Intermittent Fasting & Breastfeeding: My Experience
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor am I advocating Intermittent fasting and breastfeeding without your doctor and pediatrician’s consent and support. Everyone’s situation, needs, and health are different. I am simply sharing my experience while I was under the guidance of a doctor.*
I have a really hard time losing weight while breastfeeding. Like instead of losing weight, I gain it. While other women waste away while breastfeeding, I’m voraciously downing the last cupcake. One thing that helped turn this around was practicing intermittent fasting (IF) following my 4th pregnancy and birth. Honestly, it was perfect for me. No I didn’t lose a ton of weight quickly (because that would not be healthy or easy to maintain), but I reversed the trend of all my previous pregnancies and have slowly and continuously lost weight.
After each birth, I would try to lose weight, but I always had trouble losing while breastfeeding. Since breastfeeding is amazing and I love it, I refused to let my weight interfere with what was best for my baby (check out my post for tips on setting yourself up for breastfeeding success). Once I stopped nursing, losing weight was a lot easier, but then I’d get pregnant within about 5 minutes (I had 4 girls in under 5 years). After the birth of my 4th and last child Dec 2016, I was bound and determined to do it. I was going to finally overcome my inability to lose weight while breastfeeding. After getting the okay from my doctor, I had joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, tried to eat healthy, and worked my butt off for weeks and weeks. But my weight did not budge. It was so depressing.
Then, I came across intermittent fasting while researching healthy eating, which was my main struggle. It was a revelation. There are so many health benefits to IF, it’s unreal (e.g. fat loss, increased lifespan, lower ideas risk etc). I wanted to do it, but couldn’t find anything substantial about intermittent fasting AND breastfeeding. I didn’t want to risk my milk supply or quality, but I didn’t want to wait a year to lose weight. But then I thought: women throughout history have successfully breastfed with limited food supply and in various circumstances. How could a couple extra hours of fasting a day impact my milk supply?
Talking to the Doctor
At my baby’s 3-month visit, I decided to ask the pediatrician about it. My milk supply was well established and my baby and I were in a great routine. My pediatrician has always been very involved in my nutrition when I am breastfeeding, making sure I am getting all the vitamins and nutrients I need so my babies get what they need. She is very current on research and very concerned with healthy living. She was the perfect one for me to talk to. I honestly figured that she would say no out of extreme caution. But she was really supportive of my plan to fast daily for 16 hours (mostly while sleeping). I was going to eat between noon and 8:00pm each day while focusing on drinking lots of water and eating healthy. I started the very next day.
Managing Intermittent Fasting and Breastfeeding
I woke up around 7:00am and got busy taking care of my kids. I wasn’t going to eat until noon, so I tried to stay busy. Honestly, that’s not hard as a mom, amirite? After the morning routine, we went to the gym. By the time I got my kids checked into the kid’s center, worked out, ruined my children’s lives by making them stop playing with their friends, and drove home it was almost noon! I was definitely ready to eat and prepared a nice big meal. Then I ate 3 meals between noon and 7 and made sure to be done eating at 8:00pm. I continued this and by about day 4, it was no big deal waiting til noon to eat. It was really easy to adjust to IF. Eating during an 8 hour window is so doable!
My Milk Supply
To my pleasant surprise, my milk supply was unaffected by the fasting. I had plenty of milk and I noticed no change in nursing whatsoever. My baby didn’t seem affected one bit. At times when I’ve lost weight more quickly–months after beginning IF–I have noticed a slight drop in supply, but that seems unrelated to IF. As of right now, I have a very healthy 100% breastfed 11 month old.
The weight immediately began to come off at about a pound a week, which is perfect. I have lost 25 lbs so far and consistently lose about 1/2 – 1 lb a week. And I wasn’t necessarily drastically changing what I was eating right off the bat. But it helped me get in control of my eating–which was key for me on my weight loss journey. Since beginning, I have changed my eating habits a lot. But it’s been a really natural and gradual progression which means that it’s a change that is easy to maintain.
I never struggled to exercise–I love it. But breastfeeding makes me feel like I am starving ALL THE TIME. It was hard to control my eating because I want to eat everything in my sight. With intermittent fasting, I felt like I took back control of my eating habits. It became easier to start making better food choices. Now I rarely eat sugary foods when before I ate them daily. It’s been a really natural transition into healthy eating habits.
A few months in, I started waking up at 4:00am and immediately exercising, which totally threw off the schedule since I couldn’t very well wait to noon to eat. I stopped intermittent fasting for a time while I adjusted to my new schedule. But I am back I mostly eating between 7:00am and 5:00pm. Often, I stop eating at 3:00pm. Overall, intermittent fasting is easy and has been a great way for me to build healthy eating habits. It was an important early step for me in taking back my health. If it interests you and you are breastfeeding, by sure to consult with your doctor first. Good luck!