Detox While Breastfeeding? Nine 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? 9 things you can (and should) do - and so should everyone else | eatnakednow.com

Young woman breast feeding a baby — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Here are nine 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.

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.

8) Eat more veggies. Most of us don’t eat enough vegetables (even, ironically, many vegetarians!) and it’s a rare person I don’t have to overtly cajole into increasing their intake. Vegetables are very cleansing and jam-packed with micronutrients, antioxidants, fiber and flavanoids your body needs to thrive. Your goal should be 2-4 cups of vegetables per mealSee, I told you you’re not eating enough.

This guideline comes from Dr. Terry Wahls, author of The Wahls Protocol (exceptional book on healing autoimmune disease through food), who reversed her severe Multiple Sclerosis through diet and lifestyle changes that included this significant intake of vegetables and fruits.

If you’re thinking “how on earth am I going to eat that many vegetables?” here’s a way to divide it up so that you’re getting a good diversity and not eating the same thing over and over again. At each meal, strive for:

  • 1 cup of dark leafy greens (lots to choose from here: spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, swiss chard, arugula, watercress, etc)
  • 1 cup of brightly colored fruits vegetables (beets, carrots, berries, eggplant, olives, tomatoes, peppers, radishes, etc)
  • 1 cup of cruciferous, alliums, and/or mushrooms (cruciferous are vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, brussels sprouts; alliums are garlic, onions, leeks)

Eating so many vegetables will naturally displace other less-important things on your plate, most notably the starchy carbohydrates like grains, legumes and white potatoes, and will significantly increase your body’s cleansing potential without mobilizing toxins in a dangerous way.

9) Coffee enema. If you’re feeling brave, this is a lovely way to open up a key elimination pathway without mobilizing more toxins, making it safe to do while breastfeeding. It’s a big, controversial topic, which I wrote about here.

 


Written by Margaret Floyd, NTP HHC CHFS

189 Comments

  1. Anne McCain

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    Loved reading the article. However, I just did an herbal supplement detox cleanse and didn’t realize I couldn’t breastfeed. How long before I can breastfeed again? I drank the cleanse over 24 hours ago. Thank you!

    • I would ask your practitioner, but waiting 48hrs should be sufficient.

  2. Jacqui

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    would you recommend this detox while you are pregnant.. when is a good time to start.
    Regarding the coconut oil.. is there a specific brand that is a better quality than others? What is best to use?
    Is juicing also a healthy nutrient supply.. carrot apple beet?

    • To be clear: I don’t recommend ANY detoxing while pregnant – but it’s always a good idea to keep elimination pathways open so that you can eliminate the toxins your body is naturally and continually getting rid of. And yes, this applies to pregnancy as well.

      For coconut oil, use the cleanest brand you can find. I like Nutiva or Spectrum, but there are lots of them out there.

      Juicing is fine but go easy on it because it’s a lot of sugar (especially the carrot/apple/beet combo you mentioned – extremely sweet). Here’s a post I wrote about the ideal combo for juicing.

  3. Erin

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    Swish the oil for 20-30 MINUTES??

    • Cree

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      I do it for ten minutes and still see and feel a difference. I have 3 kids.. So its hard to swish or twenty.

  4. Emma

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    My son 4 months. I feel like I’m bloated and i want to try a detox but i am breastfeeding. Whats a good detox and safe to still breastfeed?

    • Emma – there is really no safe detox to do during breastfeeding. What I’d recommend is doing the things I list in the article. Eliminate all processed foods, cut down on starches and simple sugars, and eat as many vegetables as you can get in (3 cups per meal is a great goal). That will all do you very well.

  5. Kelsey

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    What are your thoughts on ‘pumping and dumping’ during a cleanse?

    • You can absolutely do it but it seems like a lot of work. And you’d need to pump and dump for the duration of the cleanse… which means a lot of pumping beforehand to make sure baby has his/her full supply during that time. I think unless you’re in real dire straights you might as well focus on the things you can do while breastfeeding, and then do a full-blown cleanse afterwards. That’s what I always do.

  6. Dennees

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    My baby is 9 months old, can i detox im feeling bloated.

    • It has less to do with the age of your baby, and more to do with whether you’re breastfeeding or not. If you’re still nursing, no matter what the baby’s age, it’s not safe to detox. You can do the things in this post, and they will go a long way to helping you feel better. If you’re not nursing, that’s a different question. As long as your elimination pathways are open, then yes, it’s safe to detox.

      • Renata

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        You are SO patient wow. And thanks for great article!

        • Karima

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          Patience in not my strong point. I just noticed too and will try to implement in my life too.

  7. Henna

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    I have a 1year old baby and I breastfeed him.
    I am drinking Turbo Detox.
    is it safe???
    do reply me

    • i don’t know that product specifically, but I would strongly encourage you to NOT drink any detox drinks while you’re breastfeeding.

  8. Carol

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    I’ve had an ion foot bath today and I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to have it if I’m breastfeeding!

    I got home and pump and dump but I’m still worried ! My baby is 7 months old ? Should be okay to feed him
    Tonight ?

    • Quite honestly I haven’t done a lot with ion foot baths, so I would ask the practitioner who did it for you, but I’d say pump and dump at least twice. But the person who can best advise you is the practitioner who did the foot bath.

  9. Victoria Kling

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    My baby is 21 months and only feeds at night is ok if I detox during the day

    • No. The body’s detoxification processes don’t start and stop on a cycle like that. I’d wait until your baby is fully weaned.

  10. Michelle A.

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    I’m breastfeeding my almost two month old. After reading your article (and all these comments), I know of course that I shouldn’t do a detox. 😉 However, I really want to start doing a daily Veggie Flush Smoothie again. Since what is in this is vegetables that I should be doing anyway, is it dangerous for baby? I wasn’t wanting to take it because of detoxing, but because I miss the freshness of it. It’s a good way to get some spinach in. What do you think?

    http://www.today.com/recipes/dr-oz-s-veggie-flush-smoothie-t89196

    • This is fine and a great way to get more veggies into your diet. You’re basically just pureeing the veggies. It would be the same as eating a gigantic salad. I say go for it!

      • Michelle A.

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        Oh, good. I was so worried. 🙂 Thanks!

  11. Alicia Smarr

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    Hi Margaret, I’m still nursing my daughter who just turned 2. I started drinking 2-3 tablespoons of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with Mother per day about a week ago. I wasn’t even considering the possibility it would stir up trapped toxins and release into my breastmilk. What is your take on ACV while breastfeeding? Thank you! Alicia

    • I think ACV is gentle enough not to stir up too much of a detox reaction. I think you’ll be fine!

  12. WHH

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    Hello,

    I am a Vegan and have been for 2 years. I also regularly support my liver and kidney with various herbal teas. I breastfeed my son who is now 6 months and have had no issues but would love to do a juice cleanse for a few days. If all I already eat is fruit and veggies wouldnt this be ok to do? To just huice it instead of eat it whole so my body gets more of the nutrients and has an easier time digesting the food? Thanks

    • I strongly encourage you not to just do a juice fast while nursing. You’ll be missing out on important nutrients, even if you’re predominantly vegan now.

    • OM

      at

      I have same idea as well, breast feeding mom have to eat all of vege.Eating is good for the breast feeding and detox juice which making with some Vege are no good for baby.

      I am confuse and some body can explain pls

  13. Marcela

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    I read that Epsom salt baths can dry up your milk supply. Have you not experienced your milk supply changing with these baths?

  14. Sonia Flores

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    Is Oil pulling safe while Breastfeeding?

  15. Sindhu

    at

    Can I drink Sassy Water while breastfeeding?

  16. These are great guidelines for ALL of us. thanks!

  17. Pingback: Should U Detox

  18. Tammy

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    Do detoxing herbs get into the breast milk? Is that the harm of detoxing while breastfeeding? I have a two…almost 3 year old. He nurses for comfort only..I am not his main meal source. Since I feel he does not get much milk, is it safe to detox in this situation?

    • Any supplement you take will end up in trace amounts in your breastmilk. That’s actually one way practitioners supplement infants who aren’t eating food yet – via the mother through her breastmilk. So yes, some of the herbs will get in the milk, but more importantly the milk will contain toxins that the body is eliminating, so you don’t want to mobilize more toxins than the body is naturally getting rid of. I’d wait until he’s fully weaned.

  19. Holly

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    Hi! You mentioned ACV was a gentle enough detox to be safe while breastfeeding…have you heard or know if Plexus is safe? I’ve been told (by the people trying to sell it 😉 ) that is is gentle enough to do while breastfeeding and that many of them use it themselves (not enough for me to know that THEY do it). I’m specifically thinking of their “Cleanse” product. Although I’m wondering about their pink drink Slim and ProBiotic. I did ask my practitioner and all I got was that there is not enough evidence to say one way or the other. Thanks!

    • I’m not familiar with that product, but I would be very cautious with any kind of detoxing / cleansing like this during breastfeeding. My inclination would be to avoid it.

  20. Aman

    at

    Can i drink epsom salt water while breastfeeding?

  21. Pingback: How do you safely detox while breast feeding - ABS For mom

  22. Pingback: How do you safely detox while breast feeding – Abs4Mom

  23. Kim

    at

    ….. I just switched to a natural deodorant, and based on what I’ve been reading I’m assuming my body is detoxing. Anyway am I better off to continue using the natural deodorant, or to go back to the chemical deodorant? Now I’m kind of freaking out. Thank you in advance!

  24. Nicole

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    Its said that ginger water and lemon juice helps detox.my baby is 3 months.is there any harm if I take this combination given its natural.

    • If you’re still eating food and not pushing detoxification in any other way, then yes, drinking some of this in addition to your regular diet is fine for the baby

  25. Sam

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    Hello. My doctor has told me I need to take a liver support as I have high ALT levels but I am breastfeeding. She wants me to get an expensive treatment from her. Could you recomend any natural supplements I can take please? Thanks

    • Liver support is really challenging when you’re nursing as so many supplements push detoxification, and you absolutely don’t want to do that. I’d recommend adding in lots of liver-loving foods like dandelion greens, beets, ginger, lemon, lots of dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, berries, artichokes, and garlic, and at the same time avoid things that stress the liver like alcohol, processed foods, sugar, and poor quality fats. I’d also make sure to stay really well hydrated. With these things alone, you can make a big difference and lighten the load on your liver. ALT can take a bit of time to come down, but I’d start with these things and see how you do.

  26. P

    at

    Margaret,

    Thank you for your time and knowledge! I just read this article and the posts and am very concerned about my nurseling. I have been going to a chiropractor that also does nutrition response testing. My body has been moving toxins, most recently chromium and hydrocarbons. My hands have a terrible rash that is testing as the toxins I listed above. Now I’m reading that detoxing while nursing is dangerous…. what am I to do for my son?? How do I proceed? I’ve already been detoxing. I was told that bacteria and viruses don’t get into my breast milk, I guess I thought what I’ve been doing with my practioner has been safe and toxins wouldn’t get into my milk either. I feel very irresponsible and am seriously concerned for my son. How do I proceed?

    • Have you been working with your practitioner to actively push the toxins out? Or is s/he simply supporting what your body is already doing? (as in: supporting elimination pathways so that the body can clear what it’s naturally detoxing). There’s a very big difference. As long as you’re not actively pushing the body to detoxify more than it is naturally doing, and as long as you’re simply opening up elimination pathways, your baby should be fine. What you don’t want to be doing is pushing the detoxification processes any faster than they’re naturally going. If you’re concerned, I’d definitely bring this to the practitioner that you’re working with. Make sure s/he knows you’re nursing.

  27. Terri Turner

    at

    Thanks for this info! I’m also trying to support my liver , my daughter is 19 months nursing 3x a day.. and I would like to get pregnant within a few months again. My AST & ALT enzymes are elevated. I eat very healthy, paleo and organic, no sugar etc .. I was thinking to add dandelion tea or Powdered burdock root from dr, cowans garden.. would these be too harsh to take while nursing a bit still? Thanks so much!

    • I would be very cautious adding herbs while still nursing. If you want to get pregnant again, my recommendation would be to wean, do a bit of cleansing while your body is your own for a few months, then start eating a very nutrient-dense diet and go into pre-conception mode and trying to conceive again. it is so hard on the body to just go from baby to baby with no rest and recovery in between. You have just created a new life! That is enormously taxing and energy- / nutrient-intensive. For your sake and the sake of your next baby, I strongly recommend some time in between the two if at all possible.

  28. kara

    at

    My baby is 3months old .Using ginger, lemon juice, mint leave , honey and cucumber to detox my body while breastfeeding is it good.

    • Please make sure you are eating a normal diet during this time. You absolutely don’t want to mobilize toxins when you are the sole source of nutrition for an infant.

  29. Deep

    at

    Is it ok to have celery,apple,carrots,beetroot juice, ginger,kale juice in morning in place of breakfast while breastfeeding

    • As long as you don’t feel hungry and are eating plenty the rest of the day, that should be fine.

  30. Tiwonge Menyani

    at

    my son is 7months plus I gained a lot of weight during pregnancy and I didn’t loose even a kg after delivery what should I do? currently am weighing 116 kgs I started gym and clean eating last month but instead of loosing weight am gaining what should I do please

    • Tiwonge, first and foremost I’d follow all the steps in this article — especially the diet. Make sure you’ve removed grains, dairy, and sugar from your diet – that will go a long way. Increase your veggie content to 2-3 cups per meal. If it’s still not budging, then I’d work with a functional practitioner to get to the root of why. There can be a lot of different factors: digestive issues, hormonal issues, thyroid issues… it would be impossible to know without testing and more in-depth review of your health history. make sure you’re doing the basics first and if still no results, then I’d look in some of these other areas.

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