talking about me. I’m sure they thought the baby was dead by now.

    I guess I have been ornery for a long time. To my wonderful children, I say…. your welcome.

    Sharon wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • Wow, that is crazy! Talk about people trying to push their agenda on you. I’d like to think things have changed but I hear that hospitals sell personal info to baby formula companies so they can market to new mothers.

      nathan wrote on July 5th, 2010
      • Sharon, glad you were ornery! Nathan, I think it’s not so much hospitals that sell personal info (that would be a HIPPA violation, you know!), but more often it is department stores. If you buy anything pregnancy related at many stores, or register for baby-related gifts, or enter your name/address on pregnancy-related websites, that’s where your info gets bought by the makers of formula. Also, filling out little cards in your OB’s office for ‘free’ magazines can also get you on their mailing lists. Funny how the formula arrives on your doorstep a couple weeks after your due date, just when you’re having a rough time. It’s not coincidental. It’s called ‘marketing’, and it works well, or else they wouldn’t keep doing it. Ugh. I’d better get off my soapbox!

        Jenny Morris wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • Wow, what a shame :( I have a two month old and a 17 month old, and the hospital where both were born has a really great lactation department. They helped me a ton with my first (with the second I was a “seasoned vet” haha). Our pediatrician is also supportive.

      I do know that there are lots of women that just “give up” nursing or decide against it before the baby is even born. I don’t understand how they can ignore the benefits to their child or themselves… Formula is not more convenient (I would hate to have to get out of bed and mix up a bottle in the middle of the night). Breastmilk is always ready!

      Emily wrote on July 28th, 2010
  19. Thank you so much for covering this topic! I’m still nursing my 7 1/2 month old and eating probably about 80% primal and it seems to be going really well. I did lose the baby weight really fast, but feel like I’ve been eating so luxuriously while doing so! It was kind of baffling at first that it fell off so fast eating so much meat and fat. Yum!
    I only discovered your website a few months ago, but I ate fairly primal during pregnancy as well because I incidentally have a lot of allergies/intolerances to sugar and grains. (Yeah, I know. How mysterious. 😉 ) My midwives were really impressed with how thick and strong the umbilical cord and amniotic sack were after I delivered so that seems to indicate that I was doing something right nutritionally!
    Now I’m gearing up to start feeding solids to my baby and looking to keep his diet very primal as well. No rice cereal for him! My sister feeds her children grassfed beef, veggies, and fruit and I’m hoping to follow in her example and do the same.
    Thanks for thinking of us mothers out here who love your site!

    Cristy wrote on July 5th, 2010
  20. Mark, I met a lactating mother in downtown Orlando the other day at a paleo nutrition meet up.

    Her comments on switching to paleo eating (instead of eating “lactation cookies”)?

    “It’s awesome! I can feed a whole village now.”

    I about fell out of my chair lol.

    Anthony wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • love it! But those ‘lactation cookies’ are pretty yummy, sadly. And they probably do have some effect due to the brewer’s yeast in them.

      Jenny Morris wrote on July 5th, 2010
  21. Wish I had known then what I know now. I really struggled with breastfeeding and gave it up after 6 weeks. My son ended up on a hypoallergenic formula made of nothing but “corn syrup solids”. I recently came across the ingredient list and it made my stomach churn.

    Today, he is not primal, but I do my best to limit and try to eliminate corn syrup and ingredients I can’t pronounce from his diet. He’s happy and healthy and intelligent, but if I knew what I was really feeding my baby I would have made a different choice.

    Jamie wrote on July 5th, 2010
  22. What do you recommend eating to increase carbs but still stay primal? I’m committed to primal eating, but I’m nursing my voracious 4-month old and losing weight fast. Maybe too fast? More sweet potatoes and honey? More fruit?

    erika wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • Erika, try sweet potatoes with butter, and also include avocado in your diet liberally!

      Jenny Morris wrote on July 5th, 2010
  23. Breastfeeding is one of the best and most natural things that a mother can do. I think that eating primal is the way to go regardless of if you are breastfeeding or not. I just think that you should monitor yourself and the baby and see how the both of you are doing.

    There are always going to be the ones that disagree with eating lower carbs, but of course that’s why there are so many sick and overweight people in the world. I think that if people would give it an honest try, regardless of what Conventional Wisdom tells us, they will see great results in health and weight loss. All of us that are loyal followers of the Primal Blueprint and MDA are living proof. I am just glad that I went against the majority and gave it a try!

    Kelly wrote on July 5th, 2010
  24. I also agree that breastfeeding is one of the most natural things for a mother and her baby. It is unfortunate that we stop after a short period of time where as we used to do it for years.

    The mother needs to be healthy but thats what the primal lifestyle is for!

    Primal Toad wrote on July 5th, 2010
  25. THANK YOU, Mark, for posting on this! As a mother currently nursing my second child it was so great to see this post up today. I’ve been trying primal for just a few weeks now (~8 lb. down now, THANKS!), and was wondering whether I had been right to instinctually include a few carbier primal-friendly selections like sweet potatoes, some additional fruits, etc. in my rotation in an effort to steady the weight loss.

    ALSO, my weight loss had frustratingly plateaued essentially by 4 weeks postpartum (note that my baby is now 6 months old!!), and I hadn’t found a way to dull my horse-sized appetite until I hit upon primal eating. Now the fats and proteins keep me going hours between meals without thinking about eating, and I don’t get stressed about delayed/missing meals while taking care of my kids. My blood sugar is steady and my cravings are nearly gone. (Compare this to my prePrimal postpartum era, when between meals, I could consume a shameful quantity of Fiber One bars. Those chewy sugar sticks were crack cocaine to me, and I thought, healthy because of the fiber.)

    Anyway, this is my first time commenting but just wanted to say that – after weeks of reading the archives – this detailed nursing post had me excited to have confirmation that my nursing and primal diet could still align nicely – excited enough to comment. :) So THANKS again!

    AO wrote on July 5th, 2010
    • Yes! I was also addicted to Fiber One bars! And Wheatthins and Nutrigrain Bars! So much yucky sugar. I’m nursing my 18 month old and have been reading this and other “low carb” blogs for about a week now and am just amazed at how good I feel. I feel sheepish writing about it after just one week, but its so amazing to feel this way. I love the freedom of not feeling desperate for food and feeling like I had to eat something every time I nursed because I thought it was zapping my energy. I thought wrong. I’ve been on WW four times without very much success, and no lasting success. They always say you don’t have to deprive yourself and you can have a little of this and a little of that. But that way never made me satisfied and led to a lot of overthinking. One of the best things about eating this way is getting my head back for what I need it for, instead of having to devote all my mental energy to counting points. It’s only been a week but I can’t imagine going back to those addictive, empty foods. And my baby is mostly eating what I am. Blueberries, free-range chicken, spinach. She loves it, and Mark is so good for reminding us all how much better these things taste than Nachos (salt) and Pizza (more salt). Okay – I’m done for now, but no doubt I’ll be back commenting in another week, still flabbergasted at how good and energized and free I feel, even though most of you have known this for years. Be patient with me!

      tbird wrote on July 16th, 2010
  26. I love this post! I am currently nursing my fifth baby who is now ten months old and over twenty pounds. During my last pregnancy we ate a very nutrient dense diet with lots of traditional foods (Weston A. Price), and I noticed that while my weight gain during pregnancy was the least of all my pregnancies (30 lbs.) Joe was the second biggest baby. Since going Paleo in January I also noticed that I feel more satiated and hit my pre-pregnancy weight of 115 lbs about two months sooner than I expected to. Then I lost another five when I gave up refined sugar. Joe is growing very well and while still breast feeding he is now eating regular table food as well, and especially loves eggs, meat and fresh berries, avocadoes and bananas, with a little full fat yogurt thrown in there. He also loves cauliflower and broccoli.

    One little comment I would like to make is that he did have a bit of a problem with sugar in my milk…I tend to have an over supply and he really liked to nurse frequently in the earlier months. Because foremilk tends to be higher in sugar than the rich, fatty hindmilk, he was getting too much sugary foremilk and ended up with watery diarhea from lactose intolerance. Limiting my sugar intake and block feeding solved the problem entirely.

    mere wrote on July 5th, 2010
  27. My first baby started with explosive green, watery poop and some reflux…Her Dr. suggested I eliminated Dairy from MY diet as I was exclusively breastfeeding. Voila! Imagine if I had given up wheat then too!

    Or, what if I started her on Formula (from milk) when she was born? How many allergies/eczema (I am a long time eczema suffer from infancy, no more though!) would she or her sister have now? Alas, this was 8 yrs ago…before my Primal journey, but I knew I was about to break the cycle of allergies, eczema, asthma, diabetes etc etc

    Best of luck and congrats to everyone expecting new blessings soon! Trust your Mama instincts!

    Julie Aguiar wrote on July 5th, 2010
  28. Great article Mark!

    I am seriously thinking of starting a family and was wondering about matters like these.
    I just have no words to thank everybody who contributes to this site (you Mark in particular) for the amazing insights you have shared.
    I am 34 years old and have suffered through what I thought was acne for years at end. I also had trouble with a bloated stomach and even though I was a very fit athlete in my day, I could not quite shake the feeling that I wasn’t well.
    It took me feeling tired all the time and realising that no, it wasn’t “normal” and it shouldn’t be expected that I lose energy as I grow older, for me to get online and do some serious searching regarding food and health.
    I first discovered the Paleo Diet and then this website which has become my drug. There is so much to learn, so much to experiment with!
    The great news is, not only am I a 100% paleo eater, my husband has joined the bandwagon (he had intestinal problems and eczema all his life. Guess what? He doesn’t have any of that anymore!), my parents (that’s an achievement I swear!) and all the people I train at the gym.
    You have touched many lives all over this world.

    Greets from The Netherlands

    Carla wrote on July 6th, 2010
  29. I have another biochemistry book that says ketones: “Provide acetyl-A for the synthesis of certain lipids
    (Eg, myelin, in the developing brain, and
    of milk fat in lactating mammary gland).”
    So, I think ketones are very benefficial to babys… Sorry for my lame english.

    Mingmen wrote on July 6th, 2010
  30. I was primal for most of my third pregnancy, except for the occasional special event where I would have had something non primal. I am not sure of my exact carb count, but I kept fruit limited, so I suspect it was on the lower end. I had the most amazing pregnancy and birth. I weighed 10 pounds less 1 week after birth, than I did before I got pregnant and my baby’s birth weight was the highest of all three of my children – 8.5 lbs. She is the happiest baby I have ever met. Now 11 months later, I am still breast feeding and completely notice a change ( for the worse) in her sleeping patterns when I veer off the primal path. When I stay more primal, her sleeps are amazing. She is 100% primal and has only had meats, veggies, fruits and good fats. I plan to keep it this way for as long as I am her main influence, then hopefully she will choose to continue!

    Suzanne Buffie wrote on July 6th, 2010
  31. thank you mark,

    As a breastfeeding mom of an 8mnth old baby this couldnt have come at a better time. I am currently battling a low supply do to a flucuation of his eating(he was sick)and feeling down, logged on and here you are to boost the I have been primal for a bit over a month and have had questions about nursing while primal. Of course i assumed it was fine since all the original grokettes had no other choice and they made it. I love being primal and i love breastfeeding my baby and i love that they go hand and hand. thanks for your comittment to all our needs!!

    Brooke wrote on July 6th, 2010
    • Brooke, I struggled with the same after our daughter had the rotovirus. I loaded up on fennel-based lactation tea and capsule supplements of fenugreek. That and pumping did the trick. Hang in there!

      Jennifer wrote on July 6th, 2010
    • It’s all just supply and demand (that’s how natural weaning works) – pumping is the answer and breast milk can be frozen (so a useful standby if required as a bonus).

      Kelda wrote on July 6th, 2010
    • I dunno how drastic your low supply is, but when mine took a dip in similar circumstances, I camped out in bed with my daughter and ate like mad for a couple of days. A day or two of extra rest, extra nursings, and extra food brought my supply right back up. It was also kind of fun.

      I know not everyone can do this–I had a co-operative spouse bringing me food and managing the house, and no other kiddos to worry about. But if you can swing it, treat yourself to a little vacation. After 8 months, you deserve it!

      Good luck,


      Patty wrote on July 7th, 2010
  32. Hooray for boobies! (And yes, I’m an ex-breastfeeding mama, so I get to say that!)

    jj wrote on July 6th, 2010

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