Is it safe to do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding?

Aim to lose weight slowly and steadily, about a pound a week. @Shutterstock

Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding may not be a good idea. Just making some simple changes to your daily routine may help return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

It is normal to gain some weight during pregnancy, but you should plan to lose it by 6 to 12 months after delivery. Breastfeeding may help you shed some of the baby weight after delivery, but it is not enough to return to your pre-pregnancy weight. A healthy diet and exercise are what you need to shed those extra kilos. There are many popular eating plans when it comes to losing weight. One of them is intermittent fasting, which is increasingly gaining popularity as an effective way to lose weight and improve overall health. But is this popular eating plan safe for breastfeeding moms and their babies?

Intermittent fasting or time-restricted fasting involves consuming foods in a specific window of time and avoiding food, or fasting, for the remaining hours. Unlike other weight-loss eating plans, intermittent fasting doesn't specify which foods you should eat; instead, it focuses on when you should eat them. There are a variety of ways to do intermittent fasting. For example, 16:8 intermittent fasting is one way in which you eat foods during an 8-hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours each day. Some people choose alternate day fasting.

Several studies have shown that intermittent fasting helps reduce inflammation in the body, promote weight loss, and control blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

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Can breastfeeding moms do intermittent fasting?

Fasting during breastfeeding may not be a good idea. In a survey, women who fast as part of the Muslim holiday, Ramadan reported that their milk production lowered during fasting. This may be because of a lack of nutrients to support milk production, suggested some researchers.

Breastfeeding women need an additional 330 to 600 calories a day to support milk production. In addition, it's important to eat a variety of foods to get enough amounts of protein, iron, and calcium to stay healthy and ensure that your milk contains enough nutrients for your baby's development. Fasting may also lower your body fluid, which might suppress milk production.

Another study involving women fasting for Ramadan showed that while milk output remained the same before and during fasting, the concentration of the milk's nutrient content changed. The authors concluded that breastfeeding women should discuss before practicing any eating plan or going on fasting.

Also, we haven't come across any study on the weight loss effect of intermittent fasting on breastfeeding women.

If you still want to give intermittent fasting a try, talk to your doctor about a more mild approach to ensure that you're meeting your nutritional needs.

Safer ways to weight loss while breastfeeding

Don't rush to lose the baby weight, give your body some time to recover from childbirth. Doctors recommend waiting until your 6-week checkup before trying to slim down or until your baby is at least 2 months old if you're breastfeeding. Aim to lose weight slowly and steadily, about a pound a week. Forget the controversial intermittent fasting and make these simple changes to your daily routine instead to return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

  • Cut portion sizes
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Eat slowly
  • Include more whole foods, like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Strictly follow the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity (like walking or swimming) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (like running or Zumba).
  • Add strength training to your workout twice a week

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