Table of contents
“I’m breastfeeding, should I fast or not?”
This might be Ramadan’s most controversial mommy debate. Although many breastfeeding mothers are usually excited to fast during Ramadan, they are worried that fasting might affect their breast milk supply, thus the baby’s health.
In this article, I tackle the different medical opinions regarding the issue, how fasting affects breast milk and the baby’s health, and the precautions a lactating mother should take if she fasts during Ramadan. Whatever you decide to do, you have to check with your health advisor because every woman is different. Please make sure this doesn’t affect your baby’s weight according to the pediatrician.
The effect of fasting on breast milk
When a breastfeeding mother decides to fast, she’s usually concerned about the milk supply. However, not only does quantity matter but the quality of milk as well. According to certified nutritionist from Reyerson Univesity and the University of Toronto, Nazima Qureshi, the main concern for a breastfeeding fasting mother is ensuring a well-nourished and hydrated state during Ramadan.
A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that fasting can have an effect on some micronutrients in breast milk like zinc, potassium, and magnesium. The study tested the milk samples of 21 breastfeeding mothers who fasted during Ramadan, aged between 17-38 years. The ages of the infants were between 2-5 months.
The results showed that during Ramadan the levels of zinc, magnesium, and potassium in breast milk decreased significantly and most nutrient intakes -except for protein and vitamins A and C- were found below the daily recommended dietary allowances necessary for breastfeeding women.
Signs you should stop fasting
- Suffering from any dehydration symptoms like headache, dizziness, decreased urine with a darker yellow color
- Your baby is losing weight or not gaining weight
- Decreased number of wet diapers
- Your baby is fussy during feeding times
Fasting precautions for the breastfeeding woman
After consulting your doctor, these are some tips to follow if you will fast to maintain your milk supply and your body’s health according to an article published by the International Lactation Consultant Association.
- Stay hydrated: Divide your water intake throughout the nonfasting hours and avoid drinking too much water immediately before fasting as this will fill up the bladder and gets urinated out soon. This leaves you thirsty for the rest of the day.
- Include proteins (eggs and beans), complex carbohydrates (oats, sweet potato, corn), and vegetables (spinach, carrot, red pepper) in your Suhoor meal to supply you with the needed energy for the following fasting day. Blending dates with milk is a very good option for a lactating mother.
- Don’t skip your daily breastfeeding supplement.
- Don’t skip feeds to maintain your milk supply. You can sometimes pump instead.
- Skip any sugary drinks to avoid feeling full of water.
Further reading: Fasting While Pregnant: Is It Safe to Fast During Pregnancy?