Can I Fast For Ramadan If I’m Breastfeeding? What You Need To Know

If you’re breastfeeding this Ramadan then you might be curious to know if it’s healthy for you to fast. While Muslim scholars in general allow breastfeeding people to be exempt from fasting, it’s ultimately up to you.

However, it’s important to know what is right medically when it comes to fasting while breastfeeding. This includes what you need to do to prepare for fasting so that your baby still stays hydrated from your breast milk.

Registered dietician Fareeha Jay says that breast milk gives your baby the nutrients that promote their growth and health. Therefore, breastfeeding mums need to ensure that they are getting adequate nutrition during Ramadan.

She says: “Usually, eating an additional 300 to 400 calories daily is recommended to keep the women energised and produce enough milk. Hunger levels are high for breastfeeding parents anyway; therefore, they need to make sure that they are getting a nutrient-dense diet to keep them energised but also to maintain the supply of their breast milk.”

What should you eat for Iftar?

Fareeha advises mums to plan eating extra calories between Iftar and Suhoor, although the meals should be based on a well-balanced and healthy variety.

Breastfeeding parents should divide five fruits and vegetables between Suhoor and Iftar, including starchy foods mainly based around whole grains such as whole meal bread, rice, and pasta, recommends the dietician.

“Breastfeeding parents should aim to include protein such as lentils, beans, tofu, fish, eggs, lamb, chicken, milk cheese, and yoghurt in both Suhoor and Iftar. Including protein will help maintain muscle mass and provide adequate nutrition for the baby.

“Not having enough may lead to nutrient deficiency, low energy, and low milk production.”

Though some people can maintain a fast without Suhoor, for breastfeeding parents Fareeha does not recommend this. Suhoor is the time to replenish food stores and skipping it might have an impact on energy and milk supply.

Fareeha recommends adding multivitamins to your diet if you are unable to have all the nutrients in the short space of time.

Are there any risks of fasting while breastfeeding?

If parents are breastfeeding they usually experience an increased water loss due to milk secretion, explains Fareeha.

This can be around 700ml of water loss which puts mums at high risk of dehydration.

She recommends to aim to drink at least two litres of water per day. If you’re feeling thirsty and passing urine frequently, depending on the colour of your urine it could be an indicator of dehydration. With this in mind, always keep an eye out for any symptoms.

Fareeha says: “Apart from water, to keep themselves hydrated, they can include fruit juices, milk, and yoghurt, as well as fruit and vegetables that provide high water content, such as watermelon, strawberries, or citrus fruit. Gravies and soups will also help in hydration. Caffeine should be avoided as it is a diuretic but may also interfere with the baby’s sleep.”

Ramadan fasts are exempt for breastfeeding mums and parents can always make up for missed fasts later in the year, explains Fareeha.

“It is absolutely up to them if they want to fast or not, making the decision based on how they feel during fasts, but they can also discuss it with a healthcare professional. For some, it may be easy. For others, it may be highly challenging and can impact their day-to-day activities, making them dehydrated and affecting the milk supply. If Ramadan fasts are causing harm to the mother’s body, it is advised not to fast.”

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