Fasting is an integral part of several religions in the world. For many, it is a way to display their undeterred faith in the God they pray to. Hence, whether a person should fast or not is a deeply personal choice. But is intermittent fasting while breastfeeding safe? Restricting your calorie intake during nursing may impact your breast milk supply. Besides, eating less than recommended during lactation could affect your overall health. Hence, carefully consider the pros and cons of continuing fasting while nursing to ensure your and your child’s good health. So, read this article to know more about the safety of fasting when you are breastfeeding your baby.
What Does Religion Say About Fasting While Breastfeeding?
Most religions are flexible when it comes to fasting during breastfeeding. Here’s what the major religions have to say about the issue:
- If you are a Muslim and planning to fast during Ramadan, wait. According to Islamic law, a breastfeeding mother does not need to fast. But missed fasts must be compensated for at a later date (1).
- According to Jewish tradition, a breastfeeding woman is required to fast on Yom Kippur. But there is room for flexibility for individual cases (2).
- Hinduism is pretty flexible when it comes to fasting and breastfeeding. Most breastfeeding women are encouraged not to fast and ensure adequate nutrition for the baby.
- Nursing Catholic women are exempt from fasting during Lent (3). Women can offer other sacrifices like giving up eating their favorite food during Lent instead.
What Does Science Say?
There isn’t enough research to show how fasting can affect breastfeeding. But the studies done on the subject show that there is a marked difference in breastfeeding relation during fasting (4). The studies indicate that fasting can lead to premature weaning and an abrupt end to breastfeeding.
But these issues arise only after a prolonged period of fasting (like during Ramadan). But one-day fasting has no impact on breast milk.
How Does Fasting Impact Breast Milk:
The fat content in breast milk does not change when you fast for a day. But the same cannot be said for the longer duration of fasting. We already know that inadequate nutrition does not change the composition of breast milk (5). The same can happen while fasting. But fasting can lead to deficiency in other nutrition in breast milk.
Fasting For Breastfeeding Mothers – Impact:
If fasting leads to weight loss, it may be time to rethink your priorities. This is because breast milk will leach fat off your body to compensate for inadequate fat in your diet. This will lead to unhealthy weight loss. If you are looking to lose all that pregnancy weight, fasting is not the answer! It will just leave you malnourished.
Tips To Make Fasting Easier While Breastfeeding:
If you want to breastfeed and fast in tandem, you’ll need to keep a few points in mind:
1. A Good Breastfeeding Diet:
Make sure you are getting a good breastfeeding diet when you do eat. If you are cutting out a few specific food items, like meat, from your diet, compensate with supplements.
2. Drink As Much As You Can:
Breastfeeding can leave you thirsty. So, make sure you are getting enough fluids. This is important especially during summer months to avoid dehydration. If you can’t drink water while fasting, make sure to drink enough of it before and after your fasting period.
3. Postpone Heavy Chores:
If you can, try to postpone chores that take up a lot of energy for later.
4. Rest As Much As You Can:
Breastfeeding can be taxing. And if you are fasting, it can become doubly hard. So, rest when you can, as much as you can to keep your energy levels high.
5. Keep An Eye On Your Baby:
There is a slim chance that your baby may get less milk while you fast. So keep an eye on her. If you notice fewer wet nappies, greenish poop, weight loss, etc. talk to your doctor.
Flexible fasting for a day or two is highly unlikely to affect your and your nursing baby’s health. However, restrictive eating for a prolonged period during breastfeeding can lower your energy levels. Besides, it may affect your breast milk supply. Hence, intermittent fasting while breastfeeding is a decision you should take in consultation with your healthcare provider. Usually, nursing moms can try intermittent fasting when their babies eat solid foods and breastfeed. Staying hydrated throughout the day, eating well-balanced meals, and sufficient resting are a few ways to make fasting easier when breastfeeding.
- Ramadan health guide.
- Breastfeeding and Yom Kippur.
- Catholic Activity: Lenten Fasting and Abstinence Regulations.
- I O Ertem et al.; (2001); Attitudes and practices of breastfeeding mothers regarding fasting in Ramadan.
- Constituents of human milk.