The average muslim woman does not like to miss a single day of fasting during Ramadan. Even though Allaah has given us the chance not to fast while menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding, the feeling of fasting during the blessed month cannot be compared to paying missed fast later. It is not uncommon to see women attending the gyne emergency room, complaining of something, but on further investigation, all they actually wanted was a drug to stop or delay their menses, so that they can complete their fasting!
Breastfeeding is a little more tricky. You really want to continue breastfeeding, and you also really want to fast. There are differences in the opinion of scholars on how to make up for the missed fasts, but nothing is more convenient than just fasting in order to avoid the debate, if you can. You have to listen to your body and to your doctor. If you cannot combine these two rewarding acts, then choose breastfeeding and pay your fast later. If your baby is old enough to be weaned, go for it. If you qualify for fasting while you continue breastfeeding, that’s awesome!
As a breastfeeding advocate and counsellor, with personal experience breastfeeding my three kids, I have some knowledge and experience on how to fast easily while breastfeeding. I support exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, nothing can change that. Last year, I fasted for 29 days while breastfeeding my baby and this year, I still fasted while breastfeeding the same little boy, lol. So, I have put together a few tips on how to enjoy your breastfeeding journey during Ramadan without missing a single fast…
*TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
This is particularly important if your baby is less than 6 months and you are passionate about breastfeeding him exclusively. He doesn’t have any other source of nutrition except you. So, you must be intentional about your own nutrition and other aspects of self care. You will need some more calories to cater for your baby’s needs. Make sure you are getting enough amount of healthy foods, especially whole grains, nuts, vegetables, fruits and plenty of water. Sleep well and engage in regular exercises to boost your fitness.
*INTRODUCE SUPPLEMENTARY FOODS EARLY.
You can start from 5-6 months, when your baby starts showing cues that he is ready to eat. Start with different cereals with milk or yogurt, pureed vegetables and fruits (potatoes, carrot, banana, mango, etc). Add a little bit of nuts, fish, egg and chicken. Move on to solid foods by sharing your family meals with him. If you are struggling with a picky eater, you have to get creative and explore different options and methods of presenting the foods until you discover what he really likes.
*LET HIM DIG INTO THE FOOD
Some children prefer to use their hands to eat by themselves. And guess what? This is actually better for them because it helps to develop their pincer grasp and eye-hand coordination. From 8 to 9 months, give them a baby-friendly plate and gradually introduce different types of foods and finger snacks. Yes, they will make a mess and you will need to do the extra job of cleaning up. But, the more they learn to eat independently, the less they become dependent on breastmilk, and the easier for you to fast without passing out!
*EAT LOTS OF OATS
I learnt this trick during the early days of my last baby when my milk wasn’t coming in well. Oatmeal keeps you fuller for longer, and at the same time, increases your milk supply. Eating oats for sahoor will be a good idea. Add milk, yogurt, peanut butter, date syrup, or enjoy with some diced apples. You can also use oats to create your own lactation cookies at home or buy packaged ones from stores.
I have mentioned the importance of social support for nursing mothers in many of my writings. For mothers who wish to breastfeed successfully while they continue fasting, family support becomes even more important. When you start feeling the pangs of hunger, you can leave the baby with your spouse, older children or grandparents, get some rest while they distract him with play and snacks. You may also employ the service of a nanny if possible.
If eating an extra plate of oatmeal does not help, you may also try taking a multivitamin capsule to ensure that the level of nutrients in your body is just right. If you fear that your baby is not eating enough food besides breastmilk, and he is above 1 year old, you should also consider giving him supplements, especially iron and vitamin D.
May Allaah ease our affairs and make our children the coolness of our eyes. Aameen.