While intermittent fasting is a popular new eating pattern that has gained awareness in recent years for its health benefits.
However, it doesn’t suit everyone, like children or folks with preexisting conditions.
Also, you might wonder, “can you do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding”?
By the time your baby is 6 to 9 months, and most mothers have a well-established milk supply, and feeding routine is when it’s ok to start intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting has not been studied in breastfeeding mothers, so not many studies prove it’s a safe, healthy way to lose weight while breastfeeding.
Doing any sort of fasting while breastfeeding requires a certain balance, and like most things, there are pros and cons to intermittent fasting if you are breastfeeding.
If you think you can meet your caloric, nutritional and fluid requirements, then you can try fasting, but if you experience side effects or low energy levels, then you should immediately stop.
- A breastfeeding mother who is less than six months postpartum
- A breastfeeding mother who has a history of diabetes
- It is not safe to fast for more than 20 hours per day
While fasting for one day doesn’t impact your milk supply, doing so continuously will affect it if you can’t keep up with the calories or fluid intake you need.
Mothers should increase fluid intake before beginning their fast and make sure they don’t use up too much of their energy exercising or doing unnecessary chores as this will cause them to burn calories that they shouldn’t.
If you feel thirsty, that means you’re already mildly hydrated.
To avoid this, nursing mothers should drink a glass of water every time after breastfeeding their intermittent fast.
Nursing mothers need to take about 450 to 500 extra calories daily, which can be tough while fasting.
Breastfeeding also bumps up your energy needs more, resulting in you getting hungrier and more tired.
If you feel like you need to fast, then you may talk to your OB/GYN about whether it’s safe or not, your medical history, and how fasting may affect your milk supply.
Ultimately, you will feel that you are more active and fresh and your supply isn’t affected if you chose not to fast.
Bruce K. Young, MD, an internationally known leader and innovator in obstetrics and gynecology, says, “Intermittent fasting for weight loss while breastfeeding will not harm the baby as long as you continue regular feedings.”
Although you may wish to return to your pre-pregnancy weight as soon as possible, you should be a little patient and focus on feeding your newborn baby.
Breastfeeding burns around 500 calories daily, and you may lose weight without really trying.
Can I Fast 16 Hours While Breastfeeding?
Before embarking on any dietary changes after your pregnancy, you should always check with your OB/GYN.
How Long Should I Intermittent Fast While Breastfeeding?
It’s best to follow a healthy breastfeeding diet. In rare cases, studies show that breastfeeding mothers who pro-long fasts develop ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening.
Ketoacidosis is an over-production of ketones and is very dangerous.
This may start with a sudden urge to pee, followed by extreme belly pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Your breathing will become rapid and you may experience confusion.
If you feel these symptoms coming on, grab some fast-acting sugar like fruit or soda and head to the emergency room before it becomes life-threatening.
Although it’s natural to produce ketones while intermittent fasting because the body’s energy source switches from sugar to stored fat when it’s overdone, it becomes unsafe for the mother.
Be sure to monitor your baby’s weight gain, your milk supply, overall energy, and weight loss to guide you on how to improve or stop.
How Many Calories Should I Consume While Breastfeeding?
A breastfeeding mother should consume around 2,300 to 2,800 nutritious calories daily, which is 450 to 500 calories more than a non-nursing woman, to get enough nutrients, especially proteins, carbohydrates, and fat, so that she can have a good milk supply and properly nurse her baby.
The average woman who isn’t breastfeeding requires 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day, depending on age, size, and metabolism.
Since breastfeeding burns calories, you’ll need to eat enough for yourself as well as to ensure that there is no decrease in the milk supply for your baby.
If you consume inadequate calories, you should decrease your milk supply and experience nausea, exhaustion, or fainting spells.
Does Fasting Decrease Breast Milk Supply?
Your body will go to great lengths to continue making milk for your baby, even if you take in very few calories.
But if your body cannot fill the low-calorie diet and gaps in nutrition and most importantly, fluid intake, then your milk supply can be negatively affected.
This is because evidence shows that the nutritional quality of a mother’s milk largely depends on her diet.
If you choose to fast, eat healthy foods and increase your water intake so that you don’t suffer from a low milk supply.
A nursing mother needs to drink about 16 cups of water every day, that’s double what you should drink if you’re not breastfeeding and want a continuous supply of breast milk.
How Can I Lose Weight Fast While Breastfeeding?
It is essential to make sure you are eating enough calories during your eating window.
You can use a breastfeeding calorie counter for help.
This can be difficult during intermittent fasting because your eating window is limited.
Fasting longer than 24 hours has also decreased breast milk production.
A survey in Turkey showed that breastfeeding moms who were fasting during Ramadan reported having a lower milk supply while fasting.
But another study in Gambia showed no difference in milk supply before and during Ramadan.
It mostly depends on your eating windows, the number of healthy calories you eat, and your fluid intake.
It is crucial to eat a nutrient-dense diet during your eating window and it’s also a good idea to take a high-quality multivitamin because the micronutrients in breast milk can decline with intermittent fasting.
Another to lose weight while breastfeeding is to drink plenty of water.
Drinking enough water is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, whether you’re trying to lose weight.
Water helps you shed unwanted pounds and contributes to healthy, normal body functions like digestion and regulates body temperature and blood circulation.
Water also helps keep you full longer and prevents overheating, which you need to avoid if you wish to lose weight.
Just keep in mind that whatever you choose to drink shouldn’t have added sugar in it because it can undermine all your hard work to lose weight because it adds extra calories where you don’t need them.
Also, eat a healthy and nutritious diet and ensure you get enough calories.
Since you’re breastfeeding, you’re already burning calories and if you decide to exercise as well, it can become problematic if you’re not careful.
Fruits and vegetables should make up a large portion of your diet.
This is because fruits are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients.
These make perfect snacks rather than processed foods.
It’s much easier to grab a bag of cookies or chips when you’re tired, but it’s much healthier to go for a handful of almonds or cheese.
These little diet changes will help your body get back on track quicker and keep your energy levels up, which means you’ll also burn more calories.
Get small amounts of exercise but start slow! Wait till about eight weeks postpartum before embarking on a light exercise routine.
Once you’ve hit the 3-month mark and your doctor gives you the green light to start some light exercises, you can include kegel exercises into your routine.
Lastly, get enough sleep, which, unfortunately, might be tricky with a newborn!
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.