Intermittent fasting has been a godsend for me. I’ve reclaimed my health, losing over 35 lbs in the year since I started. And I’ve finally lost the baby weight from 4 back-to-back pregnancies. All while breastfeeding. And taking care of 4 busy kids.
For me, intermittent fasting while breastfeeding has been the gateway to healthy habits and establishing a healthy lifestyle.
Because of my results, I’ve been asked a lot about what exactly I did to successfully breastfeed while doing intermittent fasting (IF). After over a year of IF, here are my top tips for intermittent fasting while breastfeeding.
TIPS FOR INTERMITTENT FASTING WHILE BREASTFEEDING
1) Start Slowly
Be gentle with yourself. I know exactly how you feel. You want to lose this baby weight and feel good about yourself again. But this is not a quick-fix solution for weight loss. It’s a tool you can use to improve your health. Your priority is health, both yours and your baby’s.
To ensure you don’t disrupt your milk supply, start slowly. Start with a 12 hour fasting period (for example, 8:00 pm to 8:00 am) and then gradually increase it from there to a 14 or 16 hour fasting window.
To keep track your fasting/eating hours, download the free printable intermittent fasting and breastfeeding weekly log at the bottom of this post!
Since adjusting, I have mostly done a 16:8 (16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating). My body is very comfortable with that and I rarely feel actual hunger. I feel best eating between a 6 and 8 hour window.
2) Listen to Your Body
What is true hunger vs. simply wanting to eat? We spend so much of our life ignoring our body’s signals of true hunger and fullness.
Tune into your body and determine whether you’re experiencing hunger or just in the habit of eating. Pay attention to emotional triggers that send you straight to the fridge, even when you’re not actually hungry.
On this IF journey, I’ve had to wrestle with the fact that I am an emotional eater. My husband has a major work success. So we celebrate with milkshakes AFTER a huge meal.
My child gets injured and we rush her to the ER. So I nervously down a huge bag of vending machine Skittles.
I’m overwhelmed with work, kids, and my many responsibilities. And I find myself in a fast food drive-thru despite the fact I just ate and am not at all hungry.
Intermittent fasting has helped me cut through the emotional noise and actually listen to my true hunger cues. That alone has been a revelation. I’ve gotten back to my weight from before having 4 kids without counting any calories.
I also pay close attention to how what I eat affects my body. After 5 sugar cookies, I am zapped of energy and feel seriously gross. But after the green smoothie, I’ve got all the energy I need to keep up with 4 little kids.
Not only do I eat fewer calories naturally, but paying attention to how food make me feel had helped me make healthier food choices.
3) Drink Lots of Water
One of the few things my pediatrician insisted on was drinking tons of water. Since I’m never without my trusty (and very banged-up) Hydroflask, it hasn’t been a problem.
You need lots of water to maintain your milk supply. And plus, it also helps navigating true hunger pains. And it makes your skin nice, too! Check out 5 Clever Ways to Drink More Water.
4) Don’t Go Nuts With Exercise
As your body adjusts to a new eating pattern, don’t overdo your exercise routine at the beginning. While you should certainly exercise regularly, gradually increase your intensity so as not to shock your body.
When I started, I would exercise a few days a week for 25 minutes (doing this workout program). As I grew accustomed to IF, I upped my game. Now I do a pretty intense weekly regime of heavy weights, HIIT, and running.
Need help getting motivated to exercise? Then check out 3 Ways for Busy Moms to Get Motivated to Exercise.
5) Exercise Right Before Eating
Experts recommend exercising immediately before breaking your fast in order to reap the greatest metabolic benefits.
At first, I thought that I wouldn’t have the energy to exercise, but now I feel best exercising on an empty stomach. I have the most energy in the hours before breaking my fast.
6) Eat Plenty of Healthy Fats, Veggies, & Lean Proteins
Eating healthy fats, protein, and loads of vegetables is going to be key to getting proper nutrition and staving off hunger. Having all three in each meal or snack have absolutely helped me get the results I’ve wanted.
I love adding healthy fats like avocado, nuts, coconut butter, or nut butters to smoothies. You can also throw nuts and avocados into salads, or just eat them plain!
7) Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time
If you’ve you’re really hungry and you let loose in the kitchen without a plan, what typically happens?
I you are anything like me, your instinct is to eat EVERYTHING. Which results in feeling sluggish and gross. But if you make a meal plan ahead of time, you will be much more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan.
8) Stop Eating After Dinner
As you go through the day, you are using up your limited store of willpower. After dinner, most of us have very little willpower left. Therefore, eating anything during this time may send us for a ride on the binge-eating train packed to the gills with sugar and carbs.
9) Take PGX Before Meals
At first, you may be tempted to overeat. Especially, at your first meal of the day. But that will just leave you zapped of energy and will NOT help you achieve your health goals. PGX can help with that.
I first heard about the supplement PGX when I read Dr. Hyman’s 10-Day Detox Diet (which is awesome) where he highly recommends taking it before each meal. PGX is a soluble fiber from natural sources that helps regulate blood sugar, reduces food cravings, and helps with appetite control.
Since it takes 20 minutes after eating for your body to feel fullness, taking a few PGX fiber capsules with water before eating can help with overeating.
I typically take 3-6 capsules a few minutes before eating a meal (especially my first meal of the day) and it helps me not to go nuts and eat everything in my sight. If I’m feeling especially hungry, it helps me not to feel so ravenous so I don’t eat so much that I feel gross.
10) Get Protein & Fiber with Each Meal
This combination has been really helpful in satisfying my hunger without overeating. There are so many possible combinations.
For a meal, I’ll eat chicken or fish with a ton of baked veggies and maybe some whole grains. Or I’ll have a smoothie packed with greens, seeds, coconut or almond butter, nuts, some fruit, and vegan protein powder. A snack might be an apple with almond butter or some nuts and raw veggies.
11) Experiment with Your Meal Schedule
To find out what works best for you, you may have to experiment a bit before finding what works. For me, this meant a satisfying, protein-rich meal at noon, a snack a few hours later, and then eating a final meal with my family at 6:00 pm or so.
12) Take Vitamins
Be sure to continue taking the vitamins your pediatrician recommends while you breastfeed. For me, this means continuing my prenatals, taking vitamin D, and fish oil.
13) Quickly Forgive Yourself When You “Mess up”
Don’t let minor setbacks stop you from your health goals. “Messing up” is just how we learn new habits and skills.
My success has come entirely because I refuse to give up, not because I eat perfectly. Seriously, most people can’t do the cold turkey approach.
Most of us give into temptations as we claw our way to better health. Just get back up every time you fall and there is nothing you can’t accomplish. It may take some time, but you will do it.
INTERMITTENT FASTING WHILE BREASTFEEDING IS POSSIBLE
These tips for intermittent fasting while breastfeeding have helped me be successful in getting back to my weight from before having 4 kids. Through following the tips above, it’s been of one of the most important steps I’ve taken to conquer my cravings, lose over 35 lbs of stubborn weight, and finally reclaim my health.
I hope that you find these tips helpful on your health journey.
Good luck, mama!
***UPDATE: After two years of intermittent fasting, I decided to stop. While I had a mostly positive experience, I no longer feel it’s the best eating philosphy for true mental and physical health and wellness. For more on why, check out Why I Stopped Intermittent Fasting after 2 Years
- My Intermittent Fasting and Breastfeeding Meal Plan That Helped me Lose Weight (with link to a FREE Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding Meal Planning & Log Printable Pack)
- 3 Ways For Busy Moms to Get Motivated to Exercise