For Muslims worldwide, Ramadan is the month of fasting and prayer – food, drink, physical needs are all abstained from during the day.
However, for Muslim mums who are breastfeeding, they may be exempt from fasting if they feel that their health, or the health of baby will be affected by the fasting. They may be expected to compensate for the missed fasting period by fasting at a later date – please do check with a scholar or a book of Fiqh to confirm the appropriate guidelines.
Your decision may be guided by the age of baby, as a baby who is younger than six months old and is exclusively breastfed has different needs from a year old baby that has a diet of breastmilk and other foods.
Fasting during breastfeeding, will it harm my baby?
You’ll be able to keep making breastmilk even while you’re still fasting, so baby will be all right! Reducing how much calories you’re intaking during Ramadan should make no difference to the amount of milk you make.
The amazing thing about breastfeeding mums is that your body adapts to the way it burns calories. It makes up for the lack of food or fluid by becoming better at releasing energy and stepping up milk production.
You could also eat absolutely nothing for a whole day (24 hours) without affecting the quantity or nutritional value of your breastmilk too. However, if you start to feel the effects of fasting on your body, you should break the fast for your own health.
How will baby be affected by the changes in my milk?
Baby is quite unlikely to be affected by the changes, as studies have shown that neither the weight nor the growth rate of breastfed babies appears to be affected by mummies during Ramadan.
Your breastmilk has already undergone changes due to your diet, as well as the frequency and amount baby feeds! If you’re losing weight due to eating lesser, the type of fat in your breastmilk might change, but not the amount of fat.
It’s very normal for the types of fat in breastmilk to differ from mum to mum, and even in the same mum over time. If you’re not getting enough fat in your diet, no worries about that as your body will grab those fats from your fat stores instead.
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How does breastfeeding while fasting affect me?
As mentioned before, our bodies are able to adapt to fasting. But if you’ve been breastfeeding for a while, you’ll understand how dry your mouth feels, and thirst will definitely take over.
Dehydration becomes a problem and could even make you feel sick. Here are some signs of dehydration:
Feeling extremely thirsty
Your pee becomes a much darker colour
Feeling tired and weak
Your eyes, lips, and mouth feel dry
Bouts of dizziness or light-headedness
You start getting a headache
If you notice any of these signs, you should break your fast with some water that has salt and sugar added to it. If after 30 minutes you’re still not feeling well, visit a doctor!
How can I take care of myself during fasting?
Being prepared for the fast will definitely help you to cope with it better. It’s as simple as:
Stocking up on shopping and essentials
Chores that will tire you out and require that extra bit of energy should be done before you start your fast
Don’t overexert yourself during the day, and try to (literally) keep your body cool, which might be a bit difficult due to our really hot weather lately
Go see a doctor if you’re not feeling good
After you’ve broken your fast, make sure to drink a lot of water, especially in the early morning! Eat proper meals and stay hydrated – it’s important to get the right nutrients and calories from food. Set your alarm clock to make sure you eat your pre-dawn meal!
A study showed that the levels of some nutrients in breastmilk went down if breastfeeding mums fasted during Ramadan, so it’s important to eat well after breaking your fast.
You may also find it difficult to eat enough food overnight, and may begin to lose weight, but a loss of between 0.kg and 1kg per week is unlikely to negatively affect your health or milk supply.
Remember to always approach your doctor if you ever feel unwell. Check with your family and friends who have also done breastfeeding during fasting, for both moral support as well as learning from what they did before.
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