Ramadan is a sacred time for sober reflection of Islams worldwide. During this period, every Muslim is obliged to fast and pray more.
But as a nursing mum, you may be wondering if it is okay to continue breastfeeding during Ramadan and its consequences on you or your baby.
Breastfeeding During Ramadan
You’re obligated to observe the Ramadan fasting period as a Muslim faithful, which is key to your spiritual growth.
But also, as a new mother, you owe your newborn the duty of care, which includes breastfeeding until your baby gets to the stage of eating solid foods.
These two are equally important, but in order not to go against your faith, you have to consider if it is okay to continue breastfeeding during Ramadan and, otherwise, what possible substitutes to use during this period.
Is It Okay To Continue Breastfeeding During Ramadan?
Yes, it is okay to continue breastfeeding during Ramadan. Although Islam is a prevalent religion, different cultures have different approaches to women breastfeeding during Ramadan.
While in some cultures, nursing mothers with babies on exclusive breastfeeding are excluded from fasting.
Other cultures encourage them to join in the fast so long as they can afford to, on the condition that they repay by engaging in fasting on a later date when their babies are no longer on exclusive breastfeeding.
The first six months of a baby’s life are usually considered their formation stage. They’re dependent on the mother for everything, including feeding.
Many babies are put on exclusive breastfeeding during this stage to help with their development, making it a little difficult for mothers with babies within the age bracket of 0-6 months to continue breastfeeding during Ramadan.
As difficult as it may seem to cut down the mother’s food intake while maintaining the baby’s breast milk supply.
It is achievable as many Muslim women continue to breastfeed their babies during Ramadan.
Although fasting and breastfeeding during Ramadan may have no adverse effect on the mother, the baby becomes susceptible to malnutrition and other forms of illness related to underfeeding.
Read: Can I Breastfeed My Husband in Islam
Effects Of Fasting On Breastmilk
Ramadan fasting is done from dusk till dawn for 30 days of the holy month. During this period, both food and water intake are limited.
Therefore, the nursing mother stands the risk of suffering from dehydration which will, in turn, cut down the breast milk supply and reduce the macronutrients present in the breast milk.
Effects of Fasting on the baby
One of the significant concerns nursing mothers have is the effects of fasting on breast milk which also affects the baby since breast milk is the only food babies between the age of 0-6 consume.
They have no other feeding source if the breast milk supply is limited, which translates to malnutrition on the baby’s side.
Also, since only a limited amount of the macronutrients present in the breast milk will be supplied to the baby, it may retard the baby’s growth.
Macronutrients present in breast milk that may be affected include;
Primarily, fats present in breast milk help develop the baby’s brain cells.
Breast milk supplies about 40-50% of this fat needed for the baby’s neurological development, and a limited supply of this implies a slow growth rate of their brain cells.
Carbohydrates act as the powerhouse for humans in general, including infants, this energy is responsible for transporting food around the baby’s body and aiding the baby’s growth.
When this is lacking, the baby may appear weak and stand the risk of a low blood sugar level, forcing its body to convert stored fats into energy and gradually leading to weight loss.
The protein present in breast milk is responsible for the baby’s growth.
Fasting during Ramadan may not affect the production of these essential nutrients in breast milk.
Still, if the nursing mother is suffering from dehydration, it will affect the overall supply of breast milk which directly affects how much of the nutrients are being consumed by the baby.
Signs of Dehydration in Nursing Mothers
When fasting, the amount of food intake is limited, and while the breast milk supply may remain the same, it leaves an unbalanced system for the mother.
Her body is giving out more nutrients than it is absorbing, especially in cases where she’s suffering from dehydration.
However, there are signs to look out for as a Breastfeeding mother to know when your body lacks essential nutrients to keep it healthy and hydrated.
Headaches are generally associated with dehydration.
Once you’re experiencing frequent headaches during Ramadan, you may need to increase your water intake.
Dry lips are also signs of dehydration. Drinking water frequently leaves you with succulent and softer lips.
Acnes are fats clogged under the skin. The dryer the skin, the more apparent they become.
Since there’s not enough water in the bloodstream, blood flow to the brain is slugged and may cause dizziness or hypotension.
Drinking a lot of water acts as a form of detoxification for the body. The more water you take, the more urine you will pass out, and after some time, it will appear as clear as water.
On the other hand, inadequate water intake will leave your urine with a deep shade of yellow alongside a strong odor.
Read: How Much Water Should I Drink While Breastfeeding
Signs Of Malnutrition in Babies
As much as you may try to maintain your baby’s breast intake during fasting, it will not be the same as other times of the year, leading to malnutrition in the long run.
Here are some warning signs of malnutrition in babies to look out for.
You will feel this from carrying your baby if there’s any weight loss. Also, he may appear smaller and undersized in his clothes.
Since carbohydrates are present in breast milk and are the source of energy for the baby, a lesser amount means less energy for your baby, which will make him appear weak and tired.
If you become unwell or feel dehydrated, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. A doctor, midwife, or health visitor can provide advice if you are concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Lesser number of wet diapers
The more the baby eats, the more diapers you will have to change.
And since breast milk doesn’t take so long to digest, it’s only a matter of minutes before you’re required to put on a new diaper after mealtime.
Whenever there’s a decrease in the number of diapers you’re used to changing, it may indicate malnutrition.
Read: Can I Fast During Pregnancy
Nutritional Tips for Breastfeeding During Ramadan
Preparing ahead for fasting will help you feel good and healthy. You could:
- Before beginning your fast, do chores that require extra energy and stock up on supplies.
- Keep a food journal to ensure you’re eating and drinking right overnight. You can download a food journal app to your phone to make it easier.
- Keep calm and rest as much as you can during the day.
- Take care of your body, and talk to your health care provider if you feel unwell.
Drink plenty, particularly early in the morning, when you break your fast, before resuming your fast.
Eat whole (like heavy carbs), balanced meals, and drink because getting nutrients and calories from your food is essential.
Don’t skip the pre-dawn meal. Set an early alarm if you need to. You may want to take a vitamin supplement while breastfeeding.
Health experts recommend that all adults take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D.
During breastfeeding, you may find it challenging to eat enough food overnight and may begin to lose weight.
Losing between 0.5kg (1lb) and 1kg (2lb) per week will not affect your health or milk supply.
Talk to your health care provider if you think you are losing weight faster than this.
Read: Can Husband Touch Wife Breast In Ramadan (Explained)
Will fasting while breastfeeding harm my baby?
If you decide to fast, you will not harm your baby; your body will keep making breastmilk in the usual way.
Waiting until dusk or dawn to eat may reduce your calorie intake, but this does not affect the amount of milk you produce.
Once your body has used up the energy from your last meal, it adapts and consumes energy from different stores.
As your body burns calories, the first thing it does is take sugar from your bloodstream, and then it converts fat into glucose, which tides you over until your next meal.
Will my baby be affected by changes in my milk?
Your baby is unlikely to be affected. Depending on what you eat and how much your baby needs to feed, your baby will be used to your milk changing a little already.
Your baby will continue to grow healthy as long as you let him feed whenever he wants to.
Will fasting while breastfeeding harm my health?
Your body is likely to cope well during fasting. However, if you fast for an extended period, there is a risk of developing low blood sugar.
If you begin to feel physically weak due to fasting, you should probably break your fast to protect yourself.
Hopefully, this article has given in-depth knowledge to discuss the question of breastfeeding during Ramadan.
Worrying about the effects of fasting while breastfeeding for many women boils down to how it explicitly affects breast milk, and it is understandable because the baby is also affected in the end.
This is why consuming very healthy foods packed with nutrients during meal times and staying hydrated makes breastfeeding during Ramadan less stressful for both mother and child.