Many mothers will vow about how breastfeeding will help to shed weight without any exercise routine or diet regimes. However, not all mothers can lose weight from breastfeeding. In fact, some may even gain or retain weight until their baby starts weaning. Frustrating but true. Many mothers research different ways to lose weight without any harm to them or their baby while breastfeeding. Intermittent fasting is one of them. Read on to find out more about intermittent fasting while nursing and whether it is safe for you and your baby. The effects it will have on weight loss, health and, most importantly, the impact of intermittent fasting and breast milk is something every mother should be aware of.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is basically different ways or patterns of consuming food within a specific window of time. There are several ways to approach fasting. Some eat during the day while fasting at night. There are different kinds of intermittent fasting. A few are:
5:2– You eat a regular diet for five days a week and for two days, you restrict to 500-600 calories.
8:16/10:16– You eat for 8-10 hours a day and fast for the rest 14-16 hours.
Alternate Day Fasting– You eat every alternate day.
Eat-Stop-Eat– You go 24 hours without food for once or twice in a week.
Warrior Diet– You eat massively at night and eat less during the day.
There are various reasons suggested for intermittent fasting:
- Cells resist disease when they are not under the stress of not eating.
- Fasting reduces inflammation in the body, reduces blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
- Intermittent fasting helps to reduce weight.
The main reason behind weight loss by intermittent fasting is that when the body does not get food, it dips into the fat reserves for energy. Fasting for some period of time reduces calorie consumption and leads to weight loss.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe While Breastfeeding?
Traditionally, a woman breastfeeding must take in an additional 330-600 calories of food to supplement milk production. The kind of food consumed must also be rich in protein, iron and calcium to provide enough nourishment to the baby. Eating right and enough will ensure that the baby gets the necessary needs. A lot of the daily fluid that is needed by the body comes from the food consumed. Fasting could reduce fluid intake and lessen the supply.
There are no proven studies to reveal the impact of intermittent fasting while breastfeeding and weight loss. Is it really safe to undertake different types of intermittent fasting and breastfeeding to undergo weight loss?
The safety of alternate day, eat-stop-eat; warrior diet; 5-2; 14-10/8-16 fasting on breastfeeding depends on many personal factors and it’s important to speak with your doctor about the below topics that can impact your breastfeeding journey.
For the Mom
The safety of fasting and breastfeeding depends on many personal factors for a mother. It is therefore important to speak to your doctor or lactation consultant. The main factors to be considered are:
- Child’s age ( infants tend to rely on breast milk entirely for nutrition).
- If a mother is relying entirely on breastfeeding or has started the baby on solid foods.
- Any underlying health issues.
- The type of fasting a mother wishes to choose.
- If there are any issues with lactation.
If a mother is lactating well, she could indulge in intermittent fasting if she is not dropping her calories too low. What is more important is to eat food rich in calories and essential nutrients.
There are a few things that have been connected with intermittent fasting and breastfeeding after some research.
1. Factors affect female hormones
Fasting can affect estrogen levels, luteinising hormones and follicle-stimulating hormone that can decrease fertility. If a mother is breastfeeding she may not be ovulating anyway. There may be some changes to your menstrual cycle. It is important to take precaution if it has an effect on your hormones, especially when the body does not have enough intake of food
2. Breastfeeding causes the fasting stage to reach faster
When women breastfeed, nutrients are used not just to power metabolism but to produce breastmilk as well. So a woman reaches the fasting stage sooner. When breastfeeding, a mother could be feeling hungry more often. Depriving your body of food could result in a metabolic state called Ketoacidosis. Symptoms of Ketoacidosis start with bellyache, nausea and vomiting. It can also cause confusion and affect breathing.
3. Fasting could decrease milk supply depending on some factors
Milk supply could be decreased if fasting for over 24 hours. It can also decrease if the intake of calories in a day is lesser than 1800 kCal.
4. Fasting can affect milk composition
If you are not careful about the kind of food you have it may affect the quality of breast milk. The decrease in micronutrients can be controlled by ensuring the right kind of food during the “eating” window.
In a nutshell, the main takeaways for a mother when practising intermittent fasting are:
- Short term fasting may not affect milk production and the main nutrient levels.
- Short term fasting could have some effect on the micronutrients in breastmilk.
- To reduce the effect on micronutrients it is important to have calorie-rich and nutrient-dense food during the “eating” window.
- Long term fasting, especially over 20-24 hours, could affect milk production.
- Long term fasting can be dangerous and have other medical implications.
For the Baby
The impact of intermittent fasting on baby can be gauged by certain observations of your baby when you are fasting and feeding him. As mentioned earlier, short term fasting does not affect macronutrients in breastmilk but affects the micronutrients significantly. A few indicators of the effects of fasting on the baby are:
- A lethargic or sleepy baby.
- Change in the normal feeding session. Your baby may be either taking too much or too little at a time.
- There is a change in your baby’s bowel movement.
- The baby is dehydrated. This can be seen if the diapers are dry or dark or reddish-brown urine is noticed in her diaper.
- Loss of weight or lack of weight gain.
How Intermittently Fast in a Right Way if the Mom Chooses to Do It
Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding results have not been entirely proven and the effects vary from one to another. There are a few tips one can follow.
1. Start slowly
It is important to start off on the fasting routine slowly. Fasting could interrupt milk supply so it is important to start off with a small fasting window and increase it gradually. It would help to keep a track of your fasting records and any changes you notice to your body and the baby.
2. Understand and listen to your body
Listen and understand the signs that your body is sending you. Keenly study the times when your body is experiencing hunger pangs and pay attention to any emotional triggers ( irritation, stress and mood swings). Understand the kind of food that your body likes and try to supplement it with healthy food that will uplift your mood, keep you satiated and also provide the necessary nutrients.
3. Drink lots of water
Fasting could lead to dehydration and it is important to have lots of fluids. It also helps to keep the skin clear and healthy.
4. Exercise with care and caution
Exercise regularly but do not go overboard with it. As your body is getting used to the new eating pattern, gradually increase the intensity and the timing for exercise.
5. Time your exercise routine
Exercise before you break the fast and make the most out of the metabolic benefits.
6. Eat right
Eat food rich in lean proteins, healthy fats and nutritious vegetables. Including these in each meal and snack will help in providing nutrition and reducing weight.
7. Plan your meals and experiment with the schedule
Stick to a timetable and plan your meals. Include the right nutrient-rich food on a daily basis so that you are not depriving your body of any essential vitamins and nutrients.
8. Finish your meals at dinner
Try not to eat after dinner as your body will use up fats during the day. Eating after dinner could send one on a binge eating spree.
9. Take food supplements
Food supplements that control blood sugar levels, reduce food cravings and control appetite are available and you can take them after consulting your doctor. This could aid in the benefits of fasting.
10. Have a protein and fibre rich diet
Protein and fibre rich diet helps to curb over-eating. There are several combinations that one can try- chicken or fish with baked vegetables, smoothies packed with greens, almond butter and fruits.
The need to remain fit and healthy is constant and essential. Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding can be helpful for moms if they ensure to follow the right things that will not affect their health or the baby. However, be sure to consult a doctor if you are planning to try intermittent fasting while breastfeeding, so you are your baby remain safe and healthy.