Detox While Breastfeeding? Seven things you can (and should) do (and so should everyone else)

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I never realized what a detox junkie I am until I got pregnant and couldn’t detox.

Thankfully I had done a deep cleanse just a couple of months before getting pregnant, but once we had conceived, my focus was on deep nourishment and a “building” diet– lots of good fats, healthy meats, nutrient-dense bone broths, and cultured foods. Of course I ate my fair share of veggies and did a lot of juicing as well, but my primary focus was on foods that build: healthy fats and proteins.

None of this changed when Sia was born. Breastfeeding is no small job and takes a lot out of you on every level. And as any breastfeeding mama knows, it’s not the time to cleanse. For one, you don’t have the energy for it. More importantly, the last thing you want to do is mobilize toxins that could end up in your breast milk and thus in your baby.

Depending on how long you breastfeed, this could mean you don’t have the opportunity for a deep detox for a long time. My daughter just turned 13 months a couple of weeks ago, and we’re nowhere close to weaning. I expect we’ll go up to at least her 2nd birthday. When you add the months of pregnancy into that total, we’re getting close to three years without a detox. I started itching to “clean house” many months ago.

A few important things to know about detoxing:

  • Your body is always detoxifying. This isn’t something it only does on a juice fast. Everything from the hormones your body naturally produces, to the supplements you take, to any toxins in your food and environment… Every moment of every day your body is cleaning house. It’s just not doing it on an extremely deep level. Think of it like the day-to-day housekeeping you do versus the deep spring cleaning you only do once or twice a year.
  • One of the most important things you can do to support your body’s everyday housekeeping efforts is to make sure your elimination pathways are running clear and smooth. Once those toxins have been dealt with by your body, you want them to have a speedy exit route. When you take out the kitchen trash you don’t want the hallway blocked with junk preventing you from taking the garbage outside. Just like you with your busy schedule, your body doesn’t always have the time to clean up those elimination pathways on top of everything else it’s got to do, so preventing that back up in the first place is the best strategy.
  • While you don’t want to do a deep cleaning when you’re still breastfeeding, what you can do is reduce the number of toxins that are going in on a regular basis (and thus reduce your toxic load) and support your elimination pathways to flow freely.

detox while breastfeeding? |

Here are seven strategies you can safely use while breastfeeding to keep your inner house clean:

Screen shot 2013-08-27 at 9.50.33 PM 1) Make sure you’re digesting and eliminating well – In other words: ensure you’re pooping at least once daily. Your digestion is one of the primary vehicles for your body to eliminate toxins – both food waste and the toxins your liver has neutralized. Here’s the connection: your liver neutralizes toxins, which are excreted from the body in bile. The bile is stored in your gallbladder, where it waits until you’ve eaten a meal containing fat. When your digestive system senses fat is present, your gallbladder squirts the stored bile into the top of the small intestine, where it breaks down the fats and escorts toxins out of the body in your poop. Kinda cool, right?

{Interesting side bar totally not relevant to breastfeeding mamas: you know how if you’ve had one too many drinks you crave greasy food? Well, that’s your body’s natural and totally appropriate response to getting those toxins OUT in a hurry. Eating a meal high in fat will cause your gallbladder to squirt out bile to emulsify those fats, while at the same time conveniently removing those extra toxins from the alcohol out of your body.}

If pooping daily is something you struggle with – and please know that many breastfeeding mamas get constipated – then getting things moving should be a top priority. Try adding beets to your daily diet (beet kvass – a fermented beet drink – is an even better option) to help thin the bile flow. There are lots of natural strategies for getting things moving, but this gets more clinical so we’d recommend you work with a practitioner if what you’ve tried so far hasn’t worked.

Woman Drinking Water from a Glass 2) Make sure you’re well hydrated – Another key elimination vehicle is urine, and thus your kidneys. The best and easiest way to take care of your kidneys is to stay well hydrated. This is especially important (and difficult) to do when you’re breastfeeding and losing so much of your liquid through your breast milk. My strategy is to drink 8-12oz of water every time I breastfeed in addition to sipping water throughout the day. Try adding a pinch of unrefined sea salt to your water to add electrolytes for better absorption. Also, staying really well hydrated will help you poop and makes everything in your body run more smoothly. If you only do one thing on this list, get hydrated.

dry brush 3) Keep your skin clear – Many don’t realize that our skin is a major detoxifying organ. Lots of stuff leaves our body via sweat, which means it’s a good thing to get sweaty. You can do this through good old fashioned daily exercise, or you can take a hot Epsom salt bath. I’d be careful with saunas and hot tubs – they’re obviously off limits when you’re pregnant, but even when you’re breastfeeding they can mobilize more of those toxins than you’d like.

Another way to keep your skin clear is a technique called dry brushing. This is where you use a skin brush with natural bristles (like this one) on dry skin before showering. I emphasize dry skin because it really doesn’t work on wet skin and can actually pull or tear the skin, and you want to do this before showering so you can wash off all that dead skin the brush stirs up. Start at your extremities (hands and feet) and move in strong swift strokes up to your torso, always moving in the direction of your heart. Your skin will be a little pink, but not red. It’s not super comfy at first but you’ll get used it and it actually starts to feel really good over time. Not only will this help your skin breathe and eliminate toxins more easily, you will look and feel amazing!

MP900341465 4) Keep that lymph flowing – a side benefit of skin brushing and exercise is that you keep your lymph flowing. Lymph is the fluid of your immune system, another important element of your detoxification system, and it circulates through the body in a system that parallels your main circulatory system (your blood). The difference is that your lymph doesn’t have the benefit of a heart pumping to move it around – it depends on your movement.

The best way to get your lymph moving is to bounce: skip rope, do some jumping jacks, go for a jog, jump on a rebounder or trampoline – do anything that has gravity and requires you to bounce. Runners have excellent lymphatic flow because they do all that bouncing and they’re also pumping their arms at the same time, stimulating lymph flow in the nodes in their armpits. Time to break out the baby jogger?

meditate 5) Deep breathing – Our lungs are an often-neglected detoxification organ, but with every exhale we’re ridding our body of toxins. Exercise can do the trick, or try some restorative yoga and focus on deep, cleansing ujjayi breaths. Never under-estimate the power of breath. It is life giving and can be an amazing tool if you harness its power and breathe with intention and awareness.

6) Oil pulling – Your mouth is big source of toxins and bacteria. Oil pulling is an ancient ayurvedic technique based on the principle that toxins and bacteria are attracted to oil.

Here’s how it works: first thing in the morning (ideally before you’ve brushed your teeth or eaten any food) you take a spoonful of good quality oil (I prefer coconut oil but any good quality oil will do) and swish it around your mouth for a good 20-30 minutes. As you swish, toxins and bacteria that are in your mouth get pulled into the oil. You might find that your nose starts running. When you’re done, spit the oil into the garbage. DO NOT SWALLOW IT!! as it’s loaded with toxins, and don’t spit it in the sink as it will clog it. You can then rinse your mouth with some warm salt water, brush your teeth, and proceed with your day as usual.

If you do this regularly you’ll notice over time that your teeth get whiter, feel cleaner, and your breath is fresher. By removing the burden of extra toxins and bacteria in your mouth, you’re freeing up your immune system and other detoxification organs to attend to other business in your body.

7) Reduce the number of toxins going in through your diet – Last but certainly not least is what you’re putting into your body. This is a time to be really mindful of how you nourish yourself and your baby. A diet filled with nutrient-dense whole foods is paramount. Steer clear of processed or “faux” health foods (you know – those “health” foods that you couldn’t grow or cook yourself and that come in fancy packaging with all sorts of health promises on it). The more homemade, the better. This is precious time in your baby’s life that you won’t get back. Deep nourishment for both of you is a top priority.

SC Banner tiny The one nutrient-dense real food cleanse you can do while breastfeeding is our Sugar Control Detox. We don’t recommend you try it until your baby is at least three months old, but it’s less of a cleanse and more of a deep commitment to eating exclusively nutrient-dense whole foods. And, of course, we take out any and all forms of sugar (and foods that convert to sugar in the blood quickly) in the process. Many breastfeeding mamas (including myself) have done this protocol with great success. It’s a great way to ensure you’re eating only the highest quality real food, and conveniently it eliminates a lot of the foods that contribute to colicky behavior in babies (like gluten and dairy) so your baby will love it, too. Oh yeah, and it’s an excellent and safe way to get rid of those last few stubborn pounds of baby weight.

Do you need to detox? Here’s a great article that explains 17 different signs that your liver isn’t detoxing properly and how to support that detoxification naturally through nutrient-dense food choices.

Written by Margaret Floyd, NTP HHC CHFS

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  1. Leslie

    August 28, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Such valuable information for expectant mothers, mothers, or anyone who wants to become a mother! Thank you!

  2. Isabella

    August 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve adopted the brushing routine most times that I’m in the shower since I learned about it on the last Sugar Detox. I use a small baby brush over my face, neck and hands, and a shower brush for the body. It is very invigorating so I’m wondering if doing it before I shower will make a huge difference? Any thoughts on that Margaret?

    • Margaret Floyd

      August 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      @Isabella – brushing before the shower will make a huge difference. I used to scrub vigorously during the shower but I’ve noticed a real difference since switching over.

  3. Jaime Velazquez

    August 28, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks, from a breastfeeding mother of a toddler. I’ve wondered about this topic, though I don’t have acute detox urges regularly. Do you really swish oil in your mouth for 20-30 minutes or do you mean seconds?

    • Margaret Floyd

      August 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      @Jaime – I actually do mean 20-30 minutes. I know it sounds like a lot of time and thank goodness for multi-tasking :) It takes at least a good 15-20 to get the full benefits. sometimes I forget i’m doing it and have gone as long as 45 minutes. I think 20 minutes is a good goal.

      • Monica

        September 16, 2015 at 10:13 pm

        I’ve tried this but feel like there is extra spit in my mouth after doing it for such a long period of time. Am I using too much oil to start with or do you spit as you go?

        • Margaret Floyd

          September 17, 2015 at 10:04 am

          You might be using a little too much oil. It definitely does generate saliva, so that’s not unusual. I just take enough oil so that the additional saliva isn’t too much of a hassle.

  4. Kristi

    August 28, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Margaret –

    I love that you did a post on detoxification while nursing. :-) Everyone likes to say that you ‘can’t detox while nursing’ – nor can you let that stuff build up in your system! Your recommendations are great and now I think I need to add dry brushing to my routine.

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  6. Elizabeth G. Sipple

    September 5, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Detox is a good thing! The only thype of Detox I have done ever ( and it was while nursing) was a natural one through using Essential Oils in a Raindrop therapy massage. It was great and helped my RA symptoms improve for a time as well.

    Over time chemicals and things in the environment build up in our systems, it is a good thing to clear those out occasionally. It can bring great health changes and improve immune function as well.

  7. Stephanie @ Naturally Mindful

    September 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Such great information! Thank you for a great article! Shared and Pinned!

  8. Stephanie

    December 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Great ideas. Thank you!

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  10. Juli

    January 13, 2014 at 9:37 am

    I’ve read conflicting ideas on whether or not it’s safe to begin oil pulling while breastfeeding. I started doing it a few days ago and coincidentally came down with a cold (my husband was fighting something off last week) but I’m nervous that it’s the “detox effect”. I’m nursing my 7 week old, and plan to for a while so… I’m just curious what you think about the safety of me continuing??

    • Margaret Floyd

      January 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      @Jull – I’d go easy with it at first. Maybe once or twice a week, then build up gradually to daily. It is a very very gentle form of detoxification and I did it regularly while pregnant. Follow your instincts. If it feels like it’s too much, either stop or go slowly.

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  13. Anla

    February 14, 2014 at 1:45 am

    This is great info as I’ve suffered greatly with allergies since my last pregnancy. I’ve never had them in my life, but when I got pregnant with my second, they jumped on me out of nowhere and have annoyingly become a part of my life ever since, and my baby is now 10 months. I know it must be my liver, as I am generally quite healthy, but was in the middle of detoxing when I got pregnant. You talk a lot about mobilizing toxins: by adding fresh beet concoctions to diet to flush liver, will that still mobilize toxins to breast milk? Also, I’m so curious how you hold oil in your mouth that long without needing to swallow?

    • Margaret Floyd

      February 15, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      @Anla – beet is certainly incredibly helpful to mobilize toxins as it helps nurture the liver/gallbladder pathway, which is critical to detoxification. In terms of holding the oil in your mouth that long without swallowing, it takes a little practice and it definitely feels weird at first, but once you’re used to it, it’s actually mindless and effortless. Starting with a very small spoonful of oil will help.

  14. Lima

    February 19, 2014 at 4:19 am

    Hi Margaret,
    I have been diagnosed with fatty liver shortly after giving birth. I currently breast feeding and my baby is 5 months old. Can u please advise me what to do?

    • Margaret Floyd

      February 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Hi @Lima – this is a much more complicated issue than I can address via a simple blog comment. i’m happy to point you in the direction of more support – why don’t you write to info at eatnakednow dot com and we’ll get you the support you’re looking for.

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  16. Lindsey A

    March 31, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Great article with loads of information, thank you froma breast feeding mama! Curious about the sugar detox and waiting for the the 3 month mark with infants. My son is 8 weeks and I’d love to starts, any more insight on possible negative effects would be great.. Thank you again!

    • Margaret Floyd

      April 1, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Hi Lindsey – Ultimately it’s up to you when you start the detox. We recommend waiting for 3 months so that you’re a little more recovered from the birth and that your baby is into a better sleep routine. The first few days on the detox can be hard as your body makes the switch metabolically from predominantly carb-burning to more fat-burning, and often with a newborn this can be more taxing on the mama than you’d like. But every woman is different so if you’re feeling good and want to go for it, then there’s no reason you can’t. Just listen to your body and make sure it’s the right time.

  17. Kelly

    May 16, 2014 at 7:33 am

    I need help! I’m breastfeeding my 13 month old and I was just diagnosed with IBS and put on the Autoimmune Paleo diet. My baby boy got a really bad cold that doesn’t seem to be getting better! I only just discovered that maybe I could be detoxing into my milk. Since he has been sick he hasn’t been interested in solids, he just wants to nurse all of the time. I don’t have a problem with that, but right now, I’m struggling to get enough calories for just myself! I’m not really willing to give up breastfeeding! I’m on day 3 of this diet, I have to keep going, but it there something I can do to help him? He is miserable! I’m considering calling a LLL leader.

    • Margaret Floyd

      May 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      Kelly – I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this! It’s hard to advise without knowing more details of your situation. It could be that you’ve moved too quickly into this new protocol, or it could be other things totally unrelated to your breastmilk. I’d highly recommend you work with a skilled natural practitioner who knows the protocol and has lots of experience working with nursing mothers. I’m happy to make some recommendations. Email us at info (at) eatnakednow (dot) com if you’d like some help finding someone good.

  18. brie

    May 21, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Hi there. I have a question. Im a nursing mom and I have been taking baths with green tea or peppermint leaves in them. Ive noticed stuff in the bottom of my tub once I get out. I know these baths are for detoxing but now im not so sure they’re okay for me to do while breastfeeding. Are you familiar with these baths? And am I harming my baby?

    • Margaret Floyd

      May 21, 2014 at 10:24 am

      Brie, I have to say, I’m not an expert in detox baths. My recommendation would be to follow your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable with it, then I’d hold off until you’ve finished breastfeeding. Better safe than sorry!

  19. Sonya

    May 26, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Good to know oil pulling is ok while nursing! I’ve read conflicting things. What about wheat grass shots? I’ve read they are a no no because of the heavy metal detoxifying, but I would love to try it sometime.

    • Margaret Floyd

      May 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      I’d be cautious about wheat grass shots. Stick with homemade green juice. Still a great boost of antioxidants, but not the same chelating effect.

  20. Ewa

    June 30, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Hi Margaret,
    I wanted to ask if we can’t do detox while nursing ‘at all’? My baby is 2 years and I nurse usually twice a day. I juice once a day and don’t eat processed foods. I feel good but would like to get rid of migraine headaches and frequent colds. Can I try detox or is it better to wait until he’s totally weaned? Please advise…

    • Margaret Floyd

      June 30, 2014 at 5:56 am

      Ewa, I’d recommend waiting until he’s fully weaned. Start with doing all the suggestions that are in this post and make sure your detox pathways are nice and open. That’s an important first step. You can do a gentle cleansing program that doesn’t involve any major restrictions – like our sugar control detox – but anything beyond that isn’t a good idea while you’re still nursing. Re: migraines and frequent colds – a detox is probably less of what you need and some other major dietary shifts are. Have you seen my post on the topic? Here it is:

  21. Laura Oliva

    July 16, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Hi I did a foot detox but I didn’t know that I shouldn’t had if I’m breastfeeding. How soon can I begin to breastfeed again?

  22. toria

    August 16, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Hi,my name is baby is eight months old.I’d really love to wait until she is a year old before weaning her but my health seems to be in a really bad state….asthma,severe body pains,stomach ulcers,insomnia,dail fevers…name it….I’m always fatigued,always having to sleep.I haven’t actively been involved in my other two childrens’ lives,I’m not always strong enough to do fun things with my husband,my businesses have suffered due to neglect. I need to take charge of my life now. Im on day 3 of a juice fast. I would like to know if breastfeeding my baby every 2 days will reduce the risk if transferring toxins to her or maybe I could do the fast I bits….fast 1 wk,wait for another week and fast again until I have completed the 30 days fast,I have no intentions of ending the fast

    • Margaret Floyd

      August 19, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Toria, I would strongly encourage you to not fast while breastfeeding at the same time. If your body is as depleted as it sounds that it is, an intense detoxification such as this will only drain your body more. I’d recommend working with a nutrition professional on rebuilding your body’s stores and eating a nutrient-dense diet.

  23. DanielleRDH

    September 9, 2014 at 9:43 am

    The absolute best way to remove bacteria from the mouth is through thorough brushing of the teeth for at least 2 minutes 2x/day with emphasis on lightly brushing the back of your tongue to remove volatile sulfur compounds and flossing at least 1x/day. There haven’t been any valid, independent studies showing oil pulling being very effective, if at all. Even if it was, brushing and/or can only penetrate 1mm deep into the pocket of the gums. Gingival pockets range anywhere from 2mm-4mm pockets in all human beings so there is still 2-3mm of bacteria in pockets that hasn’t been removed. Thus the need for floss because floss can remove the harmful bacteria/toxins that cause periodontal issues.

    So my question is why oil pull for 20-30 minutes when thorough brushing and flossing effectively removes bacteria in 5 minutes or less?

    Danielle, Registered Dental Hygienist

    • DanielleRDH

      September 9, 2014 at 9:46 am

      *brushing and/or rinsing

    • Margaret Floyd

      September 16, 2014 at 10:05 am

      Danielle – I wouldn’t ever recommend to anyone that they give up brushing and flossing for oil pulling. I agree that both of those are vitally important part of an oral health protocol.

  24. Stephanie

    February 4, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Great article/blog whatever it is. It was jam packed with great information! I have a nursing 9 month old and ever since she’s been born I’ve had crazy face acne (I’ve never really had acne like this in my life… minus my puberty back acne (since you really wanted to know that)). Anyway. I’ve been searching for a decent cleanse during breastfeeding. I know the acne is gut related. It has to be. I feel fat, tired, & sluggish. During pregnancy I took papaya enzymes, probiotics, chlorophyll, apple cider vinegar etc.. etc… all daily. Now I just got lazy. So… long story short, I’ve been looking for a way to safely jump start a full gut cleanse. This article gave me some helpful hints. Much appreciated! Thanks

  25. Jessica

    February 18, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Great article! I’d like to try oil pulling but I don’t think Ican do it for 20-30 minutes. Is this something I can work up to?

    • Margaret Floyd

      February 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      Absolutely. Start with 5 minutes and go up from there. :)

  26. Shannon

    March 27, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Great article! I am currently bfing 6 month old twins. My health has not been good since their birth. I only started researching detoxing and healthy eating. Has anybody heard of or tried diatomaceous earth for detoxing/daily health?

  27. Kirsten

    October 11, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Hi! I am currently nursing a 7 week old. I have dramatically changed my diet to organic foods and non GMO. I have learned that by eliminating the toxins we put in our body, we release those pesky chemicals in through it bloodstream anyways. I will gladly do the things you mentioned to cleanse my body but I am wondering if a cleansing and revitalizing tea (no caffeine) would help hurry the process but be mess harsh of a cleanse?? They are all natural ingredients. What do you think? I could send the ingredients list of you need it. 😁 Thank you for your help!

    • Margaret Floyd

      October 14, 2015 at 10:23 am

      I’d be careful about adding anything to “speed up the process” of detox while you’re breastfeeding. The best approach is to do exactly what you’re doing: minimize toxic exposure while really working on opening up those detox pathways so that they have a speedy exit route. When you’re done breastfeeding, you can do a deeper cleanse and lots of things to speed up the detox process.

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