Breastfeeding while trying intermittent fasting? Here’s what you need to know

Is this popular method to lose weight safe for you and your baby?

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Many moms say that breastfeeding is like strapping a treadmill to your chest – the weight just falls off. But this is not true for everyone. Not all women lose weight when they breastfeed. According to healthline.com, some moms retain weight until they start weaning their baby.

ALSO SEE: 10 post-pregnancy diet tips to help you get back in shape

This can be really frustrating if you’re eager to fit back into your pre-pregnancy jeans. But, before you try intermittent fasting to help your weight loss along, here’s some advice from our registered dietitian Monique Piderit.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is when you only eat during a specific window of time.

Some people do the bulk of their fasting at night, and then still eat during the day. For example, you might eat between 12pm and 8pm and then fast for 16 hours. Others approach fasting by eating a regular diet some days of the week and fast, or only eat a certain number of calories, on other days.

The idea behind intermittent fasting for weight loss is that when you don’t eat, your body dips into fat stores for energy. Fasting for certain periods of time therefore means you’re eating less calories which leads to weight loss.

Is it safe to do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding?

“Fasting during breastfeeding is certainly not recommended. Any breastfeeding mama knows how hungry you get when breastfeeding. Your energy needs when breastfeeding are even higher than in the last trimester of pregnancy, which many mamas don’t know,” says Monique.

According to Pro-breastfeeding group La Leche League, breastfeeding moms burn between 500 and 700 calories a day, but this doesn’t always lead to weight loss. There are so many things that plays a role here – your pre-pregnancy weight, your diet, whether or not you’re exercising – all of these will impact weight loss after you’ve given birth.

They also recommend that breastfeeding moms consume at least 1800 calories per day.

Monique explains that these high energy needs have to be met with a diet that is healthy, varied and balanced, and best for nutrient-rich breast milk.

ALSO SEE: Why it’s important to eat healthy when breastfeeding

“Breastfeeding moms need good portions at main meals, and snacks between meals. You also need to take in lots of fluid to ensure your body produces enough breast milk,” says Monique.

“Research shows 25% of mothers report not having enough milk as the most common reason for stopping breastfeeding. Along with regular feeding/ feeding on demand, the best way to increase your milk supply is to simply eat more energy from good quality, whole foods. So again, fasting would go against this completely and thus not be recommended,” Monique adds.

What about religious fasting?

Breastfeeding mothers are exempt from fasting during Ramadan (which can be caught up at a later time).

What should I eat when breastfeeding?

A diet that is healthy, varied and balanced is best for nutrient-rich breast milk. “Eat a diet with a wide variety of colourful fruit and vegetables: the more colourful your diet, the greater the intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients for optimal breastfeeding health.

ALSO SEE: Top 6 foods to eat when breastfeeding

What can I do to lose weight?

It’s best to discuss any diet or weight loss plan with a registered dietitian, lactation consultant or doctor while you’re still breastfeeding just to make sure that your milk production won’t be influenced

If you would like more personalised advice tailored to your needs, speak to a lactation consultant. You can find one in your area here.

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