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Breastfeeding While Fasting

Should I fast while breastfeeding?

If you are breastfeeding, and experiencing hardship, you are not expected to fast. There's women who try to fast some, others may not be able to fast at all, and truly Allah knows best. Most Muslim scholars believe that women who are pregnant and breastfeeding have a special exemption during Ramadan. Each woman's capabilities are infact individual and a woman wont know what she is capable of unless she tries it. Women who are high risk during preganacy, malnourished or have issues with breastfeeding should not fast. Some even say that it’s wrong to ignore this mercy by fasting when you don’t have to. If you miss a fast because of breastfeeding, you can make it up by fasting at a later date, or give fidyah. Your decision may also be guided by the age of your baby. A baby who is under six months and exclusively breastfed has different needs from a one-year-old who eats other foods and only breastfeeds at night. Remember this is a circumstaintial situation. I know women who fast during prgnancy and breatfeeding with no issues. Woman should not be made to feel that if they are breastfeeding or pregnant they should'nt fast. However it is imperative not to shame a woman for fasting or not fasting, either way.

Will fasting while I’m breastfeeding harm my baby?

Your baby will not be harmed, because you will be able to keep making breastmilk while you are fasting. Reducing how many calories you have during Ramadan should not make much difference to the amount of milk you make. Your body adapts by changing the way it burns calories. It appears to make up for the lack of food or fluid by becoming better at releasing energy and stepping up milk production. In fact, you could eat nothing for 24 hours without it affecting either the quantity or the nutritional value of your breastmilk. This is because mothers have more fat padding throughout childbearing years. The fat is there as a reserve for when the body is deficient on blood sugar, it can burn her stored fat inorder for the mother to perservere in times of hardship.

If you start to physically feel the effects of fasting, other than your normal response to fasting, you would probably need to break your fast for your own health.

Will my baby be affected by changes in my milk?

Your baby is unlikely to be affected. Neither the weight nor the growth rate of breastfed babies appears to be affected by their mothers fasting during Ramadan. Your baby will be used to your milk changing a little already, depending on what you eat and how much they need to feed. If you eat so little that you start to lose weight, the type of fat in your breastmilk may change, but not the amount. It's normal for the types of fat in breastmilk to vary from mother to mother and in the same mother over time. Your body will take fat from your own fat stores to make milk for your baby if there is not enough in your diet. There's vital nutrients you will want to get from your foods to sustain your energy. Consider taking supplements with your suhur and iftar.

There are mothers who already have milk supply issues for reasons unrelated to fasting. If you struggle with inadequate milk production, fasting may not be best for you at during this time.

Will fasting while breastfeeding harm me?

Your body is likely to cope well with fasting. Researchers have compared the health of fasting breastfeeding mothers with breastfeeding mothers who weren't fasting. Both sets of mothers had roughly the same chemical balance in their blood, suggesting that their bodies were functioning equally well. However, If fasting makes you feel sick, it is better for you not to fast and focus on feeding your baby. However, if you have been breastfeeding for a while, you’ll know how thirsty it can make you. Becoming dehydrated can make you feel sick. Knowing the difference is important. You can tell you are becoming dehydrated if you:

  • feel nauseous

  • very dark urine

  • feel dizzy or light-headed

  • feel overly tired, weak or lacking energy to walk or pray

  • severe dry mouth, lips and eyes

  • develop an intense headache

If you begin to notice some of these signs, you should break your fast right away with water, sipping slowly. Coconut water or water with a pinch of sea salt are good rehydration solutions as well. Try taking a nap or atleast lay down for awhile. After half an hour, try eating a small meal, if you are still not feeling well, call your doctor.

How do I look after myself while fasting?

Preparing for fasting will help you to stay well. You could:

  • Get things done for your family in the evening so you can take it easy during the day, You will need to preserve your energy for your baby.

  • Keep a food diary so you can make sure you are eating and drinking enough when you are not fasting.

  • Keep cool and rest as much as you can during the day.

  • Listen to your body, if you become sick break your fast, and seek advice if you are experiencing continued hardship with fasting while breastfeeding.

Eating proper meals as well as drinking when you are not fasting, is most important to get the nutrients and calories from your food. Make sure you eat the pre-dawn meal (Suhur) and set your alarm clock if you need to. One study showed that the levels of some nutrients in breastmilk (zinc, magnesium and potassium) decreased in breastfeeding mothers who completed the Ramadan fast. So eat well for suhur and break your fast with nutritious food. You may want to take a vitamin supplements that are safe for breastfeeding mothers. Experts particularly recommend that all adults take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D. You can take this at the same time as your suhur meal. While you are breastfeeding, you may find it hard to eat enough overnight, and may begin to lose weight. A weight loss of a a few pounds is unlikely to affect your health or your milk supply. Take in plenty of fluids and healthy fats. Keep a small basket on your night stand with healthy treats that you can snack on as needed. The basket may include some essential milk and energy boosters like almonds, granola bars, apricots, roasted chick peas, sweet potato chips, oatmeal cookies etc.

When should I ask for help?

If you become nauseous, feel dehydrated, dizzy or weak You may need to break your fast or if you are worried that your baby is not getting enough to eat. Seek lactation advice right away. Signs that your baby is not getting enough milk include:

  • Has fewer wet and dirty diapers than usual (breastfed newborns should have six soiled diapers a day after the first week). As the baby gets older diaper counts may change.

  • While breastfeeding your baby seems discontent or dissatisfied after feeding, possibly crying for another feed soon after.

  • Has lost weight or isn’t putting on weight.

  • Seems generally unsettled.

If you're struggling to breastfeed, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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