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Many people around the world follow fasting as an integral part of their religion and culture. Every person has a different perception towards following their religion and adhering to its norms. If you wish to balance out your motherhood duties while keeping your religious sentiments intact, the good news is, you may do so. Many religious scholars believe that women in pregnancy and breastfeeding stages should be allowed some leverage in fasting. If you have concerns about fasting during breastfeeding, this article will help you make an informed decision.
Is it Safe to Fast While Breastfeeding?
Are you wondering if fasting and breastfeeding is a safe combination? Yes, it is safe to fast while breastfeeding. Your body will produce enough milk to satiate your baby. This happens because your body tunes to the new way of burning calories to produce milk. Rather your body is capable of producing milk for your baby even if you do not eat anything for 24 hours. Fasting for a day or so does not hamper the quality or quantity of the breast milk that you make; however, fasting for longer durations or for more days at a stretch may affect breastfeeding. Sometimes prolonged fasting may also result in premature weaning. You may discuss with your doctor if you have concerns regarding fasting and breastfeeding.
What Does Religion Say?
Fasting holds great religious importance in most cultures, but when it comes to pregnant and breastfeeding women, most religions are very flexible. Here’s what some of the major religions say:
- Hinduism: In Hinduism, fasting is extremely flexible when it comes to breastfeeding mothers. The elders in the family may ask you not to fast if you are breastfeeding.
- Islam: You are exempted from fasting while breastfeeding in Islam. However, it is believed that you may have to compensate by fasting later for the missed fasts.
- Christianity: Christians observe fasting in the form of Lent. Christianity does not follow staunch rules when it comes to fasting while breastfeeding. You need not fast, but you may follow or practice a different kind of penance, such as you may give up on eating your favourite food during the period of Lent.
- Judaism: If you are Jewish, then you may be required to observe a fast while breastfeeding, though there is scope for flexibility and not very strict rules on it.
Impacts of Fasting When Breastfeeding
Fasting for a day or two does not impact your breastfeeding. Though, it is seen that longer periods of fasting, such as during Ramadan, may impact breastfeeding. You may notice the impact in the following ways:
- On Breast Milk Supply: The fat content in the breast milk is different for every mom, and it may also keep varying in a single mom, over a period of time. Therefore, if you are fasting for days at a stretch, the fat amount in your breast milk may vary a little bit, but it will not reduce the quantity of your milk. Your body is smart enough to use the stored fat to make milk for your baby. It is important to provide good nutrition to your body whenever you eat after a fast, to restore the lost nutrients. If you are healthy, fasting does not hamper the growth of your baby.
- On Breastfeeding Mother: Your body adjusts well to fasting. Studies prove that the chemical balance of a mother who observes fasting and one who does not observe fasting was more or less the same. This proves that your body will function in a similar manner when you fast as compared to when you do not fast. You may lose some weight from fasting, but that is very normal. However, if you feel that you are losing weight rapidly (more than 0.5 kilograms to 1 kilogram in a week); you should stop fasting and seek medical help. Fasting should also be stopped if you feel dizzy, develop a severe headache, pass dark coloured urine, or feel weak or tired. You should take lots of fluids and rest. If you keep feeling sick, you may need medical help.
- On Your Baby: Fasting while breastfeeding has no impact on your baby. Your body keeps producing enough milk to meet the chid’s requirements. The quality or quantity of your breast milk does not change if you fast for a day. However, if you notice your baby is not gaining enough weight or has lost weight, is not satisfied after the feeding sessions, or you notice fewer wet nappies, it could be a sign that your baby is not getting enough breast milk. You should then consult your doctor and decide the way forward accordingly.
Tips for Making Fasting Easier While Nursing
If you plan to fast while you are breastfeeding, you need to follow some tips that will make fasting easier for you:
- A Healthy Diet: It is very important that you consume a good diet, whenever you eat before or after a fast. You may not be eating certain foods while you are fasting; therefore, it will be a good idea to substitute them effectively. Keeping your nutrition quotient high even before fasting will not only act as an energy bank for you, but it will also provide enough nutrition to your growing baby. Therefore, include high-carb and protein-rich foods before and after the fast with plenty of fluids throughout the day.
- Keep Your Body Hydrated: Dehydration can cause a lot of complications. Therefore, it is very important to keep yourself well-hydrated if you are fasting. If there is a limitation of drinking water during the fast, then it is recommended that you consume ample amounts of liquids before and after the fast is over. Breastfeeding may also make you feel extremely thirsty; therefore, drink enough water and other fluids, whenever you can.
- Rest: It is also advised that you do not exert yourself when you are observing a fast. Exertion can lead to low energy levels and a feeling of lethargy. Therefore, rest as much as you can and keep your energy stored.
- Finish Your Chores Beforehand or Postpone Them: If you have major chores such as getting groceries from the supermarket, fetching laundry from the dry cleaner, etc., you should do it a day prior. If that is not possible, it is a good idea to postpone that task. Unnecessary exertion may drain you of your energy.
- Keep a Tab on Your Baby’s Health: Your fasting may not affect the health of your baby, but it is good to keep an eye on your baby. If you notice fewer wet nappies, any change in your baby’s poop colour, weight loss or other health issues, you may consult your doctor for the same.
Usually, fasting doesn’t cause complications for you or your baby while breastfeeding. However, if your baby is less than 6 months of age or is exclusively on your milk, you should consult your doctor about fasting.