June 6, 2024

Can I do the Whole30 while nursing?

five-tips-for-a-breastfeedingwhole30 header

Learn 5 tips for a nursing Whole30 from Stephanie Greunke, a Registered Dietitian specializing in perinatal and postpartum health, and the mom of two boys.

The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program while nursing. The Plant-Based Whole30 is not recommended for those who are nursing.

I’m often asked if the Whole30 is safe and beneficial while nursing. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a focus on prenatal and postnatal nutrition, the Original Whole30 is generally safe while nursing. Many parents have discovered their baby sleeps better, is less fussy, and has fewer rashes or breakouts during the elimination phase.

In my practice, I’ve also observed nursing parents experiencing more energy, confidence, mental clarity, and more stable moods as a result of the program. Clients have also reported improvements in digestion, healthier skin, and an improved capacity to manage stress.

If you are planning to do an Original Whole30 while nursing, here are five tips based on my personal experience and the guidance I provide to my clients.

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Tip 1: Eat enough food

This might seem like one of those “well, duh!” statements, but people are far more likely to under-eat than over-eat during a nursing Whole30. In fact, I’ve found many nursing clients need more than three full-sized meals a day. It’s not unusual to eat four full meals, or three to four meals plus robust snack(s) throughout the day while nursing.

I like to highlight the following points, using the Whole30 Meal Template as your minimum guide to portions and meal sizing:

  • If eggs are your protein of choice, a “serving” is listed as “as many whole eggs as you can hold in your hand”—but I’ll tell you it’s at least three.
  • Include at least one serving of fat in addition to the cooking fat you use, since some of your cooking fat often remains in the pan.
  • Aim for at least 2-3 cups of veggies at every meal—more if they are leafy greens (which cook down into much smaller portions). Also see Tip #2.
  • Enjoy a serving of fruit with as many meals as you choose.

While it may be a byproduct, please remember that weight loss is not the goal of the Whole30, especially while you are nursing. A nursing parent needs around 300-500 extra calories a day (sometimes more) based on your activity levels, nursing behaviors, the age of your baby, and nutritional status. If four full meals feels like too much, try three meals plus a mini-meal or two as needed (including smaller portions of protein, veggies, and fat). 

“I have never been as hungry in my life as I was when I started breastfeeding. I was worried about Whole30 tanking my supply, but I had no problems. I think my supply might have even increased a bit.” —BirdKnit, posting on the Whole30 Reddit.

Tip #2: Eat starchy vegetables

Many of my Whole30 clients report that eating starchy vegetables at two or more meals per day helps them maintain their energy levels and milk supply. Starchy vegetables include potatoes and sweet potatoes, beets, and butternut or acorn squash. (I’d also throw starchy fruit like plantains in this category.)

Here are a few Original Whole30 recipes featuring starchy veggies:

“Potatoes and sweet potatoes definitely helped increase my milk supply! Almost every day, I had a snack of a baked potato with ghee, scallions, and a bit of bacon. Not only was it delicious, but I was helping stabilize my milk supply.” —Clarissa, Portland OR

Tip #3: Stay hydrated

We recommend staying hydrated during your Whole30, and this is even more important when nursing. While forcing too much hydration won’t produce more milk, dehydration will negatively impact your milk supply. 

So how much water should you be drinking? A general guideline is to consume 16 cups (or 128 fl oz) of water a day when you’re nursing. ). However,  listen to your body and your thirst, and drink more as needed. (Also consider adding LMNT Raw Unflavored electrolytes to your water to balance that hydration with important electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium.)

Here are a few ideas to help you stay hydrated:

  • Set a goal to drink a certain number of ounces per hour, to maintain good hydration levels throughout the day. Carrying a large water bottle with you can help.
  • Coconut water, herbal teas, sparkling water, sparkling teas, bone broth, and non-dairy milk (like unsweetened almond or coconut milk) can all help you stay hydrated.
  • A good rule of thumb is to drink water whenever baby nurses and throughout the day. Keep a large water bottle in your nursing station or wherever you typically sit down to nurse so it’s always available. 

Smoothies can provide hydration and extra protein and calories. Follow our smoothie template for the Original Whole30 to build a balanced beverage.

You can add excitement to your hydration by making a pitcher of festive, delicious mocktail like these:

“I noticed an instant change in the amount of milk I was pumping when I started Whole30. I was pumping 1-4 more ounces per bottle! Not only did Whole30 increase my milk supply, but my son’s reflux stopped. He had been spitting up (A LOT) every time he nursed since he was born. During and after Whole30, he didn’t spit up at all!”  —Marlena H.

Tip #4: Don’t skimp on healthy fats

During a nursing Original Whole30, you may also want to increase your intake of healthy fats to help keep your milk supply rich. Be generous with the amount of cooking fat you add to your pan! You can also sip on full-fat coconut milk throughout the day, or make smoothies with a compatible protein powder that also include avocados, nuts and seeds, or nut and seed butters. Have olives, coconut flakes, and nuts and seeds on hand to add to meals and snacks. Serve a scoop of compatible mayo-based Ranch with your breakfast potatoes or roasted veggies. Avocados and guacamole are also great sources of fat.

Here are some Whole30 recipes full of healthy fats:

“The Whole30 gives me everything I need and MORE to make sure that I’m getting good nutrients to nourish (my baby) and keep my milk supply from dropping. I was getting good fats from avocados, carbs from veggies and potatoes, and natural sugars from fruits. My milk supply hasn’t dropped or altered at ALL!” —Kassi R., Jackson, MS

Tip #5: Connect with the nursing community

We weren’t meant to parent alone. Connecting with others who have come before you and investing in help is important. A lactation consultant can help you understand your milk supply and factors that impact it—like latch, feeding schedules, and growth spurts—as you find your rhythm. Take comfort in the fact that others have come before you.

You can find support:

“I’m breastfeeding and doing Whole30. After the first week or so, I have more energy (no more sugar crashes) and haven’t noticed any change in my supply. I definitely suggest planning and meal prep… and I’ve found that having snacks ready to go is a huge help.” —Rraaeeee, on the Whole30 Reddit

I hope these five tips for a nursing Whole30 have been helpful for you! Please share your nursing Whole30 experience with us through this form—we’d love to hear from you.

The New Whole30 Book Tour sponsored by Chomps The New Whole30 Book Tour sponsored by Chomps.