Celebrating Ramadan When You're Breastfeeding

by Sinit Aatifa

Breastfeeding and RamadanFasting the month of Ramadan is one of five Islamic pillars. Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Ramadan can take place in any of the four seasons. When it occurs in the summer, fasting in the thermometer-busting temperatures can be difficult for breastfeeding and pregnant women.

Special rules set by religious leaders allow breastfeeding moms to out of the fasting requirement for the holiday. They can make up days later or may make a donation to charity in lieu of fasting.

Even though they aren't required to fast, many women say that they would rather participate when everyone else is fasting. Since the Quran says women should nurse for two years, they skip the fast a long time. Others feel their baby's heath might be affected and accept the exception.

If you're breastfeeding, you might be wondering if you should fast this Ramadan. This information can aid as you make that decision and help you and your baby stay healthy if you decide to undertake the days of fasting.

Celebrating Ramadan When Breastfeeding

Women not fasting can join in other areas of worship such as offering additional prayers, inviting friends and family for evening meals, reading the Qur'an, or donating to charity.

Fasting Tips for Nursing Moms

Because you have the added responsibility of tending your child -- diapers to change, a stroller to push and a baby to carry and nurse, fasting can be more difficult now than it was during pregnancy.

Staying hydrated can be a concern. Shannon Staloch, a licensed midwife in Oakland, California recommends that you when you eat in the morning and in the evening, you drink an electrolyte drink such as coconut water or Re-Charge™. Fresh fruits, vegetable juice and soup also help maintain water and mineral balance.

Try to eat at least three times a day in Ramadan, the Suhoor meal, an Iftar meal, and again about an hour before going to bed. In addition, these some simple guidelines and tips will help you make sure that your diet stays balanced and healthy during this fasting period:

• Add one tablespoon of coconut oil a day to your diet. It's high in lauric acid, a primary component in breast milk.

• Focus on hydration. When you're not fasting, keep a water bottle with you. Studies indicate that lactating women hydrate more than those who are not breastfeeding, so drink whenever you're thirsty during non-daylight hours.

• Avoid fried offering at Iftar gathering. These may be cooked in unhealthy trans-fats that are easily transferred to your breast milk. Instead, satisfy your fat craving with olive oil, avocados, butter, meats fish and eggs.

• Instant energy during Iftar: Your body needs energy at Iftar. A few dates or juice can kick your glucose levels back to normal.

Skip caffeinated drinks. Drinks such as coke, coffee or black tea serve as diuretics. You might want to ease off them ahead of time. A sudden decrease in caffeine can prompt headaches, mood swings and irritability.

Tips for Pumping Moms

If some of your baby's meals come from the bottle, plan ahead. Start increasing your pumping time several weeks before Ramadan. Some moms stick to their usual schedules, just more time and others pump each time the baby nurses to increase milk output and the supply in the freezer.

Study Results Focused on Fasting

Many studies indicate that breast milk production doesn't decrease during Ramadan. Some studies showed that the milk's composition may change slightly.

Breastfeeding Moms Talk About Fasting During Ramadan

"I fasted during Ramadan when Hajar was 6 months old. I just paid attention to what I ate during the night and most of all drink, drink and drink. Try to let your baby nurse often to stimulate your breast to produce more milk," Nura shares.

"I'm choosing not to fast because this is the first time I've ever breastfed. My baby is only 6-weeks-old. Alhamdulilah things are going great! I just don't want to affect my supply in any way. I have every intention on making up my fast," Anella says.

"My midwife encouraged me to make up the fast in the winter months when the days are shorter. That will allow me to stay hydrated for proper nourishment to my child. I think I will do this way," Nadia says.

Will you be fasting for Ramadan? Do you have any advice for nursing moms who do? We look forward to hearing your comments and wish you and your families a good fast!