What You Need to Know About Fasting While Breastfeeding
Have you considered fasting while breastfeeding? Recent claims say it can help you in shedding extra pounds. It may work for some women, but as a breastfeeding mother, it’s important to consider many factors before you begin any fasting protocol.
I have personal experience with intermittent fasting while breastfeeding my 2-year-old son. I started when he was about a year and a half old, and I’ve enjoyed all the amazing health benefits, but I also know it’s not for every mom. Before starting any new lifestyle or diet, be sure to consult with your doctor first.
Intermittent Fasting – An Overview
Intermittent fasting is a form of fasting in which you consume food during a specific period of time during the day and fast during the other part of the day. This form of fasting is well known among women as a way of reducing body fat and extra weight.
There are different types of intermittent fasting. You can choose which type suits your best based on your health goals, lifestyle, work-life, and of course if you are breastfeeding. Some people fast at night, starting at 7 p.m. and only eat food for a few hours of the day, from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. as an example. This would be a 16 hour fast, with an 8-hour eating window, sometimes referred to as a 16:8 fast. Another example is an 18 hour fast, with a 6-hour eating window, or an 18:6 fast. Some only eat food for a few days of the week and eat very few calories during the remaining days (I don’t recommend this form of fasting for breastfeeding mothers).
Studies show there are many benefits of fasting such as reducing body inflammation, blood sugar level, and reduced blood cholesterol. Some studies also show that when cells are under stress due to fasting, they resist the development of dangerous diseases.
Intermittent fasting may help in weight loss because when your body is not getting energy from eating food constantly, it starts breaking the extra fat molecules that your body had stored earlier. When you keep fasting for a few days or weeks, this process continues, which eventually reduces your weight. However, different people notice different results of weight loss due to fasting.
What is the Effect of Fasting While Breastfeeding?
Impact on Mother’s Health
Even though it’s not widely discussed in the lactation community, women have been intermittent fasting while breastfeeding for years. There are no severe issues associated with it when consuming quality, nutrient-dense foods during your eating window, and not fasting for more than 24 hours. According to research, if a woman does not eat a proper diet when she is not fasting, she may face an issue regarding milk production. Always work with your medical provider to ensure it is safe for you.
Breastfeeding moms should eat an additional 330 to 600 more calories during their eating window so their bodies have enough calories when they are fasting. If you eat nutritious food, then your body will automatically adjust while fasting.
But breastfeeding might make you feel weak, dizzy, thirsty, or you may have dark yellow urine. If you face any of these situations, then it is advised that you break your fast and drink coconut water or water mixed with electrolytes. Rest up, take care of yourself and your baby, and continue breastfeeding. You will feel better soon.
Sometimes the above symptoms are a result of the detoxing process, so here are a few tips if you experience any adverse reactions. These have helped me when I started intermittent fasting while breastfeeding.
- Start with a larger eating window (12 hour fast, 12-hour eating window, then reduce it from there as you feel comfortable)
- Drink electrolytes
- Slowly reduce your eating window as your body adjusts.
- This shouldn’t be a detoxing or “crash” diet, as those toxins can make their way into your breastmilk, which is not healthy for your baby.
- You can try a “dirty” fast, which means drinking coffee with heavy cream, half and half, or Nutpods in the morning. The key is not to have more than 1-2 cups of coffee and make sure there is no sugar in your coffee.
- Listen to your body and adjust as you need to, this is a learning process and a lifestyle, not just a “diet”.
Impact on Baby’s Health
Fasting will not affect the growth of your baby if you eat well when you break your fast. Research shows that fasting may not affect the macronutrients present in the milk, but it may affect some of the micronutrients.
The calorie level in milk varies from mother to mother. It even varies from time to time within the same mom. If you are not taking in calories due to fasting, your body will automatically start using your stored fat to provide the needed calories to the baby.
Quantity and quality of your milk will not change if you intermittent fast like I’ve described in this post (a fast less than 24 hours). It is likely that your baby will get enough milk, but if you notice any of the following changes in the behavior of your child know that he or she is not getting the required quantity of milk and it may be time to stop fasting and eat a meal with healthy fats, protein, vegetables, and fruits.
- Your baby is either losing or not gaining any weight.
- Your baby may sleep more than usual.
- Baby stays dehydrated even after feeding.
- Your baby does not have enough wet and dirty diapers.
If you notice any of these changes, then consult your doctor to find the right cause behind it and keep an eye on your baby and milk supply and revisit intermittent fasting at a later date.
How Long Can You Fast While Breastfeeding?
Unfortunately, there is very little scientific research on this topic. But experts say that fasting for up to 24 hours so does not affect the milk production in any way. But if a mother fasts for more than that, then the quality and quantity of milk may get affected.
Pro Tips to Follow When You’re Fasting While Breastfeeding
I started intermittent fasting when my son turned about a year and a half old. I would not recommend any fasting protocol if your milk isn’t regulated yet. So, wait until your milk is regulated, and your baby is growing well. I don’t recommend moms start fasting if their baby is less than 6 months old. until your baby is at least 3 months old and you have a healthy and ample milk supply, your baby is gaining weight well, and all things look positive.
Here are a few of my favorite tips based on my personal experience and research.
Drink More Liquids
Fasting can leave you dehydrated, especially if you are fasting in the summer season. Symptoms that show that your body is dehydrated may include feeling dizzy, dark yellow color of urine, dry mouth and lips, and feeling lethargic or tired.
To avoid these issues, drink as much water and other healthy liquids as you can. Drinks with sugar, like fruit juices, sodas, sweet tea, coffee with sugar, etc. should not be consumed during your fasting window. Instead, drink at least half your body weight in ounces of filtered water, sparkling water (no sugar or sweeteners), and unsweet tea or coffee.
Staying hydrated will keep the water in the blood at a normal level. If you feel dizzy due to dehydration while fasting, then it is recommended to break your fast immediately with a healthy meal and drink water to fulfill your body’s needs.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating healthy food will not only benefit you but will help your child as well. Since the intermittent fasting prohibits you from eating foods during certain periods of time in the day, it is important to have a nutrition diet when you do eat.
This way, you will provide your body (and breast milk) all of the essential nutrients that you and your baby need for healthy growth. You can try tracking your food to keep track of what you are feeding your body. You want the foods to eat to fuel your body, rather than deplete it. So pick lots of healthy fats like avocados, wild salmon, flax seeds, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Some mothers may also watch their carbohydrate intake while fasting, I don’t recommend this at first, especially as your body learns this new way of eating, but do stick to healthy, complex carbs like sweet potatoes, quinoa, and fresh fruits.
When moms are intermittent fasting and breastfeeding, you may feel more tired initially. That’s why I don’t recommend fasting when your baby is still a newborn. It’s important that you stay hydrated and eat well so you can give your body the energy that it needs. Rest when your body needs to rest. Whether you’re fasting or not, a breastfeeding mom may need more rest either way.
Look for Any Change in Your Baby’s Behavior
Your baby, who relies on you for his nutrition needs, cannot talk and tell you how he or she feels about feeding. So you will have to keep an eye on your child and notice any little change in their behavior and growth milestones.
Ease into Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding
Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding is not an “all or nothing” type diet or lifestyle approach. Even if you fast a few days a week, or even if you just do a 16:8 fast, your body is still seeing the amazing benefits. You may find that over time, you are feeling more energized, and you may even lose weight because you’re eating better and your body now has time to process the foods.
Try to stick to meals, with small snacks in between your meals if you are hungry. Sometimes when breastfeeding, we do feel more hungry because our bodies are burning more calories. This is normal, but you can add healthy fats to your meals to help keep you more satisfied between meals.
Should You Start Fasting?
Intermittent fasting, while breastfeeding is generally considered safe for you as well as for your baby and can, provide amazing short-term and longterm health benefits for you. Be sure not to fast longer than 24 hours, and if your baby is less than 6 months old. Also, if you are diabetic, or have a history of this disease, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting any new health regimen.
If you want to learn more about fasting while breastfeeding, book a free call with me and we can discuss how it may benefit you.