Should I fast while breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding, you are not expected to fast during Ramadan. Most Muslim scholars believe that women who are breastfeeding (and women who are ill, or travelling) have permission not to fast. Some even say it is wrong to ignore this act of kindness by fasting when you do not have to.
Your decision will be guided by the age of your baby. It feels very different if your baby is tiny and only breastfed, compared with a healthy one-year-old who is having other foods and only breastfeeding at night.
It helps to discuss your options. Talk to:
mothers in your family and among your friends about their approach to fasting;
a doctor or breastfeeding specialist;
an Islamic scholar or authority.
Will fasting while I am breastfeeding harm my baby?
Your baby will not be harmed, because you will be able to keep up milk production while you are fasting. Cutting your intake of calories should make no difference to the amount of milk you produce.
Your body adapts by changing the way it uses the available calories, and makes up for a lack of food or fluid by becoming better at releasing energy.
In fact, women can eat nothing for 24 hours, and it will still not affect either the quantity or the nutritional value of their breastmilk. You would feel the effects of fasting, and probably need to stop, before it affected how much milk you produced.
Will my baby be affected by changes in my milk?
Your baby is unlikely to be affected. He will be used to your milk changing a little already, depending on what you eat and how much he needs to feed. We know that even if a mother fasts for 24 hours, the fat content of her breastmilk will not change.
If you eat so little that you start to lose weight, the type of fat in your breastmilk may change, but not the amount. Although the breast itself can make some milk fats, other types of fat will come from your own fat stores if there is not enough in your diet.
Will fasting while breastfeeding harm me?
Your body is likely to cope well with fasting. In one study, a small group of women who fasted through Ramadan had their blood tested. Women who were breastfeeding were found to have roughly the same chemical balance in their blood as the women who weren't breastfeeding or pregnant.
However, if you have been breastfeeding for a while, you know how thirsty it makes you. Becoming dehydrated can make you feel unwell. You can tell you are becoming dehydrated if you:
feel very thirsty;
pass urine that's dark-coloured and strong-smelling;
feel faint, weak or tired;
develop a headache or other pains.
If you begin to notice any of these signs, you should break your fast with some water and have a rest. After half an hour, if you are still feeling unwell, call your doctor.
When you break your fast, drink plenty, particularly early in the morning before resuming your fast. BabyCenter expert and breastfeeding counsellor Jennifer Hor recommends that you fill up on nourishing fluids and foods with low glycemic index (GI). The GI is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion have high GI; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low GI. Low GI foods include many types of vegetables and beans, chickpeas, noodles and rice.
Don't just fill up on liquids. It is important to get the nutrients, calories and bulk from food. You may find it hard to eat enough overnight, and begin to lose weight. Talk to your doctor if this happens, and consider abandoning your fast.
However, rest assured that as long as you are healthy and happy to lose a little weight, a loss of up to 1kg (2lb) a week during Ramadan should not affect your milk production.
What can I do to prevent any problems?
Preparing for fasting will help you avoid potential problems:
Stock up on shopping, and do chores that require extra energy before you start your fast.
Keep a food diary so you can make sure you are eating and drinking enough overnight.
Stay cool and rest as much as you can during the day.
When should I ask for help?
If you begin to feel unwell, or are becoming dehydrated, talk to your doctor. If you are worried that your baby is not getting enough to eat, get advice from your doctor or paediatrician. Signs that your baby is not getting enough milk include:
fewer wet nappies (a newborn should have several heavy, wet nappies a day);
lasting, shrill crying or inability to settle;
weight loss or not putting on weight.
If breastfeeding problems develop, talk to a breastfeeding counsellor or lactation consultant. There may be one at your local health centre or hospital, or ask your doctor if he can recommend someone. You can also look for more resources in our A-Z Breastfeeding Directory.
Sent by Maxis from my BlackBerry® smartphone