Is Cleansing After Childbirth Safe?
Some juice companies now offer new moms tailored cleanses, but they're not for all women looking to lose the baby weight, experts caution
For new moms, the pressure to get back to pre-baby shape is intense. Celebrities like Fergie and Jenna Dewan Tatum drank green smoothies to slim down after giving birth, and Jessica Simpson did a five-day cleanse with smoothies and snacks to jumpstart a 60-pound post-baby weight loss.
Juice companies are seeing everyday women follow suit. "We got a lot of requests from new moms wanting to do a cleanse or go on a healthy juicing regimen after they've had a baby," says Candy Tree of OnJuice. In response, some have created specific cleanse programs catered to mamas. [Tweet this news!]
These plans are similar to a regular juice cleanse and feature green juices, fruit juices, and sometimes smoothies and nut milks, all with mom-focused ingredients. Heartbeet Juicery's Mother's Pack has energy-supplying carbs from brown rice, cashews to provide good fat, and vegetables such as spinach that contain phytoestrogens that the company claims promote lactation. The juices are also supposed to help clear toxins and get you back into your skinny jeans, however, Lisa Neff, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity in Chicago, says that there are no scientific studies to support these claims. Besides, your organs do just fine detoxing your body.
Post-Baby Cleanse Concerns
"We don't recommend this as a cleanse for new moms," says Danniel Swatosh, co-founder of Heartbeet Juicery. "This is meant to be a supplement to a healthy diet. It's about putting more good things in your body and steering clear of processed foods." She says that one pack (six drinks) should be split up over three days and consumed along with solid food. OnJuice notes that a three-day cleanse should be divvied up over a six-day period, so you'd drink two juices daily while eating your regular healthy diet.
Important to remember because if you're breastfeeding, an all-juice plan may not provide enough calories, says Melina Jampolis, M.D., an internist and nutrition expert. A pack of six juices may contain about 1,200 calories total, but breastfeeding moms need an additional 450 to 500 extra calories daily, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
You also need enough protein for a healthy milk supply, something these drinks often lack. A 140-pound breastfeeding mom needs 67 grams of protein compared to 42 grams for a woman who's not breastfeeding. "Without adequate amounts, your body will burn muscle in order to fuel your milk production," Jampolis explains. And losing muscle might mean that the number on the scale dips, but since it also causes your metabolism to plummet, you've basically thwarted your weight-loss efforts. [Tweet this warning!] Dietary fat is important too because it helps you produce higher-fat milk that may help keep newborns satiated so your baby may wake up fewer times throughout the night from hunger.
Additionally juice cleanses lack several nutrients-including B vitamins, vitamins A and D, selenium, and iodine-that are important for baby's growth, Jampolis adds. Juices may also lack minerals like energy-providing iron-bad news since you're probably exhausted having just had a baby.
For Those Not Breastfeeding
Going on a cleanse for a few days is safe for women forgoing breastfeeding-though Neff is skeptical about the benefits. "There's not a lot of science out there that supports juicing for weight loss," she says. Since you're dramatically restricting calories, you will probably lose weight. But most of that is water weight that will return immediately once you start eating solid foods again.
And since juice without fiber, fat, or protein-nutrients anyone needs to lose weight in the long-term-makes for big swings in energy levels and hunger thanks to the blood sugar spikes, new moms may struggle even more to stay peppy and feel satisfied, Jampolis adds.
"Cleanse" the Right Way
Juices aren't totally off limits, and they can be healthy if they're low-sugar (i.e. primarily made with vegetables with at most one fruit for sweetness) and part of a well-rounded diet.
"It's challenging to consume a nutrient-dense diet loaded with fruits and vegetables when you are breastfeeding, so adding juices-especially green ones-to a balanced diet with whole grains, protein, and healthy fat could help you slowly lose the baby weight and reduce body fat while maintaining energy levels," Jampolis says, adding that if you do so, take a pre-natal vitamin to make up for the nutrient gaps.
You could also use a high-protein shake made with greens, low-fat milk or yogurt, protein powder, and fruit as a nutrient-packed meal replacement when you're busy, Neff says.