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What is intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is an eating cycle in which you eat on a particular schedule and fast rest of the day. Intermittent fasting is a great way to manage your weight and it has many other health benefits also. Mother often thinks about Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding to get back in shape.
Some people fast 16 hours a day and eat in rest of 8 hours, some fast every other day for 24 hours and some fast once or twice in a week for 24 hours. Fasting can be in the ratio of 14:10 also where you fast for 14 hours and eat in rest of 10 hours.
Is it safe to do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding
Intermittent fasting can be safe during breastfeeding if you are meeting your calories needs for that day during eating window. When a women is breastfeeding, she needs some extra calories to meet the nutritional requirement especially carbohydrate, fats, and protein. If you are able to meet your daily calorie requirement during eating window and having enough liquid to stay hydrated all the time then intermittent fasting can be done safely while breastfeeding.
Intermittent fasting while breastfeeding will not cause any harm to baby but make sure your baby is gaining enough weight and meeting all nutritional requirement for his growth and development. Breastfeeding is successful if your baby is gaining healthy weight and growing healthy; if not then stop intermittent fasting for some time.
It is not a good idea to do intermittent fasting for the first 5 to 6 month of your baby’s life. This is important to set their sleep and feeding schedule first. A mother’s body also goes through many changes during that time so it is not advisable to try fasting to lose weight. It is not advisable to do intermittent fasting during the active phase of breastfeeding and when you are the only source for your baby’s nutritional needs.
Here are some of the safety tips to do intermittent fasting while breastfeeding.
1. Don’t stress yourself and start slow
Start slow and don’t stress yourself because while breastfeeding you are already facing issues in your sleep. However fasting itself can increase the production of stress hormone cortisol which can affect your milk supply. Stress has many other side effects as well. Try to set your eating window little longer to reduce the effect or completely skip intermittent fasting for some time.
Initially you can start with 10 hours of eating window with fasting around 14 hours and slowly increase it to 8 hours of eating window with 16 hours of fasting for best result with maximum health benefits.
2. Don’t overdo exercise
Don’t overdo exercise and let your body adjust to this new eating routine. Listen to your body first after all yours and your baby health should be your first priority. Although exercising is good for health but when you are fasting, it can increase unnecessary stress to your body and you can reach fasting stage fast. Initially do only light exercise and slowly increase it and let your body get adjusted to intermittent fasting especially while breastfeeding.
3. Take enough sleep
During breastfeeding your baby can wake up in the night for feeding which can disturb your sleep cycle and can cause stress to your body. Try to take short naps during day time also when your baby sleep and take enough sleep of 8 to 9 hours throughout a day.
4. Drink enough water
Drinking lots of water throughout the day will maintain your milk supply. It will keep you hydrated while fasting period also. Drinking enough water will also help to maintain hunger while fasting.
5. Eat nutritional food and have enough calories
When you are breastfeeding, you need some extra calories to meet nutritional requirements for both you and your baby. Sometimes it’s get difficult to consume extra calories during a small eating window which is not good while breastfeeding. Eat enough calories during the eating window so that you can fulfill the nutritional requirement for you and your baby both.
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Risk associated with intermittent fasting while breastfeeding
In general intermittent fasting is safe but when you are breastfeeding, your body reacts differently. Low food intake can lead to nutritional deficiency in both mother and baby. It is difficult to meet all the requirements in short time when you are feeding your baby whole day and sharing your nutrition with him/her.
Here are some of the risks associated with intermittent fasting while breastfeeding
1. Fasting and female hormone are related
Fasting can affect your reproductive hormone and can cause fertility related problem. It can cause irregular periods and sometimes can stop period completely. But the good news is that it only happens when fasting is done for too long.
Some women don’t get their period until they are breastfeeding. There is a possibility that you haven’t started your period yet after delivering baby. In this situation you can’t notice any irregularities in your menstrual cycle but you should always be careful for your body. If you feel any changes in your body that means your body does not like this and you should stop it for some time.
2. It can affect milk supply in some women
Fasting can affect milk supply if you are not consuming enough calories while eating window and if you are fasting for 24 hours. Generally a short term fasting like 12 to 16 hour will not affect milk supply if you are having enough calories required while breastfeeding and having enough fluid throughout the day.
3. Fasting can change breastmilk composition
Micronutrients in breastmilk are depended on your food intake. If you are fasting for long hour and eating less food then it can change the micronutrients in breastmilk and affect its composition which can cause nutritional deficiency in mother and baby both. It can be prevented by eating a healthy and balanced diet and it is not recommended doing intermittent fasting more than 16 hours while breastfeeding.
4. While breastfeeding you can reach to fasting stage early and 24 hour fasting is dangerous
When you are breastfeeding, you feel hungry very often. This is because your body is using your nutrients not only for your body but also for producing breastmilk also. While breastfeeding a mother can reach to fasting stage early and use body’s stored glucose for energy. If you fast for too long your body can go into starvation stage and your metabolism will decrease. It’s not good to ignore these signs of huger.
Fasting for too long like not eating anything for 24 hours can be dangerous also. Staying hungry for long time can result in Ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis can cause symptoms like vomiting, belly pain, nausea, headache, breathing problems and excessive pee etc. This is a very rare situation. This can happen when fasting for 24 hours and eating diet which is very low on carbs from many days.