Tuesday, 15 July 2014

To Fast Or Not To Fast... While Breastfeeding???

Fasting and breastfeeding at the same time was something that worried me at first and a lot of people I know are unsure of what to do or worried about it so I thought I'd share my experiences.

Since Ramadan is in the middle of summer at the moment and we have to fast around 18 hours here in the UK, it seems a long time to go without eating or drinking when I am losing a lot to a hungry baby at the same time.

I was also worried about the Islamic rulings as I had been given conflicting advice and read a range of differing opinions online. Should I:

a) not even consider fasting at all and feed 30 poor people instead
b) not even consider fasting at all and make up the 30 days during shorter winter days or wait until I had stopped breastfeeding, by which time I'd have at least 60 days to make up.
c) do the above and feed poor people in addition to making up the fasts

d) try to fast some days and feed poor people for the days I missed
e) try to fast some days and make up the days I didn't fast

f) try to fast some days and make up the days I didn't fast as well as feeding poor people

From what I understand there is some allowance for breastfeeding mothers in Islam (just like there would be for someone who's ill for example, or travelling). However, knowing which scenario to follow was extremely confusing, especially as the method for deciding whether to try fasting or not seems to be whether you fear the fasting will hurt you/your unborn/breastfeeding child or not. It seems that if you ARE fearful it is haram (forbidden) to fast but it you are NOT fearful it is haram not to fast! Obviously I don't want to be doing something haram in Ramadan but having never had a baby before and not being a doctor how on earth am I supposed to know if I am fearful of him being hurt by fasting or not??

After reading articles such as this one I decided it would be a bad idea to try to fast the whole of Ramadan whilst pregnant. However, I didn't want to miss out completely so I fasted a few days and never two consecutively. I was about 4 months pregnant and I think I did mainly alternate days. The next Ramadan I was exclusively breastfeeding a 7 month old baby and, alhamdulillah I managed to fast 20. This Ramadan I am still breastfeeding my 19 month old but not exclusively by now obviously, and he eats plenty of food and water in addition to breast milk. Therefore I have fasted every day so far alhamdulillah. The 20 days I missed in the two previous Ramadans I made up last winter when the days were nice and short! (Not all at once though!).

In my opinion the MOST IMPORTANT THING is not to put yourself or your baby at risk, but AT THE SAME TIME, to me it is also important to TRY YOUR BEST. Alhamdulillah my baby and I are both in good health and I make sure I get enough to eat and drink and so does he. Between iftaar and suhur I try to drink 5 or 6 mugs of water, I eat 2 small meals and one big one (so I'm still getting my standard breakfast/lunch/dinner) and I would not fast if I started to feel unwell or if I felt my milk supply decrease while by baby was still dependent on it etc. I also try to have naps during the afternoon when I can and I take as much leave off work as I can (I only work part time 3 days a week so this year I've just worked 2 days a week during Ramadan, and the two years before now I've taken the whole month off, alhamdulillah I'm lucky being able to as a teacher since it's fallen in the summer holidays).

Eating, drinking and sleeping enough is essential as I have found out today.  With this routing, alhamdulillah, you may not believe me but so far I have found it EASY!! Seriously, I've barely felt hungry or thirsty at all, even on the days that I work from 7am - 6.30pm. However, Yesterday morning I accidentally missed suhur and found today much much harder. I felt tired and completely lacking in energy, and by about 2pm started to feel thirsty too. It really made me think about those people in the world who can't afford to eat and drink properly on a daily basis, and live in hot climates too. I don't know how they cope, may God have mercy on them.

To conclude, I feel it is important for each person to research the rules and then make an honest judgement about their personal situation and whether to fast all, some or none. But try not to stress about it too much because as I said, I really have found it (relatively) easy this year despite it being the height of summer with 19-hour long days!

Please let me know your experiences of fasting while pregnant or breastfeeding - what decision did you make and why?

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