Last Updated on October 16, 2023
Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained popularity in recent years as a dietary strategy for weight management and overall health improvement. However, for breastfeeding mothers, the decision to embark on an intermittent fasting regimen is not as straightforward. This article will explore the key considerations and potential risks associated with intermittent fasting while breastfeeding.
The importance of nutrition during breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a crucial period in a mother’s life, and providing adequate nutrition to both the mother and the baby is of paramount importance. Breast milk is the primary source of nourishment for a baby, and the mother’s diet can influence its composition. This leads to a fundamental question: Can a mother safely practice intermittent fasting while breastfeeding?
Can you do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding?
Intermittent fasting and breastfeeding don’t go well together. Many healthcare professionals do not recommend intermittent fasting for breastfeeding mothers.
- Nutrient needs: During breastfeeding, a mother’s body requires extra calories and nutrients to support milk production and her own energy needs, even more than when she was pregnant. She will need to add up to 500 calories a day to her nutrition. If you’re practicing intermittent fasting (IF) and don’t eat enough while breastfeeding, your body may not be able to produce adequate levels of milk for the little one.
- Hormonal changes: IF can cause hormonal fluctuations, including changes in insulin levels. These hormonal shifts may impact milk supply and quality, potentially reducing the baby’s nutrition.
- Energy levels: Fasting can lead to fatigue and low energy levels during such an energy-consuming period, which may affect a mother’s ability to care for her baby and meet the demands of breastfeeding.
- Hydration: Although intermittent fasting doesn’t have any restrictions on water, tea, coffee, or herbal tea consumption, being on a certain eating pattern may limit fluid intake, which can be detrimental to a breastfeeding mother who needs to stay well-hydrated.
- Stress and mood: Being more hungry and thirsty during the first few months of breastfeeding is completely normal, as your body is also feeding another human being. Not eating anything for a certain period of time, a.k.a practicing intermittent fasting, may contribute to increased stress levels and mood swings, which can affect a mother’s overall well-being.
How can I do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding?
If your gynecologist approves, you may go back to intermittent fasting while nursing around 6 months postpartum, as by this time most women have a well-established milk supply and breastfeeding routine.
Consult your OB/GYN to find the most suitable intermittent fasting schedule for you, and talk to a dietitian to learn your optimal caloric needs. Consuming less than 1800 calories a day results in changes in milk composition and supply. A fasting plan with a wide eating window like 12/12 may be suitable for this period.
If you need a companion on your fasting journey, Fasting Kompanion will provide you with useful tips.
Prolonged fasts aren’t recommended during breastfeeding, and likewise during pregnancy. Fasting plans like 18/6 or 20/4 puts the body in the ketosis state where the body produces ketone bodies to use as fuel. The overproduction of ketone bodies may lead to the development of ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition for the mother.
Alternative approaches for breastfeeding mothers
Rather than adopting intermittent fasting, breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to focus on a balanced and nutritious diet. Here are some guidelines to consider:
- Prioritize nutrient-rich foods: Opt for whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats to ensure you’re getting the essential nutrients needed for breastfeeding.
- Have frequent and small meals: Instead of fasting, consider eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to maintain energy levels and meet nutritional needs.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to support milk production and overall health.
- Consult your doctor: Before making any dietary changes, consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific needs and circumstances.
To sum up
Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding is generally not advised due to the potential risks it poses to both the mother and the baby. The priority during this period should be to provide the best possible nutrition for the baby and maintain the mother’s health and well-being.
If you are considering intermittent fasting or any other dietary changes while breastfeeding, consult a healthcare professional for guidance tailored to your unique situation. Breastfeeding is not the ideal time to restrict nutrition because milk production is sensitive to dietary changes.