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Religious Fasting and Breastfeeding Mothers who are diabetes or having other health problems, fasting could be extremely risky

Jun 24, 2014, 11:24 AM | Article By: Isatou Senghore

Muslim women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be exempt from fasting if they feel that their health or the baby’s health would be negatively affected by the fasting. The mother may be expected to compensate for the missed fasting at a later time or pay some expiation for not fasting.

The breastfeeding woman’s body appears to make several metabolic adaptations during short-term fasting to ensure that milk production is not affected.

 Mothers with babies aged 2-5 months who fasted during Ramadan (no food or fluids between 5:00 am and 7:30 pm)  that although infant growth and macro nutrient content of breast milk was not affected, levels of several nutrients in breast milk (zinc, magnesium and potassium) decreased and the nutritional status of the breastfeeding mothers was affected.

It would seem prudent to excuse lactating women from fasting during Ramadan. Women in West Africa who were fasting for Ramadan and found that milk volume was not affected but milk composition did change to a certain extent. The researchers noted that the women appeared to super hydrate themselves overnight when fluids were allowed to lessen daytime dehydration.

There are two risks to not drinking all day:

(1) Mom gets dehydrated, and (2) if the dehydration is severe enough milk supply can decrease. Mom’s dehydration is comparatively easy to deal with — if she feels thirsty (or urine gets very yellow, or she feels dizzy or ill) she needs to drink. The decrease in milk supply related to dehydration may be a bigger issue for some fasting mothers – some mothers have a hard time getting supply back up (this is often seen in mothers who don’t eat or drink due to illness). When a mother does not drink fluids for a day, baby generally nurses as usual the day of the fast, but often needs to nurse more often the next day or two.

Some mothers have found that drinking water on fast days is more of a need during the first six months when baby is exclusively breastfed (not taking any food or drink other than breast milk); once baby is older and taking other foods, it may be feasible to neither eat nor drink during the fast.

Specific guidelines

Keep in mind that mothers who have sugar metabolism problems (diabetes or hypoglycaemia) or other health problems, fasting could be risky (for mom). Consult both your doctor and your religious advisor if you feel that you might have health issues that preclude fasting.

Doctors recommended to exempts from fasting anyone whose health might be even a little harmed by it – this would include pregnant and nursing women whose health (or the health of her baby or foetus) might suffer from fasting. There may be ways of eating and drinking small increments that are still compatible with fasting

Muslim women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be exempt from fasting if they feel that their health or the baby’s health would be negatively affected by the fasting. The mother may be expected to compensate for the missed fasting at a later time or pay some expiation for not fasting.

Why is breastfeeding so tremendously vital for babies and their mothers?

Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.

Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

What are the benefits of Breastfeeding?

You may be familiar with the old adage, “breast is best.” Breastfeeding have certain advantages to nursing your baby. Here is a list of some of the ways breastfeeding can benefit you and your child.

Advantage 1 - Immunological Benefits

Studies have shown that babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life are less likely to develop ear and respiratory problems. Breastfed babies also had a lower incidence of gastrointestinal issues. The reason for this is that breast milk provides babies with key antibodies that help protect them from infection and disease.

Advantage 2 - Protection against Allergies

Research suggests that the fatty acids found in breast milk may help prevent infants from developing food and/or respiratory allergies. Certain studies also suggest that babies who were breastfed were less likely to develop asthma and eczema.

Advantage 3 - Brain Development

There is a connection between breastfeeding and higher IQs. Studies show that babies who were breastfed six months or longer had an advantage over formula-fed infants.

Advantage 4 - Childhood Obesity

Because breastfed infants are fed on demand, they are taught to stop eating when they are full. So babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from childhood obesity and less likely to become obese adults. Studies also suggest that food preferences may be passed on during nursing. Since a breastfeeding mother must consume a nutrient rich diet, breastfed infants are exposed to healthy foods early on in life.

Advantage 5 - Breastfeeding and Pre-Pregnancy Weight

Breastfeeding can help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. Your body needs a lot of energy to produce breast milk. So you can burn a lot of calories just by feeding your little one.

Advantage 6 - Bonding

Breastfeeding offers you a unique way to bond with your little baby. In fact, studies have shown that an infant’s suckling can actually release the hormone oxytocin that increases maternal affection and helps mothers build relationships with their newborns.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mum

Breastfeeding is a wonderful gift for you as well as your baby. Many mothers feel fulfilment and joy from the physical and emotional communion they experience with their child while nursing. These feelings are augmented by the release of hormones which produces a peaceful, nurturing sensation that allows you to relax and focus on your child, and promotes a strong sense of love and attachment between the two of you. These pleasant feelings may be one of the reasons so many women who have breastfed their first child choose to breastfeed the children who follow.

Health Benefits

Breastfeeding provides health benefits for mothers beyond emotional satisfaction. Mothers who breastfeed recover from childbirth more quickly and easily. One hormone released during breastfeeding, acts to return the womb to its regular size more quickly and can reduce postpartum bleeding. Studies show that women who have breastfed experience reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. Some studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Finally, exclusive breastfeeding delays the return of the mother’s menstrual period, which can help extend the time between pregnancies. (Exclusive breastfeeding can provide a natural form of contraception which only protect for 3 months only and longer than she will need an additional family planning method.

Are there cases in which it is better not to breastfeed?

In certain situations, health care providers may advise a woman not to breastfeed:

• A woman with certain health conditions, such as HIV or active tuberculosis, should not breastfeed because she risks giving the infection to her infant through her breast milk.

• Certain medicines, including some mood stabilizers and migraine medicines, can also pass through the breast milk and cause harm to the infant.

• Women with certain chronic illnesses may be advised not to breastfeed, or to take special steps to ensure their own health while breastfeeding. For example, women who have diabetes may need to eat slightly more food while they breastfeed, to prevent their blood sugar levels from dropping.

• omen who have had breast surgery in the past may face some difficulties in breastfeeding.

If a mother stops breastfeeding before the child is a year old, then she should feed her infant iron-fortified, commercially available formula. Health care providers advise women not to give their infants cow’s milk until the child is at least a year old.

If you have any health conditions, or you are taking any medications or over-the-counter supplements, you should discuss breastfeeding with your health care provider.

Breast Milk Facts

Breast milk is an amazing substance that cannot be duplicated by any artificial means 7,15 Unique in its composition and function, breast milk contains an ideal balance of nutrients that the infant can easily digest Changes over time, and even over the course of a day, to meet the changing needs of the growing child contains substances essential for optimal development of the brain, with effects on both cognitive and visual function9 supplies growth factors that combine to mature the infant gut provides the infant with immune factors manufactured to fight allergens and illnesses specific to the mother’s and infant’s environment

For the further information infant well fear Ministry of Health, All Governments’ Hospitals and health centres throughout the country, NGOs and private Clinics,  mail on azadehhassan@yahoo.co.uk,, or text on 7774469/3774469 on working days from 3-6pm.

 Author Dr Azadeh Senior Lecturer at the University of the Gambia west Africa, Senior Consultant in Obstetrics & Gynaecology