“Young mother nearly dies from a low-carb diet”


Can it potentially be life-threatening to breastfeed on a strict low-carb diet?

MailOnline: New mother nearly DIES from a low carb diet: 32-year-old developed life-threatening condition […] while breastfeeding

While this seems to be exceedingly rare – four published cases ever, all of which ended well – it’s apparently possible to develop ketoacidosis while breastfeeding on a strict low-carb diet. The same thing can happen due to starvation.

Don’t do a strict low-carb diet when breastfeeding – and make sure to eat enough in general.


Note that the ending of the MailOnline article is misleading. There’s normally no need to “see a doctor immediately” if the breath starts smelling of acetone on a low-carb diet. That’s a common sign of normal ketosis, which is completely safe under normal circumstances (unless you’re a type 1 diabetic, then it signals that you need more insulin).

When breastfeeding however, it’s probably wise not to eat so strict low-carb that you get that smell. Let the weight loss take some more time and go for a more moderate, non-ketogenic, low-carb diet while breastfeeding (50+ grams of carbs per day). And make sure you eat enough. It’s hardly worth taking any health risk at all for losing weight faster.


I’ve just recently written more extensively about the rare risk of ketoacidosis when breastfeeding on a strict low-carb diet:

Breastfeeding on a Low-Carb Diet – Is It Dangerous?


  1. Dave
    Funny how people still insist on strict low-carbohydrate even though they are losing weight quickly. There's a reason why endurance athletes tend to be more agnostic about diet trends than any other groups. Sometimes effective weight loss is too efficient.
  2. Fritz Knese
    Dave, for many of we lard asses strict low to nearly zero carb diets are the only way to lose weight healthily. Some of us add a tiny bit of carbs (like a single tomato) and stop losing weight totally. Endurance athletes tend to be genetic freaks that do not gain weight readily like most of us do. I was well over 200 pounds and training for a mini triathalon. My body rebelled and gave me hyperthyroidism. I was one of the lucky 25% who come back without surgery or radiation. But I am living proof that overtraining can cause way more trouble than being overweight. The doctor put me on a drug to mask the condition. It was like they say happens on roids. I started gaining muscle mass and strength very quickly. I had to add a 45 pound plate to the nautilus leg extension weight stack to have enough. The doctor told me my body had been cannibalizing itself to stay at the lower weights. If one wishes to lose fat low carbs works. Train sensibly to keep in shape both cardiovascularly and muscularly. Don't expect training alone to make you lose weight.
  3. jk
    I don't understand what leads to ketoacidosis rather than just ketosis. Basically your saying the woman wasn't eating enough...? But what is the tipping point where ketosis turns into ketoacidosis when one isn't type diabetic...? Bit confused
  4. Peter Cohen
    Good question jk. It doesn't actually make sense how nutritional ketosis becomes ketoacidosis in the absense of type 1 diabetes. Is this a new form of ketoacidosis?

    If not, this research would have to be talking about alcoholic ketoacidosis or starvation ketoacidosis. The former of which would require the nursing mother to be drinking alcohol and the latter would require the nursing mother to be fasting for 24hrs.

    So surely better advice would be to avoid fasting and alcohol?

    Or, are there confounding factors such as a second pregnancy while breastfeeding?

    Seems a little premature and dismissive to be saying that because of 3 extremely-rare cases (that all ended well) the entire population should avoid something. If we took that attitude in everything there would be no cars on the road and we couldn't eat ANY food.

  5. Natalia
    I love how Dave a man knows so much of why a breast feeding mother would be on a low carb diet when he knows nothing about being pregnant or breastfeeding.
  6. Stephanie
    I went into ketoacidosis while breastfeeding about a year ago because I cut out all carbs. I lost about 10lb in a little less than a week.. Definitely not worth my life. I was drinking over a gallon of water a day, so dehydration was not a factor in my senario. It was scary and a very expensive hospital bill.
  7. Jess
    I have tried nursing and doing Keto TWICE now and got so utterly sick the first time it sent me to the ER with a $2000 medical bill. Now, second time I’m so nauseated & sickly I can’t even BE an active mother. My daughter is 1.....I plan to self wean so I guess my 47 lbs pregnancy weight gain will have to remain until I can change my diet without it being scary. I did low calorie but then my supply went down. It sucks to be out of shape and have a baby but when I diet it gets actually scary or I dry up! 🤷🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️
  8. Stephanie
    Jess, sounds like you are going to extremes. Just cut out some carbs, eat enough good calories and you will lose safely instead of getting sick from malnutrition.
  9. Stephanie
    Oh and make sure you are taking vitamins/supplements. You need your sodium, magnesium and potassium.
  10. 1 comment removed
  11. Elvis
    Oh my God so scary :( I want to loss 15 pounds but I’m breastfeeding 🤱🏻 I’m trying Keto Diet for two Days already.. But so far I’m feeling Good
    Reply: #12
  12. Kristie Sullivan, PhD Team Diet Doctor
    Most won't encounter these problems, but we do want folks to be aware. Some breastfeeding moms find the slowly reducing their carb levels helps them to keep their supply steady and may help them avoid feeling unwell. Wishing you the best! Kristie ~Diet Doctor Team Member

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