Ramadan is the ninth lunar month in the Islamic calendar. Fasting in this month is one of the five pillars of Islam. Performing fast during Ramadan is obligatory for all Muslims.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be exempted from fasting if they feel that their health or the baby’s health would be negatively affected by the fasting. The mother, however, will have to compensate for the missed fasting at a later date or pay some expiation for not fasting.
The human body has natural regulatory mechanisms that activate during fasting. There is efficient utilization of body fat and basal metabolism slows down during Ramadan fasting. Studies have shown that there is no significant difference on macronutrient composition of breast milk and consequently has no effect on the growth of infants.
Tips for breastfeeding during Ramadan
The most significant difference in the month of Ramadan is the time to eat. Mothers who usually eat breakfast, lunch and evening meals should instead eat during dawn and after their fast is broken in the evening. We have listed a few practical hints you can follow to supply the maximum amount of balanced nutrition for both you and your child during Ramadan:
- Increase fluid intake between fasts.
- Go for a balanced diet
When fasting, liquid is reduced to as much as 2-3% in the body. The human body adjusts to reduce perspiration and urine production. Drink sufficient water (not soft-drinks) especially in the morning before resuming your fast. This helps to avoid dehydration.
Eating nutritious food at dawn and during iftar (breaking fast) is important. Try to include the following food in your meal plan:
- Meat and beans are a good source of protein, minerals, and certain vitamins. Beans are a good source of dietary fibre too.
- Whole wheat bread, oat cereal or cooked rice are a good source of complex carbohydrates, and help nourish your body with energy, protein, minerals and dietary fibre.
- Fresh fruits, vegetable juices and soups help maintain liquid balance in the body.
- Milk and dairy products are good sources of protein and calcium, which are essential for body tissue maintenance and several physiological functions.
Note: The body’s immediate need at the time of iftar is to get instant energy for body functioning. Don’t forget to take dates as they are good sources of sugar. Three to four dates should be sufficient to bring low blood glucose levels to normal levels.
The milk production will not be affected as long as the infant continues breastfeeding.
- Increase nursing sessions during night time.
- Have regular milk expressing sessions at work place to maintain milk production.
- Psychologically, the belief that breast milk will remain smooth during fasting should also remain strengthened. This is a big influence on milk production.
Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coke, coffee or tea. Besides being a diuretic, a sudden decrease in caffeine also can prompt headache, mood swings and irritability.
Author’s Note: The author is contributing this article to Positive Parenting as she is keen to provide evidence-based information to parents. However, as a baby-food company is a sponsor of Positive Parenting, the author has declined to accept any payment for this article from Positive Parenting as she is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and is bound by the Code of Ethics to not accept any kind of support from baby food companies.