Doctors speak: Can lactating moms observe fast during Ramadan?

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Srinagar: Doctors have come up with revised guidance for lactating mothers on maintaining a balanced diet for optimal health during the holy month of Ramadan.

Recognizing the significance of this issue, medical experts emphasize the importance of maintaining a balanced diet during Sehri and Iftar for lactating mothers. Contrary to misconceptions, doctors assert that fasting need not significantly affect breastfeeding if mothers prioritize their nutritional intake.

Dr. Farhat Jabeen, a renowned gynecologist, told The Kashmir Monitor the importance of maintaining a balanced diet during Sehri (pre-dawn meal) and Iftar (breaking of the fast) for lactating mothers. Contrary to common misconceptions, she asserted that fasting should not significantly affect breastfeeding, provided mothers prioritize their nutritional intake.

She highlighted the flexibility within Islamic teachings regarding fasting obligations.“We do not tell breastfeeding mothers not to fast, but if fasting begins to impact breastfeeding, it is permissible to skip the fast and make it up later,” she said.

Dr. Jabeen’s advice is the emphasis on a nutrient-rich diet, particularly abundant in protein and calcium, essential for sustaining adequate milk production.

 Furthermore, she stressed the importance of maintaining proper hydration levels, especially during fasting hours, to ensure optimal breastfeeding outcomes. “Lactating mothers should take a diet which is rich in protein and calcium and should make sure of having adequate hydration,” she said.

Despite the spiritual significance of fasting during Ramadan, Dr. Jabeen encouraged mothers experiencing challenges with breast milk production to prioritize their and their infants’ health by seeking medical advice promptly. Consulting healthcare professionals can help address any underlying issues and ensure the well-being of both mother and child.

Dr. Rehana Rashid, Assistant Professor at Government Medical College, Baramulla, sheds light on the importance of nutritional supplementation for breastfeeding mothers during Ramadan, addressing prevalent cultural beliefs and emphasizing dietary considerations for optimal health.

She underscored the significance of providing additional iron and calcium supplements to breastfeeding mothers. She explains that calcium is secreted in the mother’s milk, necessitating adequate supplementation to maintain maternal and infant health.

Dr. Rehana reassures that lactating mothers can participate in fasting during Ramadan, with milk production primarily dependent on their nutritional intake status. However, she emphasizes the need for caution in cases of underlying medical conditions, where fasting may be deferred as advised by healthcare professionals.

“The lactating mothers can fast and their milk production depends on their nutrition intake status. If the mother goes through a medical condition, she can have the fast later on. To ensure good milk production for their babies they need to take a high protein diet with plenty of fluids and milk,” she said.

Addressing prevalent cultural taboos, particularly in Kashmir that mothers should consume only meat soup and bread for 40 days post-delivery, she recommends a balanced diet rich in natural vitamins, minerals, proteins, and calcium supplements to support maternal and infant well-being.

 “There is a Kashmiri taboo that mothers should eat just meat soup and bread for 40 days following her delivery, but I encourage that they take a good balanced diet so that they can acquire natural vitamins, minerals, and proteins, as well as calcium supplements,” she said.

She advised an additional intake of 400 kilocalories beyond the normal diet of lactating mothers. During Ramadan, she suggests dividing these calories between Sehri and Iftar, ensuring sustained energy levels throughout the fasting period.