Intermittent fasting side effects: How the diet plan can affect breastfeeding mom and baby

Published on Aug 16, 2022 05:05 PM IST

Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity with each passing day but it's not for everyone. Here's why breastfeeding mothers should avoid this diet plan.

Experts say intermittent fasting during breastfeeding is a bit risky as it can be a challenge to meet caloric, nutritional and fluid requirements for new mothers as well as the child.(Unsplash)
Experts say intermittent fasting during breastfeeding is a bit risky as it can be a challenge to meet caloric, nutritional and fluid requirements for new mothers as well as the child.(Unsplash)
By, Delhi

Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity fast with celebs like Alia Bhatt, Malaika Arora and Bharti Singh adopting the diet plan and vouching for its many benefits. Intermittent fasting is a diet plan where you eat during specific hours while fasting for the rest or fast every other day. Intermittent fasting is known to help promote weight loss and prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and also help improve mental health. This kind of fasting allows the gut to cleanse and strengthen its lining. (Also read: World Breastfeeding Week 2022: Lesser known facts of breastfeeding for mother and baby)

But is intermittent fasting for everyone? Experts say intermittent fasting during breastfeeding is a bit risky as it can be a challenge to meet caloric, nutritional and fluid requirements for new mothers as well as the child. Research suggests that intermittent fasting doesn't necessarily impact the macronutrients in breast milk, however, some micronutrients in breast milk may be significantly affected.

"Lactating mother needs a balanced meal for her and baby’s wellness. Right kind of food the mother eats will ensure the baby’s health," says Prachi Shah, Clinical Dietitian & Consulting Nutritionist, Founder Health Habitat.

There has been limited research but there are few ways in which intermittent fasting affects breastfeeding, as per Shah.

• A woman needs additional calories while lactating in order to supplement milk production. So, if the mother is fasting or if the calorie intake is reduced the quantity of milk is also affected.

• Along with the quantity, the quality can be affected in long-term fasting. Intermittent fasting has a window where you can eat; what kind of food you eat in that window also makes a lot of difference.

• It is seen that because you tend to skip one or two major meals in the name of fasting your daily macronutrient and micronutrient requirements are not met. If the micronutrient requirement is not met this may affect the quality of breastmilk.

• Breastfeeding leads to hunger and thirst which means that your body asks for more nutrient and energy dense food. If you end up fasting your body will be even more deprived of food leading to hunger, fatigue, low energy etc.

How does this affect the baby?

• Due to decreased milk production the baby would remain hungry.

• Baby might be more lethargic.

• Due to reduced intake the baby’s bowel movements might go for a toss.

• The child would be dehydrated too.

• All in all, it might lead to weight gain or loss.

"Why are you following intermittent fasting? This is the question you need to ask yourself. If losing weight via fad and crash diets shouldn’t be your goal specially during lactation. Your safest bet is to follow healthy meal plan along with exercise. This is not just best for you and the baby but is the sustainable way. Each body is different, every journey is different there might not be a plain, generalised way for every mother so, listen to your doctors, lactation counsellors and qualified dieticians for customized routine," concludes Shah.

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