Can you do Intermittent Fasting while Breastfeeding?

Posted by Wen Dan Jiang on

                     Can you do Intermittent Fasting while Breastfeeding?

Can you do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding? Yes, breastfeeding helps mothers to lose their fat. Intermittent fasting is helpful for mothers in their journey to postpartum weight loss. It is an easy, simple, and very flexible method. But, it does not work for everyone. So they need to look for other ways. At the stage when a body is healing itself, crash diets and hectic workouts can be devastating. Now, the question that arises is whether it is safe for the health of nursing mothers and babies. Yes, it is if you keep certain things in your mind. The following article aims to provide information and recommendations regarding how nursing mothers can do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding.

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What are the pros of intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is the latest health fad nowadays. The feature that makes it unique from other traditional weight loss methods is that intermittent fasting is all about restricting calorie intake for a certain interval. Intermittent fasting provides numerous health benefits. It is closer to the old natural way of living. Unlike his ancestors, modern man is privileged to have this luxury of eating three big meals with a variety of snacking options in between. Ironically speaking, intermittent fasting acts as a strategy that provides some relief to our stomach from carrying out its function constantly.

Before diving into the topic's depth, there is a quick overview of the types of intermittent fasting.

  • The 5.2 method means having a regular diet five days a week and a 500 to 600 calories diet for two days.
  • The 16/8 method is to reduce eating time to 8 to 10 hours and increase fasting time for the remaining 14 to 16 hours.
  • An alternate-day fasting method is to go without eating every other day.
  • The eat-stop-eat method means 24 hours without eating once or twice a week.

Some lactation consultants recommend shortened feeding hours rather than skipping the food for the entire day.  So, the 16/8 method might be more appropriate for nursing moms.

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Some Tips for Intermittent Fasting while Breastfeeding

  1. Start gradually

The best thing about Intermittent fasting is its flexibility. You can adjust your eating and fasting schedule as it suits you. In the beginning, you can start with a 10-hour eating window and increase gradually, giving time to your body to adjust to your new routine.

  1. Understand your hunger

Identify your hunger, whether it is real hunger or just a desire to eat and learn to make healthy choices accordingly. It will also enable you to identify and discard the junk part of your diet.  

  1.  Increase Water Intake                                                                    

 Drinking tons of water would help to maintain milk supply. Besides other benefits, it would help you to deal with those annoying hunger pangs. Sometimes, water intake contributes more to maintain a normal amount of milk.

  1. Exercise moderately 

 Don't panic about exercising as your body is already struggling to adapt to the fasting routine. Do carry out the routine exercise. The right time to exercise is just before breaking your fast.

  1. Plan your meals  

Making a meal plan ahead of time saves you from eating crap. Through a well-planned meal, you are likely to remain stick to your routine and avoid snacking. Eat lactogenic food such as nuts, seeds, oats, leafy greens, dates, bananas, vegetables.

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  1. Protein, and Fiber intake  

 A well-balanced combination of protein and fiber satisfy your appetite and keep your fill for long hours. Food rich in calcium and iron will maintain the balance necessary for a breastfeeding mother.  

  1. Vitamins and Minerals intake

An additional intake of vitamins and minerals through diet or supplements will help you maintain the necessary balance of micronutrients in breast milk. So, the baby remains happy and healthy.

  1. Consult your doctor

It is always better to consult your doctor or pediatrician before starting intermittent fasting even if you and baby are feeling perfectly healthy.

Things to avoid during intermittent fasting

  • Avoid sugars, refined and unprocessed items.
  • Give your body time to burn fat in between meals.
  • Avoid snacking and eating before bedtime.
  • Being active during the day will tone your muscles.

Is intermittent fasting a new concept?

The idea of fasting goes far back in history. It has been part of religious activity as in Islam as Ramadan, in Judaism as Yom Kippur and one-day fasting is common in Hinduism.

In Islam, there is an exemption for fasting, for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, instead of mother and baby's health. The point to consider here is that Ramadan fasts extend for one month. While fasting, you can't take any fluid, not even a single drop of water. No doubt, Ramadan fasting is tougher than intermittent fast.

Even then, some Muslim mothers choose to fast, if the baby's and their health conditions are good enough.

Studies on one-month fasting observed no significant effect on the macronutrient such as protein and lactose content of breast milk. On the other hand, they did find a substantial decrease in micronutrient content like magnesium, zinc, and potassium in breast milk.  

Breastfeeding research conducted in famine facing Ethiopia indicates decreased calorie intake for a short time interval does not affect the supply and production of breast milk. The body derives its nutrients and energy from the fat store built up during pregnancy. A healthy, well-nourished mother with a short term reduced calorie intake, would produce the same amount of milk. However, there is an emphasis on the word "short term."

Is fasting safe for Nursing Mothers?

Before finding an answer to the query, you need to consider many other factors.

  • The age of the child as to what extent the baby relies on breast milk.
  • The baby has started taking other milk and a semi solid diet.
  • Mother has health-related issues.
  • Mother is already struggling with the amount of milk supply.
  • Which method of intermittent fasting, you think is appropriate for you.

A nursing mom needs 1500 to 1800 calories in a day for sufficient milk supply. Intermittent fasting does not mean starving; timing is the key when to eat. As long as a mother maintains her calorie intake, there would be no drop in regular milk supply.

Your energy levels and intermittent fasting

Adjusting to an intermittent fasting routine might require at least two weeks. In the beginning, you might feel a little bit irritated and hangry, experiencing headaches. The situation could be worse when you haven't slept, feeding your baby the whole night. Now, this is the time, listen to your body, don't be tough on yourself, don't go nuts about your fasting window. Break your fast. It won't remain the same as long as your body gets used to it. Surprisingly, you will start feeling more energetic, light, and rejuvenated.

Potential risks of intermittent fasting while breastfeeding

Dehydration is one of the primary reasons some experts don't consider Intermittent fasting safe for nursing mothers. As it restricts food intake, it may lead to dehydration and may inhibit milk supply. They view that breastfeeding period is the time to focus more on nourishment and less on restrictions.

If dehydration continues for a more extended period, it may eventually cause clogged ducts and mastitis, which is a painful and irritating condition for mothers.

Besides this, nursing moms need an additional 500 calories, so; fasting may have some unwanted outcome. They may have enough milk supply for the fasting day but less milk the day next to it.

Exhaustion is another consequence that mothers face as a result of a decrease in energy level, making it difficult for her to take care of her baby. However, it can be less problematic, if the mother maintains healthy intake of food during eating hours.

Signs that baby is not getting enough milk

  1. There is a reduction in the number of dirty or wet nappies to less than six.
  2. The color of urine is darker than it used to be.
  3. Baby seems dissatisfied after feeding and longs for more.
  4. Baby is not putting on weight or is losing weight.
  5. Cries without tears
  6. Seems discontented and unsettled.
  7. Baby is sleepier than before.

If you observe these symptoms in your baby when you have started intermittent fasting, discontinue it immediately and consult your doctor.

Intermittent fasting and female hormones

Excessive or extended fasting can influence the production of hormones in females and can influence their menstrual cycle. It decreases the probability of getting pregnant soon. In breastfeeding mothers, this cycle is already disturbed. This change is a blessing in disguise for mothers who don't want to conceive soon. But, it doesn't mean to ignore anything affecting hormones.

Final word

In short, first of all, speak to your doctor if you intend to do intermittent fasting. It may be safe provided, you drop your calories low. Eat a well-balanced diet that contains everything you need during your eating window. Most importantly, you should be concerned about maintaining a good supply of milk for your baby.


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