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Tips for Completing a Whole30 While Breastfeeding

whole30 breastfeeding

I tried to stick to a healthy diet while I was pregnant but after my daughter arrived I let go of the reins a little. Little by little I realized I’d let go of the reins a lot.

Having one cookie felt special and delicious. But having one cookie every hour quickly become the norm. I made excuses. The cookies were “paleo” and gluten free. So that made it better, right? Not really. Diving head first into a container of Snickerdoodles didn’t feel special. And I practically didn’t even notice if they were delicious. Breastfeeding made me ravenous and I knew I needed to eat more to keep up. It was more than just satisfying a craving, I was starting make desserts a big part of my diet.

When I found myself replacing nutritious meals with sweets I knew something had to change.

The day my daughter turned 3 months old, I embarked on a 30-day food challenge called the “Whole30.” The rules are relatively simple: eat vegetables, meat, fats (ex: nuts, olive oil, coconut oil…) and some fruit. Avoid any sugar (including honey, maple syrup, stevia, etc.,) alcohol, grains, legumes, or dairy. Simple, yes, but definitely difficult.

Important caveats: this was not the first time I took on the Whole30. In fact, this was my fourth time. I experience huge benefits each time I do a Whole30. Most are “non-scale victories” like increased energy, clear skin, healthy hair and less anxiety, but I’ve also lost weight. My background with the program including knowledge of my favorite, go-to ingredients and recipes helped me a lot. Also, I have Celiac so I’ve been gluten-free (and pretty much grain-free) for a few years which makes the “no grains” rules pretty normal for me to follow. I wanted to do this Whole30 specifically to try and shake my apparent addiction to sugar.

Going cold turkey on sugar is never easy, but doing it while breastfeeding was more difficult than I imagined.

Here are my top five tips for making your Whole30 while breastfeeding successful. Again, these are tips specifically for breastfeeding women.

  1. Eat a big portion of starchy vegetables with every meal. Every meal, no exceptions, especially during the first week. I ate a huge sweet potato with ghee (aka clarified butter), a little coconut milk and cinnamon at least once a day. Roasted carrots, parsnips and beets with spices was another.
  2. If you are hungry, try to eat a fullĀ meal versus grabbing a snack. Ignore the “3 meals a day” recommendation of the Whole30. Those do not apply to breastfeeding mamas. The first few days I felt like I was always eating. Eating might feel like work at first. It got way better for me and I was eventually able to go longer between meals.
  3. Prepare for emergencies. Have compliant food on hand that you can eat quickly if you have an “Oh sh*t I’m hangry!” moment at home or out and about. I stocked my fridge with these tuna cakes and no-sugar-added sliced turkey to wrap around a dollop of guacamole. I kept no-added-sugar Lara Bars in my (diaper) bag for on the go.
  4. One of the founders of the Whole30, Melissa Hartwig, recently had a baby and suggests that breastfeeding women sip on coconut milk all day to make sure they are getting enough fat and calories. That got a little boring for me so I made a smoothie with coconut milk, a banana and 1/4c (up to 1/2c) of frozen berries. As long as I didn’t start to think of these smoothies as a stand-in for dessert, I felt okay.
  5. Doing a Whole30 is cooking-intensive and can therefore be time intensive, too. There’s no frozen pizza to fall back on if you don’t want to cook. Make it easier for yourself to stay on track by doubling recipes to always have leftovers on hand. Prepare egg casseroles or frittatas for grab-and-go breakfast.

If I can do it, you can do it!

Going this “extreme” with a postpartum diet may not be the best fit for every mom (breastfeeding or not), but it worked for me. I slayed my sugar dragon and feel more energized and happy. Cookies are just cookies now, they don’t call to me or control me in the way they did before.

Note: The creators of the Whole30 provide all the information you need to do a Whole30 for free on their website. What worked for me, though, was to read their book, “It Starts with Food” before starting the Whole30 the first time. The book gave me a lot of insight about shaking off the “sugar dragon” and specifically how certain foods affect our bodies. I also found lots of support online in forums, on Instagram, etc.

There are lots of Whole30 reviews, recipes and tips online but I’m happy to answer any questions you may have – just leave them in the comments or tweet me @MLBee!

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11 Responses to Tips for Completing a Whole30 While Breastfeeding

  1. Molly March 29, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    Thank you! I’ve been wanting to try whole30 but was worried about doing it while nursing.

    When you talk about coconut milk, is that the thick coconut milk that comes in a can, or the thinner stuff that you can buy in boxes similar to Almond milk?

    • Meredith
      Meredith March 30, 2015 at 7:36 am #

      Hi Molly – Thank you for your comment! I’m talking about the stuff in the can. Organic, full-fat coconut milk is the best choice, but I use organic “light” coconut milk if I can’t find full fat at the store (ex: Trader Joe’s only carries organic light).

      Im sure you’ll find lots of great resources on Whole30 but you might like this pantry stocking guide: http://whole30.com/downloads/whole30-pantry.pdf

      Good luck!

      • Lindsay August 4, 2017 at 11:05 am #

        I was searching for whole 30 breastfeeding tips and I stumbled across this thread. I have been struggling with a drop in supply the last day or two (today is day 6 for me). I made a smoothie from the coconut milk (Thai kitchen)berries and bananas. I have a headache and my 2mo old spit up the entire batch of milk from the session right after. Wondering if I used too much coconut milk??? How much is enough??
        Thanks!!!

        • Meredith Bay Tyack
          Meredith Bay Tyack August 4, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

          Hi Lindsay! Is this your first Whole 30? Around day 5/6/7 is when I tend to get headaches anyway. If the smoothie seems to be too fatty/intense, try cutting back on the coconut milk and add a half an avocado instead. You may even want to add some nut butter for a fat/protein hit. Sometimes a fat/sugar-filled smoothie can cause some weirdness if its not paired with enough protein. I’d recommend playing with the ratios – add water, lots of greens, some banana and maybe a tablespoon of nut butter and a tablespoon of coconut milk. Then scale up if that feels good. Congratulations on the baby and thanks for the comment! You can also reach me over on http://www.MeredithTested.com šŸ™‚

  2. Tanya June 12, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    just curious….what would you suggest for a mom of four having a fifth? I like the whole 30 and want to do it after baby comes. I am struggling with figuring out the logistics having a husband and four other kids to feed as well.

    • Meredith Bay Tyack
      Meredith Bay Tyack July 1, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

      Hi Tanya! I’m so sorry for my delayed reply! One option is to think about your Whole30-compliant meals as a “base” – eat them as-is for yourself but maybe add cheese, etc. for the others in your home not following the Whole30 rules.

      Since I’ve never gone through what your proposing mysel, I can’t really give you a ton of tried-and-true advice. However, there is great advice on whole30.com about how to approach the Whole30 if you’re the only one in your family taking on the challenge. Check out this post to start: http://whole30.com/2014/03/solo-whole30/

      I’m sure there are others in your same situation so it’s worth searching around for support/advice in the Whole30 forums, too.

      I recommend checking out NomNomPaleo.com – her husband and kids also eat a Whole30-like diet so she has great recommendations for kid-friendly lunches/etc. I also like the Against All Grain cookbooks – her recipes aren’t 100% Whole30 compliant but she has a lot of recipes that are good for kids and adults alike. Her kid friendly meatloaf “cupcakes” are a favorite of mine and my husband šŸ˜‰

      Good luck! And feel free to email ([email protected]) if you have other questions or want recommendations for cookbooks/websites/recipes to try.

    • Meredith Bay Tyack
      Meredith Bay Tyack July 1, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

      Oh, I also found this great post you might find helpful: http://whole30.com/2014/12/dear-melissa-mealtime-madness/

    • Sarah May 11, 2017 at 1:37 am #

      Tanya, I know this is an old post so I hope you get this. Did you ever do this? And how was it preparing with your family?
      I, too, have 5 little ones and I am afraid of not having the time to do all the prep work involved.

  3. Erin August 20, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    This was a really great post! Very helpful. I’m definitely not getting enough fat, that’s one reason why I feel awful! Haha! I’m on day 6 and just went through a mentally challenging ‘starving’ day and I’m also realizing that what I’ve been eating has been making my baby spit up. I know this is an old post but maybe you should note that many whole30 staple veggies upset a baby’s tummy while nursing. Like onions, peppers, citrus, broccoli…so far that’s what I have noted.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

    • Meredith Bay Tyack
      Meredith Bay Tyack August 21, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

      Hi Erin – I’m glad you found this post helpful! Part of what draws me to Whole 30 is the “experiment of one” aspect. Sleuthing to figure out exactly what works and doesn’t work for our individual body. We didn’t experience an increase in spit-up or stomach upset when I ate the items you mention above, but you’re right that some moms and babies may have to cut out additional foods if they notice a correlation. Thanks so much for reading and for the comment!

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