Breastfeeding and fasting

Breastfeeding & Fasting

SUMMARY: Fasting in Ramadan can be challenging for mothers, especially breastfeeding moms who may struggle to decide whether or not they will be fasting. For most moms, the biggest concern is being able to continue fasting without compromising your milk supply and quality for your baby. If you do choose to fast while breastfeeding, these guidelines will help you fast without compromising your milk supply, your health, and your baby’s health.  

 

Breastfeeding provides many health benefits for mother and baby! The increased metabolic demands of producing breastmilk generally helps women lose their pregnancy weight faster. Additionally, a meta-analysis of 7 studies found that breastfeeding may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly 40% compared to formula-feeding Additionally, breastfeeding results in a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.1

Understanding the nutritional benefits of breast milk provides further insight on the benefits of breastfeeding and why you should continue breastfeeding while fasting.

Human breast milk is meant to meet the nutrient needs of human babies. Breast milk provides babies with the three macronutrients:

  • Fat
  • Carbohydrate
  • Protein

 

For the first 6 months after the baby is born, it is recommended that the baby is exclusively breastfed and supplemented when needed (for example, babies who are exclusively breastfed require a vitamin D supplement in the form of drops). In the first 6 months, breast milk is highest in fat, and this declines slightly over time as the baby grows past 6 months old.

Breast milk also contains micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, and most women have enough micronutrients in their breast milk to meet the needs of their baby without supplementing.

Increased Caloric Requirements While Breastfeeding

As all the nutrients are coming from the mom, breastfeeding requires women to increase their daily energy or caloric intake.

Increasing calories in the form of a wholesome and healthy diet can ensure the health of both mom and baby.

What the mother eats is greatly linked to the quality of the breast milk. In fact, the types of foods the mother eats even impacts the flavour profile of the breast milk!

While food is introduced generally after 6 months, breast milk continues to provide vital nutrition to the baby.

Stages of Breastfeeding

When you are breastfeeding the baby, the age of your baby impacts the nutrient composition but also the function of the breast milk.

Factors that Affect Milk Supply

It may be slightly easier to maintain your milk supply as your baby starts eating food but it is still important to focus on eating and drinking appropriately during non-fasting hours.

Breast milk supply can be affected by multiple factors and so while this is not an exhaustive list, these factors are related to fasting in Ramadan.

  1. Adequately consuming calories – skipping meals and not eating enough food regularly can decrease milk supply.
  2. Adequate hydration – not drinking enough water throughout the day can decrease milk supply
  3. Nursing frequency – skipping feeds and supplementing with formula can decrease milk supply since it is deviating from your regular breastfeeding schedule. If you do have to be away from your baby, try pumping at the same time you would have fed him/her.

How Fasting Will Impact Breast Milk

The biggest concern that women face when deciding whether fasting while breastfeeding is right for them, is that they are unsure if fasting will impact their milk supply.

This is a valid concern as two of the factors that decrease breast milk supply are when the mother is not adequately nourished or hydrated. Ensuring that you are eating and drinking enough during suhoor and iftar (as well as consuming the appropriate types of food) will play a huge role in staying hydrated and healthy.

While there is limited research on fasting and breastfeeding, a few studies that have looked at the nutrient composition of breast milk of fasting mothers actually showed no difference in fat or other macronutrients composition in the milk, before, during, or after Ramadan.

One study showed that fasting can have an effect on micronutrients in breast milk such as zinc, potassium and magnesium, and this was linked closely with the mother’s lowered intake of these nutrients.

Warning Signs

Many women have been able to fast with no impact on the amount of their breast milk production or nutrient composition. However, you must know the warning signs to ensure that fasting is not affecting your milk supply.

  • Pay attention to your body: Signs of dehydration include headaches, dizziness, and decreased urine with a darker yellow colour
  • Pay attention to your baby: Signs that your baby is not getting enough milk include baby losing weight or not gaining weight, decreased number of wet diapers, baby seeming unhappy after feeding, or seemingly overall distressed.

Now with this knowledge, if you’re committed to fasting while breastfeeding, continue reading for nutrition and health tips.

5 Nutrition Tips for Fasting while Breastfeeding

  1. Drink a LOT of water during non-fasting hours.

More than feeling hungry, you will likely feel very thirsty throughout your fast. Aim to drink 2-3 cups of water at suhoor and iftar. After iftar, keep a water bottle with you and try to get through at least 1 more water bottle. If you wake up in the middle of the night to attend to your baby, keep a water bottle at your bedside and have a few sips then too. Skip the sugary beverages all together so you can focus on drinking enough water.

  1. Have a Suhoor Smoothie in addition to your regular meal

It can be hard to eat enough calories in the middle of the night for suhoor. That’s why it is recommended to ADD a smoothie to your suhoor, so you can drink more calories and nutrients. That’s right, have a meal AND a smoothie. It may be difficult to drink a whole glass, so try including at least half a cup. An example of suhoor might look like:

Sample Suhoor + Smoothie:

  • 2 egg omelette with spinach
  • 2 slices of whole grain bread
  • 1 cup Peanut Butter Goodness smoothie:
    • 1 Banana
    • 2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter
    • 1 tsp cinnamon 1 cup oat or almond milk (unsweetened)
    • 1 tsp flaxseed
  1. Have a balanced iftar without overeating.

While it is important to eat enough calories as a breastfeeding mom, overeating fried items won’t give you the nutrition you and your baby require. How you eat at iftar is the key to feeling more energized throughout the month of Ramadan. Instead of fried items and low-energy foods, have a meal with protein, lots of veggies, and whole grain carbohydrates.

If you need a little extra help planning your meals this Ramadan, Nazima’s 30 Day Ramadan Meal Plan is perfect for moms looking to have a healthy and energized Ramadan for themselves and their families.

**Use the coupon code “AMANAHFITNESS” to get 30 free BONUS healthy suhoor smoothie recipes!! These are perfect to bump up your calories at Suhoor the healthy way for moms! 

Example iftar from Nazima’s 30 Day Ramadan Meal Plan:

  • Lemon Dill Salmon
  • Roasted Cauliflower and eggplant
  • Roasted garlic sweet potato
  1. Have a post iftar snack. 

A few hours after iftar, before bedtime is another opportunity to get in some extra nutrition and calories. My go-to snacks are energy bites because they can be prepared in advance and have the perfect ratio of carbs, protein, and fat. Here are 3 different types of energy bites you can try:

  1. Have a prenatal supplement daily. 

I recommend all women that are of child-bearing age to have a prenatal supplement daily but it is especially important for breastfeeding moms during Ramadan. The prenatal supplement will help provide any nutrients that are missed from your limited meals and snacks while fasting.

Planning your meals and snacks during Ramadan is key to ensuring you are consistently having healthy and wholesome suhoors and iftars. Click HERE to get Nazima’s FREE suhoor and iftar meal planners. Click here for free planner!

Print them, place them on your refrigerator, and plan out a week of nutritious suhoors and iftars!

Conclusion

The decision to fast while breastfeeding should be considered carefully, as fasting may affect the three factors that alter milk supply:

  • Adequate calories
  • Adequate water intake
  • Nursing frequencies

 

The nutritional needs of babies differ depending on which stage of breastfeeding they are in. To support breastfeeding mothers who decide to fast, the article discussed five guidelines:

  1. Drinking a lot of water during non-fasting hours
  2. Having suhoor smoothie
  3. Consuming a balanced iftar meal
  4. Having post-iftar snack
  5. Taking a daily prenatal supplement

 

May Allah SWT fill this Ramadan with Barakah for you and guide you towards the right decision, ameen!  Download your FREE Ramadan Mealplan and get ready for Iftar & Suhoor Success!

References

  1. Dieterich, C. M., Felice, J. P., O’Sullivan, E., & Rasmussen, K. M. (2013). Breastfeeding and health outcomes for the mother-infant dyad. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 60(1), 31.
  2. Rashid, Harunor. “Ramadan fasting and breast milk.” Breastfeeding Medicine 2.1 (2007): 59-60.
2 Comments
  • Sharmila Ibrahim Habibullah
    Posted at 05:54h, 22 May Reply

    Excellent article, thank you so much. I realized I am doing everything wrong as I am trying to breastfeed my 7 months-old baby and fasting all at the same time.. Thank you again, may Allah reward you and help me implement your ideas.

    • Admin
      Posted at 00:23h, 26 May Reply

      Salam Sharila! Thank you for your comments and we’re glad to hear it was a beneficial read! It can feel overwhelming to try and make a lot of changes so feel free to take it one day at a time and focus on what you’re doing right instead of wrong. Ramadan Mubarak! 🙂

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