Breastfeeding and Paleo: My Story
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
The ups and downs of maintaining a paleo diet while nursing a newborn.
When you look at the beautiful baby in your arms, you want to do everything you can for her. When you look at the saggy belly where she spent the last nine months, you want to do everything you can to make it disappear.
Or maybe that was just me. I remember getting in the elevator after a workout class when Monster 3 was three months old. I asked the perfectly-in-shape mom with the stroller next to me how old her baby was. "Three months," she said. Then, looking at the remnants of my baby belly, she added, "When are you due?" Ouch.
That one stung more than when the well-meaning grocery-store cashier came out from behind the register to pat my post-delivery belly--and all the other due-date inquiries I received on a regular basis during the first nine months of Monster 3's life.
These were the memories that spurred me to jump immediately into good, strict, paleo habits upon arriving home with Monster 4. I was determined to rock the forth trimester this time around. Nothing would stop me!
I was off to a great start, shedding the baby weight and feeling great, when we realized our baby was failing to thrive.
Our sumo-wrestler, chunk of a boy--10-pounds, five-point-four-ounces at birth--was shedding weight more quickly than me. The doctor told me we needed to supplement with formula.
As someone who was told with her first child that her milk was so good at fattening up a newborn it ought to be shipped to third world countries, I took this as a personal assault. Making babies and pumping them full of wholesome, creamy, liquid gold was my thing, my talent, my calling card. This did not compute.
I refused to supplement at first. I was sure I could fix the situation. Research informed me that barley, oats, and blue Gatorade were the winning combo to boost my milk supply, so I bought in bulk.
I started stressing like crazy, both over my continued inability to produce milk and the rapid weight gain and sluggishness I began to experience on my new breastfeeding diet.
Eventually I gave in. We found a formula we felt pretty good about, and we made sure sweet Monster 4 got what he needed. Finally releasing myself from the responsibility of being his sole source of sustenance, I started to decompress and focus on fueling myself optimally again.
I traded the Gatorade for coconut water and lactation teas. I traded the barley and oats for grain-free goodness (ok, and the occasional pint of Guinness). I ate lots of sauteed fennel and took drops of fennel oil directly. But most importantly, I rested.
My internal speedometer had been in full-throttle mode from the second we left the hospital. My delivery had been a breeze, so I'd been living on adrenaline, thinking I could be super mom. My amazing friend with 5 monsters of her own wisely insisted, "Promise me you'll slow down and take it easy." Finally I listened.
Once I gave myself permission to sit, to sleep, to just be--and to not feel guilty about the time spent glued to the sofa while the baby nursed--my milk supply increased dramatically. We continued to use the formula if we needed a bottle for the road, but the pediatrician gave us the okay to stop supplementing.
Now our beefy boy is back to the upper middle of the growth charts, gobbling up everything from cauliflower rice to paleo pancakes, developing well, and still indulging in that good ol' liquid gold every chance he gets.
For my top five tips for successful paleo breastfeeding, click here.