Intermittent fasting has been getting a lot of attention recently, and many swear by it as a way to enhance stress management, improve memory and drop excess pounds. But, when you’re a new mom, it’s crucial that you get the nutrition your body needs each day to keep your strength up while taking care of a little one — especially when you’re nursing. Before you give the latest trendy diet of the moment a try, it’s important to know if it’s safe to intermittent fast while breastfeeding.
(Of course, we always recommend you chat with your doctor or a nutritionist if you’re looking to do a major dietary overhaul and aren’t sure about what’s the right fit for you and your lifestyle.)
Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions about intermittent fasting — because the name can lead one to believe that you are just reducing calories. In this case, fasting simply means that there is a period of time where you are not eating. While you are restricting calories by not eating for a certain amount of time, you aren’t really reducing calorie intake. Calorie restriction is to limit how much you eat, and intermittent fasting is to decide the times of day where you won’t eat.
The Types of Intermittent Fasting — A Quick Reminder
The 5:2 method allows you to eat a regular diet five days per week, and on two days of the week, you are only allowed between 500-600 calories.
The 16/8 method limits your eating time to 8-10 hours daily and fasting for 14-16 hours. For example, if you were to stop eating at around 7pm, you wouldn’t eat again until somewhere between 9am to 11am.
Alternate Day Fasting is just as its name says: Every other day you go without eating. But keep in mind that this could lead to headaches and fatigue.
Eat-Stop-Eat you are required to go a full 24 hours without consuming food either once or twice weekly. So, if you were to eat breakfast at 8am on one day, the next time you would eat would be the following morning at breakfast. Similar to Alternate Day fasting, you could experience headaches and lethargy.
But Is Intermittent Fasting Actually Healthy?
In general, people have used intermittent fasting as a way of losing excess weight. And, while it has been shown to be effective (in the short-term, especially), it hasn’t been found to be more beneficial to your health than other traditional weight-loss diets.
Is It Safe for Breastfeeding Women to Try Intermittent Fasting?
“I don’t recommend intermittent fasting for breastfeeding women because it can restrict how much food and how many fluids mom gets,” says Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, and author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One. “If that restriction leads to dehydration, especially, it can be dangerous for milk supply and a mom’s health. Breastfeeding is the time for women to focus on keeping their bodies nourished and not a time to think about restrictions.”
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you may need more calories during that time to meet your nutritional needs.
“While it may be tempting to focus on losing weight as a breastfeeding mom, making sure you have enough calories and fluids to keep your milk supply robust is more important,” Casares says.