Can I do intermittent fasting when breastfeeding? As a nutritionist working with postnatal mums I often get asked about weight loss after a baby.
Recently there has been a boom in people doing intermittent fasting for weight loss and whilst most diets aren’t suitable for breastfeeding mums, there are some small changes you can put into practice to help gradual and healthy postnatal weight loss.
What is intermittent fasting?
There are various ways people try fasting – BTW – none of these are recommended during breastfeeding:
🍽 5:2 Diet where you only eat 500 calories for 2 days week
🍽16:8 where you only eat for 8 hours a day and fast for 16 hours – this is too long without food for breastfeeding
🍽 alternate day fasting (every other day eat normally / fast)
Restricted Feeding Window
Reducing the hours in the day that you eat is perhaps the easiest way for most people to try fasting. You don’t need to change what you eat to get some of the benefits.
This could be as simple as only eating within a 12 hour window. This would like look finishing your dinner at 7pm, and then not eating again until 7am. You still need to drink enough fluids, so keep up the water and herb tea during this time.
Back to basics
When you eat is almost as important as what you eat.
Essentially this approach it’s just not snacking after dinner or at night.
For most women who eat a healthy balanced diet during the day this should be achievable whilst breastfeeding.
If you can’t do 12 hours, start with 11, or 10.
Benefits of time restricted feeding
In studies on mice and people reducing the hours of eating, without reducing the calories or changing the types of food, had improvement in fat profiles, weight loss and insulin resistance.
What if I get hungry?
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding you need around an extra 300 calories from food each day and I can remember being very hungry when breastfeeding!
For people who aren’t getting up in the night with a small child, the benefits of fasting overnight are that they are asleep. it’s not so easy if you’re up every 2 hours!
Also – when we’re tired our brain craves more energy and quick release carbs to get energy.
It’s important to eat food that fills you up – concentrate on fibre, protein and healthy fats.
Include a protein rich snack before you go to bed if you feel really hungry after dinner to see you through the night:
✅ Boiled egg with wholegrain toast
✅ Flapjack made with seeds and oats
✅ Sardines on wholegrain toast
✅ Handful of nuts and an apple
✅ plain yoghurt with seeds
Rather than restricting your calories, or counting points like some slimming clubs just try stop eating at night and see if this has any impact on your feelings of energy, mood, sleep and weight.
If you want hep with postnatal diets then please get in touch for a free 15 min chat to work out how nutritional therapy can support you.
Anna is a Nutritional Therapist working with new mums in pregnancy, postnatal period and throughout motherhood on healthy diets. Nutrition appointments available to support the whole family in Bristol or online.