Intermittent Fasting and Breastfeeding
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Some ladies may find it difficult to lose weight while breastfeeding, while others might have their fat effortlessly melt off! If you are one of the unfortunate ones, you might be looking for other ways to lose weight, and one of these methods may include intermittent fasting (IF). But, is fasting healthy while breastfeeding? Could it affect your baby or your milk supply? We will discuss all of these concerns here.
Firstly, What Is Intermittent Fasting?
It is when you consume all of your calories in a specified window of time, called the eating window. There are many different ways to go about fasting. Some people eat during a four hour period and then fast the other 20 hours. The timing may differ from a 1-hour eating window (OMAD) - one meal per day to an 8-hour eating window. Others choose to eat normally during some days of the week, and fast on others or eat a lower amount of calories on those fasting days.
What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
While fasting your body is allowed some time to do things other than digest food. Weight loss is achieved because the body finally has the opportunity to lower its Insulin levels and, therefore, “eat itself" as it burns up your body fat for fuel.
Some benefits are:
- The cells in your body can resist disease.
- It reduces inflammation.
- It regulates blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
- It may prolong your lifespan.
- Weight loss is effortless.
- Fasting helps you to become more mindful of your true hunger cues and forces you to listen to your body; this helps you to develop a healthier relationship with food.
- And many more benefits.
The science and research behind intermittent fasting and it's benefits.
The Potential Risks of Fasting While Breastfeeding
Muslim women often fast during Ramadan (Muslim holiday). This practice involves not eating anything from dawn to sunset. They, therefore, eat one meal before dawn and one meal after sunset. Some women taking part in this practice have noticed a dip in milk production, although this form of fasting is quite restrictive.
Things That You Need to Be Aware Of
Mothers are usually advised to consume an extra 300 - 600 calories while breastfeeding, depending on their caloric needs. Our breastfeeding calorie calculator can be used to determine how many extra calories each mother burns while lactating.
- Breastfeeding mothers are also advised to eat a variety of foods to ensure that they give their bodies and their babies everything needed to survive and thrive.
- Fluid intake is also a concern, as dehydration will decrease a mother’s milk supply. Dehydration can also lead to clogged ducts and mastitis.
Eating too little calories could lead to your milk being low in Iodine, Iron and vitamin B12 (whether fasting or not, breastfeeding or not, everyone should be taking a vitamin B12 supplement.)
- Going into Ketosis, which is what happens when you fast, can change the flavor of your breast milk; this may discourage your baby from drinking your milk.
Does fasting change the composition of breast milk? Everything you eat will determine what micro-nutrients are present in your breast milk, therefore, if you eat fewer nutrients, your milk will contain less too. On the other hand, levels of macro-nutrients such as protein, carbs, and fats are less likely to change.
- Before changing your diet while breastfeeding, it would be a good idea to have a chat with your doctor about it to discuss the potential risks in your unique circumstances.
A Milder Form of Intermittent Fasting May Work
According to the La Leche League:
“…short periods of decreased caloric intake does not decrease milk supply as energy and nutrients can be drawn from the body’s stores laid down during pregnancy. Previously healthy well-nourished mothers produce normal quantities of breastmilk when faced with a short-term caloric intake reduction"
As long as you are not dropping your calories too low (each day), the timing should not affect your milk supply. You need to ensure that you are eating enough protein, healthy fats, fruits and lots of vegetables during your eating window. A full day (24 Hours) of fasting is not recommended while breastfeeding. A 12 - 16 hour fast per day is safer than the 5:2 Eat stop Eat method of intermittent fasting.
It is possible, though, to eat a balanced diet, full of everything you need during your eating window, but a mother would need to plan ahead and this might require some extra effort daily. A mother’s milk would need to be fully established first. She would also need to ensure proper hydration during the fasting periods.
Will you experience a drop in energy levels?
There is usually an adjustment period of two weeks. During those first two weeks, you might feel a little “Hangry" during your fasting times. You might also experience headaches. After two weeks you should see a noticeable increase in energy levels and a feeling of well-being.
7 Tips for Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding
Keep an eye on your milk supply. How to know if your baby is drinking enough.
- Start slowly. If you are concerned that your milk supply will decrease, you can start with a 10 hour fasting period. This could simply mean eating your breakfast at 10 am or not eating after 7 pm. You can slowly add one extra hour to your fasting window until you reach the 16-hour mark.
As long as you are not consuming less than about 1500 calories per day, you should not experience a drop in supply. Use our breastfeeding calorie calculator to determine how many calories you should be consuming for weight loss.
- Do not worry too much about your eating window. Rather, listen to your body. If you wake up feeling overly hungry because you nursed your baby more than usual during the night, then break your fast sooner that day.
- If you feel weak, eat more carbs! 100g of carbs should keep your energy levels up. Eat healthy carbs such as sweet potato or rice.
Drink water when you fast. Keep a bottle with you.
Eat whole foods. Make your calories count. Eat lactogenic foods that support a healthy milk supply.
One mother’s positive experience with intermittent fasting while breastfeeding.
So, is intermittent fasting safe while breastfeeding?
We have given you the information, now you can make an informed decision!
How to Know When to Stop
There may be an issue, if:
- Your baby is sleepier than usual.
- Your baby spends a marked difference in time at the breast (longer or shorter).
- You notice a decrease in stool output.
- Your baby seems dehydrated or the urine is dark.
- Your baby is not gaining weight.
You might also be interested in the following page
Healthline - intermittent fasting breastfeeding