Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding – Overview
Many mothers are exploring ways to lose weight without harming themselves or their babies while breastfeeding.
Every mother should know how the diet will affect weight loss, health, and, most importantly, breast milk and the baby’s health.
Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective diet plans for the fight against extra pounds. But since the mother is eating for two during the breastfeeding period, is it safe to do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding? Let’s find out.
Unfortunately, no proven studies show the effects of intermittent fasting on breastfeeding, weight loss, and baby development.
Because of that, there’s no straightforward yes or no answer to this question. All we can say is that the safety of intermittent fasting during breastfeeding depends on many personal factors of the mother and it is essential to discuss the following topics and potential risks with your doctor.
Proper and sufficient nutrition will ensure that the baby receives the necessary needs. Most of the fluid the body needs comes from the food we eat. Fasting can reduce fluid intake and reduce fluid intake.
The main factors to consider are:
- Child’s age – it’s better to avoid fasting if the baby relies entirely on breast milk for nutrition
- Any underlying health problems. For example, diabetes can significantly increase the risk of ketoacidosis.
- The fasting the mother wishes to choose.
- Whether are problems with lactation.
If the mother is well-fed, she can do intermittent fasting if she doesn’t cut calories too low. It is much more important to eat foods that are rich in calories and essential nutrients.
After some research, several things have been linked to intermittent fasting and breastfeeding.
1. Factors that Affect Female Hormones
Fasting can affect levels of estrogen, luteinizing hormones, and follicle-stimulating hormones, which can decrease fertility. If a mother is breastfeeding, she still will not ovulate. Your menstrual cycle may change. It’s essential to take precautions if your hormones are affected, especially when your body isn’t getting enough food.
2. Breastfeeding speeds up the fasting phase.
When women breastfeed, the nutrients are used to nourish the body and produce breast milk. So a woman reaches the stage of starvation earlier.
When breastfeeding, the mother might feel hungry more often.
Depriving your body of food can lead to a metabolic condition called ketoacidosis. Several reports of breastfeeding mothers in the hospital with severe ketoacidosis from fasting during nursing.
The symptoms of ketoacidosis begin with abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
3. Fasting can reduce milk supply depending on several factors.
The amount of milk can be reduced when fasting for more than 24 hours. It can also decrease if the calorie intake per day is less than 1800 kcal.
4. Fasting can affect milk composition.
If you aren’t careful with your food, it can affect the quality of breast milk. Intermittent fasting doesn’t affect the content of macronutrients but can impact the composition of micronutrients in breast milk.
Micronutrient depletion can be controlled by selecting the correct type of food during the “meal period”.
Traditionally, a breastfeeding woman must consume an additional 330-600 calories to increase milk production. The food consumed should also be rich in protein, iron, and calcium to provide the baby with adequate nutrition.
Where do pregnancy cravings come from? Those are nutritional deficiencies causing mothers to crave unusual foods. Most of the time, it’s the deficiency of either zinc, calcium, or iron.
If the mother has some subclinical nutrient deficiencies, it will be magnified during intermittent fasting.
5) Breastfeeding and intermittent fasting dehydrates mothers
The average mother loses around 700ml of fluid every day while breastfeeding. Since we get most of our fluid from the food we consume, fasting can significantly restrict the amount of fluid in the mother’s body.
In a nutshell, the main findings for a nursing mother in intermittent fasting are:
- Short-term fasting may not affect milk production or essential nutrient levels.
- Intermittent fasting may have some effect on the micronutrients in breast milk.
- To reduce the impact on micronutrients, food must be rich in calories and nutrients during the “eating window”.
- Prolonged fasting, especially longer than 20-24 hours, can affect milk production.
- If the mother has some Subclinical nutrient deficiencies, it will be magnified during intermittent fasting.
- Prolonged fasting can be dangerous and have other medical consequences.
The effect of intermittent fasting on a baby can be assessed by observing it while you are fasting and feeding him. As mentioned earlier, intermittent fasting does not affect the macronutrients in breast milk, but it does significantly affect the content of micronutrients. Here are some indicators of the impact of fasting on a child:
- A lethargic or sleepy child.
- You are changing your normal feeding session. Your child may be taking too much or too little at a time.
- There has been a change in your child’s bowel movements.
- The child is dehydrated. This can be seen if the diapers are dry or dark or if reddish-brown urine is visible in her diaper.
- Weight loss or lack of weight gain.
If you begin intermittent fasting while breastfeeding, here are a few tips you should follow.
Intermittent fasting with breastfeeding is not fully proven, and its effects vary from one to the next. There are some tips to follow.
1. Start slowly
It is important to start fasting slowly. Fasting can interfere with milk production, so it is important to start with a short fasting period and build it up gradually.
This will help keep track of your fasting records and any changes you notice in your body and your baby.
2) Understand your body and listen to it.
Listen and understand the signs your body is sending you.
Take a close look at times when your body experiences bouts of hunger and pay attention to any emotional triggers (irritation, stress, and mood swings).
Find out what foods your body likes and try to complement them with how to eat healthy that will cheer you up, keep you feeling full, and provide you with the nutrients you need.
3. Drink plenty of water.
Fasting can lead to dehydration, so it is essential to drink plenty of fluids. It also helps to keep the skin clean and healthy.
4. Exercise carefully and carefully.
Exercise regularly, but don’t overdo it. As your body gets used to the new diet, gradually increase the intensity and time for exercise.
5) Eat right.
Eat foods rich in lean protein, healthy fats, and nutritious vegetables. Including them in every meal and snack will help provide nutrition and reduce weight.
6) Consult your physician before you start
Every pregnancy has its unique conditions depending on various factors such as age, tri-master and health factors. Always consult your physician before starting or changing your diet while pregnant.
Gvantsa Qvariani is a medical doctor, DTMU graduate, an American MD program based in Georgia. Gvantsa has spent the last 6 years studying and practicing medicine in Georgia and other parts of Europe. She is active in medical researches, scientific conferences, various medical projects and so on. She is specialized in writing medical content based on newest studies from most reliable sources.