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Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding: Yes or No?
Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding: Yes or No?

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Published on 2022 July 14
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4 min

As a new mother, you might be curious about how to get back into shape sooner rather than later. It’s perfectly normal to want to lose your baby weight postpartum.

Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding

You’ve probably heard about the positive results of intermittent fasting. Many women use the method as an effective way to lose weight, reduce food cravings, regulate blood sugar, and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

When breastfeeding, you must put the proper nutrients into your body. Your milk supply is your baby’s only food source, so ensuring optimal nutrition is a must.

With that in mind, it begs the question, is IF safe for breastfeeding moms? 

Keep reading as our medical team at Health Reporter explore the topic in detail. 

Fasting While Breastfeeding

While intermittent fasting is a popular weight-loss tool, it becomes more complex when thinking about milk production.

Your daily calories and nutrient requirements are even more critical when breastfeeding. You’re not only watching your health for yourself but your developing baby, too. 

More research is required to determine if fasting and breastfeeding are a safe combination conclusively. We know for sure that healthy milk production relies on a healthy diet with nutrient-dense foods.

Intermittent fasting entails extended periods without consuming food. It pushes the body to burn fat between the eating window and the fasting window.  

It results in consuming fewer calories as your eating time is limited. While generally considered safe for the average person, it comes with potential side effects like any diet. But more on that later.

Is It Safe to Fast While Breastfeeding? 

Intermittent fasting when breastfeeding isn’t the best idea. 

Breastfeeding women have increased nutritional needs. As breastfeeding burns calories, you need to consume approximately 330–400 extra calories per day. If you’re fasting, it’s challenging to cram in more calories during your eating window. 

Some dieters struggle with adequate calorie consumption even without lactating.  

When fasting, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies. You may not be able to consume your daily recommendations of macro and micronutrients physically. 

This makes intermittent fasting potentially unsafe for a breastfeeding mama. Depriving your body of energy can cause a lower milk supply.  

While you may practice fasting safely while lactating, it’s a difficult task. To maintain an abundant milk supply, you need to be very careful about what you eat to ensure you get enough calories, essential nutrients, and the proper fluid intake.

You also want to have as much energy as possible when taking care of your baby. Fasting can leave you feeling fatigued, which is the last thing you need. 

Is Fasting While Breastfeeding Safe for the Baby? 

As intermittent fasting can cause a lack of nutrients, it may impact the quality of your milk supply. 

The breastfeeding journey is different for everyone, and fasting may also affect women differently. 

So, there is no guarantee of how fasting will affect a woman’s milk supply. But certain nutrients are vital to your baby’s health, so triggering a deficiency can be unsafe for the baby.

How to Fast While Breastfeeding?

If you decide to go ahead with intermittent fasting while breastfeeding, there are ways to make the experience safer.

Firstly, you will need to take extra precautions when adjusting to your new eating pattern. You must prioritize your nutritional needs over changing your body weight.

Consider the following precautions before beginning an IF plan.

#1 Fluid intake

Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Intermittent fasting sometimes tends to cause dehydration, as many people forget to drink during the fasting period. 

As extra water is used in making breast milk, it’s recommended that you drink more fluids than usual to avoid the dangers of becoming dehydrated.

#2 Nutritional importance

Nutrition is key regardless of whether you are fasting. 

While fasting, getting enough nutrients is challenging, so prioritizing healthy food is critical. Cut out processed foods and eat plenty of whole foods, with many fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats

#3 Eat enough calories

A breastfeeding mother needs more calories than a regular diet. As mentioned earlier, you need to consume an additional 330–400 calories per day (approximately).

Risks of Fasting While Breastfeeding

Although it may impact every mother differently, intermittent fasting while breastfeeding always comes with potential risks.

  • You may not meet your daily calorie requirements, suppressing milk-making
  • You may lose out on nutrients that are essential to your baby’s health
  • Reduced energy level from calorie restriction 
  • Risk of dehydration as your body excretes water and sodium through urine
  • Your new routine with restricted eating may cause stress. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which can reduce your breast milk supply. 
  • Extreme food deprivation may result in a dangerous metabolic state called ketoacidosis, especially when combined with a keto diet. Ketoacidosis is a serious condition triggered by high levels of ketones in the blood.

How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding 

As a breastfeeding mom, it’s better to prioritize a healthy lifestyle to promote fat loss

Eating a balanced diet that packs in vitamins and minerals will support both you and your baby during this precious time.

Stay hydrated by drinking water frequently throughout the day and incorporate an exercise routine where possible. Regular exercising will help you burn body fat while benefiting your overall health and well-being.  

fitMom is a handy postnatal recovery program that creates a custom diet and workout plan for you if you’re not sure where to start. It’s a great way to ease back into things as you adjust to postnatal life.

A Word From Our Nutritionist

Intermittent fasting has lots of potential health benefits.

The key selling point is that it aids weight loss by forcing the body to dip into fat stores for fuel.

There are many variations of IF, including alternate-day fasting, Eat Stop Eat, and the Warrior diet.

While it might be possible to have a positive experience with fasting when breastfeeding, it makes sense to avoid the unnecessary risks that come with it.

Focus on living a healthy lifestyle instead, with a nutritious diet and light exercising. That way, you can ensure that your nursing baby gets everything they need.

Save intermittent fasting for later.

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting is better suited to new mothers once the breastfeeding period is over. That way, you don’t need to worry about producing enough milk or squeezing in additional calories to feed your baby.

We hope you found our tips helpful for losing weight safely after giving birth, but always discuss a new weight loss plan with your doctor.

Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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