A common discussion among friends and other moms I know is a concern regarding special dieting, detoxing and cleanses. I have had moms ask me if it is safe to detoxify or cleanse while breastfeeding. I do not consider most forms of juicing or sweating out toxins to be dangerous while pregnant or lactating. On the other hand, I may consider some wraps or pills to be questionable while I am open to learning about others, which may be helpful. I want to be clear I am not suggesting that anyone detox or cleanse but writing this in answer to the multiple times a year the topic comes up.
The idea of cleansing or detoxing has been around for a long time… colon cleanses, liver cleanses, parasite cleanses, candida cleanses, herbal cleanses, kidney cleanses, gastrointestinal cleanses, weight cleanses, and so on. I am not writing regarding any special religious or ceremonial cleanse or fasting but more concerning myself with the latest fads in my region of the globe.
Moms may consider accelerating the weaning process in order to start a cleanse program themselves. I am neither a medical professional nor a nutritionist so I am not going to suggest what is safe as far as special diets or supplements (though I will say I’ve found more information on dangers of these things over any proof or safety). However, I do feel that early weaning has risk and complications for both mom and baby/babies that should be considered. Breastfeeding is very important for human babies with regards to both nutrition and emotional health. It is also important for women’s health. We are only scratching the surface of just how much this is true.
While there is no question that human milk is what human babies need, some parents question their own health. The body naturally detoxifies itself 24 hours a day so unless you are having some severe ailment your liver is doing it’s job already. There is always room for improvement in the world we live in though. There are natural ways to “detox” the body such as cleaning out toxic cleansers in the home, switching (or wearing less) makeup, eating more organic and less processed foods. Breastfeeding is always the most natural choice but we can all start by taking a look around our home, our clothes, our food or yards, our communities and making choices that feel right for us.
Before you consider weaning or switching to some formula alternative because you are worried about toxins in your breastmilk please consider that the cows, goats or other creatures eat the same chemicals and breathe the same air as humans but our human milk has wonderful things for human babies that only human’s make. And soy formula is most certainly GMO as well as either sprayed with herbicides or pesticides …
Some have been lead to believe that their milk is not as good as an artificial or homemade formula. This is completely false.
Considering making changes to your lifestyle, such as adding juicing and greens daily (as opposed to drinking juice to substitute for other food), getting massage, adding exercise or sauna use to your routine, in my opinion, are wonderful additions for healthy lifestyle and not something to worry more about or avoid while breastfeeding.
Everyone can make small changes to find less toxins in their home and more nutrition in their bodies and breastfeeding can be successful without ever “detoxifying” your body in some commercial sense.
So, here are some of the questions I would consider before thinking of buying a commercial “detox” or “cleanse”.
- Many wraps and cleanses rob the body of water and nutrients…are you taking in enough or extra good nutrients and water?
- Is the diet too calorie restrictive for you to feel well in general as well as when breastfeeding or lactating?
- Will your milk supply or let-down suffer in any way if this is a short-term or long-term choice?
- What is the duration you are planning this diet change?
- Do you have enough water and nutrient rich foods in your diet?
- Have you spoken to your health care provider and baby’s health care provider about the detox if there are special ingredients or supplements?
- Do your foods have pesticides and preservatives In them? If you are “detoxing” for a certain amount of time, you may want to consider what you can buy organic long-term over a short-term “detox”.
- Is this a lifestyle change or a temporary choice – can it wait or be modified, especially if it will impact breastfeeding or weaning options?
- What do you clean your home with, wash your laundry with, etc?
- Do your work or live in a high-risk zone such as working with lead or high risk chemicals?
- If you are considering weaning, what risks, repercussions or benefits to detox?
- Have you looked at your skin care & make-up regimen?
- Some programs are useless or may even be harmful… have you researched them before buying them?
- Have you checked your dietary needs over with a nutritionist before eliminating certain foods?
- How will what you are ingesting or putting on your skin impact your child?
- Is your child at least 6-8 months old or older (in other words not getting most of their food from Mom’s-Own-Milk these days)?
- How often is your child breastfeeding or having your milk?
- How will weaning impact your child emotionally and physically?
- How could weaning impact your own body and health?
- What alternatives have you considered?
- Have you read any studies or proof the cleanse/detox/diet you want to try works and is good for you?
- Could you or your baby have any allergy or reaction to the substances in the cleanse?
- Is there a natural alternative that is known to be safe?
When considering these, I also think in terms of the questions I ask regarding taking medications… Has it been given to infants? Has it been taking by other lactation mothers,? How long will the medications/treatment last in the blood (and therefore milk)? How well can a baby excrete this medication and their liver detoxify it? Will it interfere with lactation or let-down? And so on…
As you can most likely tell from the questions I have, I am not a big fan of doing short term cleanses or detoxing over making long term changes and choices that impact your health and that of your whole family. I am a fan of breastfeeding but I also do feel it is important to point out that we live in an environmentally challenged world and that breastfeeding and human milk remains what all human children need to thrive.
If you are interested in reading more on environmental toxins and your health, these are some of the wonderful articles and organizations I have found helpful. Please do read them!
If you try one detox this year, make it this one
Best for Babes Science You Can Use: Worried about toxins in your breastmilk? Get the facts.
LLLI Breastfeeding Remains Best Choice in a Polluted World
LLLI Human Milk Still the Best Choice
WABA Towards Healthy Environments for Children
Babies 411: Breastfeeding is NOT the Issue, It’s Toxins!
Environmental Working Group
Scientific American: Does Mother’s Milk Transfer Environmental Toxins to Breast-Feeding Babies?
Moms Making Our Milk Safe
5 Experts Answer: Is There Such Thing as a Healthy Juice Cleanse?
Maternal Nutrition During Breastfeeding
Weight Loss May Release Stored Toxins
Contaminants have been found in human milk. Should I wean my baby?
Living Downstream; Walking Upstream
Some other informative sites related to detoxing…
Kellymom information on diets while breastfeeding
10 Ways to Detox Your Home for Babies and Kids
Food Babe Detox Archives
Contaminants in Human Milk: Weighing the Risks against the Benefits of Breastfeeding
Why You Need to Detoxify 24 Hours a Day
Center for Science in the Public Interest; Gut Myths? By Bonnie Liebman
Scroll down to : MYTH: Your colon needs cleansing.
Cancer and the Environment
Risk factors for early weaning from the breast… Analytical Armadillo
Infant Risk Center
Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding: The Complete Nutrition Book for Nursing Mothers by Eileen Behan