Water Fasting while Breastfeeding

In many religious practices, water fasting can be a part of their traditional rituals. While many people choose to fast during these days, you can’t help but wonder if it’s still something that you can do while breastfeeding. So here’s a quick guide that experts shared for lactating moms about fasting.

So is it okay to do water fasting while breastfeeding? Generally, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are exempted from fasting. This is because most religions recognize a mother’s need to produce enough breast milk for her child. If, in any case, the mother chooses to fast from food, it is advised to at least hydrate herself regularly during breaks to safeguard her health and her baby’s wellbeing.

The effect of fasting on a breastfeeding mother will also vary depending on a number of factors. This would include your baby’s age and health status. Here’s some additional information about water fasting for nursing moms.

Religious sectors view on fasting while breastfeeding

Many religious sectors consider that breastfeeding mothers have special needs to ensure the wellbeing of their babies. Here are some of the renowned religious sectors and their own views on fasting while breastfeeding:

Roman Catholic Church

In view of fasting, Catholics are encouraged to lessen or modify their eating habits from the ordinary way. This will be subjected to people who are 18 to 60 years of age. There is no specific guideline as to the amount of water to be taken while fasting. However, they give special consideration to those who are sick, the people beyond the age limit, those who suffer from mental illnesses and, of course, the pregnant and breastfeeding women who need nourishment to ensure their baby’s wellbeing.

Muslim

Similarly, there is no specific guideline pertaining to water fasting. Typically, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may choose not to fast if they think their baby and their condition makes it unfavorable to fast or if a change in their diet can affect them negatively. The mom also has the option to repay the missed fasting at a later date when it will be more comfortable for her to participate in fasting.

Latter-day Saint

Nursing mothers may reasonably miss fasting. They also consider that not everyone can alter their diet due to some personal situations.

Orthodox Christian 

Those who are pregnant and breastfeeding are always an exemption in their law of fasting. Should they choose to limit their food consumption, it would be less risky to simply decrease the amount of food that they consume for only two days for a week. Meanwhile, proper consumption of food and fluids must be granted.

Will water fasting while I’m breastfeeding harm my baby?

According to some studies, short-term fasting is less likely to affect a mother’s milk supply. The breastfeeding mom’s body seems to undergo physiological adaptation to maintain breast milk production while the mother is temporarily limiting herself in terms of food and fluid consumption. However, severe dehydration has been found to decrease milk supply. Changes in breast milk composition have also been noted while breastfeeding mothers who have been short-term fasting. Some of the altered breast milk components are magnesium, zinc, and potassium.

Water fasting while breastfeeding has no direct effect on the baby, except in severe cases when the mother will be dehydrated. The quantity of breast milk doesn’t change if the mom chooses to fast for a day. However, mothers who are fasting must be extra vigilant and observe their baby while they restrict themselves from food and water. Here are the symptoms to watch out for your infant:

  • An unusually reduced amount of wet diapers
  • Your baby is not gaining weight 
  • Your baby seems to be irritable while feeding

These are indicators that your baby is not receiving the right amount of milk, and you’ll need to see your pediatrician evaluate your baby’s health.

Will fasting while breastfeeding harm my health?

According to some research studies, fasting has little to no effect on breastfeeding as long as it will be accomplished in a short duration of time. However, prolonging fasting may lead to micronutrient deficiency and decreased production of breast milk. 

Strict limitations in your diet, especially when done for a longer duration, will significantly decrease your caloric and nutrient intake. This is typically not good for your health. Since a decrease in the consumption of nutritious food decreases the quality of breast milk, it may also affect your baby’s overall health.

Studies show that mothers need to consume 1800-2200 calories per day to produce an ample amount of breast milk. This suggests that it is important for mothers to eat the right amount of food and nutrients not only to support their own needs, but also to safeguard their babies’ health. 

How do I look after myself while fasting?

Fasting needs commitment, but for breastfeeding mothers, it is double the time and effort. Breastfeeding moms should be aware that they are taking in nutrients and fluids for two separate individuals. Should they choose to fast, it is essential to be extra cautious and seek ways on how to do it properly to avoid or limit the negative impact on their health.

Here are some recommendations to consider:

Maintain a food track 

This ensures that you’re monitoring your fluid and food consumption. Listing down your eating habits may help you fast while maintaining a healthy diet. For example, you can choose to modify your regular diet into a smaller yet balanced portion of a meal.

Have ample time to rest during the day. 

Fasting will remove a number of calories from your diet, and this will affect your energy to perform daily tasks. Getting enough rest can help regain your strength and relax your mind, which is both good for your body and soul.

Do your exercise or heavy household tasks before fasting.

Activities that require more strength is better performed before you begin fasting. Once you limit yourself from food and water, it would already affect your energy and drive to perform your activities.

Seek consultation before fasting.

All of these guidelines may positively impact your health, but the most appropriate person to seek advice about fasting is your physician. It is better to allow your doctor to evaluate your health before you begin fasting of any form. 

When should I ask for help?

Fasting for too long may deplete your blood sugar levels because milk production requires a huge amount of sugar. Water is also a basic component of breast milk. Restricting fluids for a long time is not recommended for breastfeeding moms due to risk of dehydration.

In order to sustain your body’s needs, sugar and water loss should be replaced by eating enough nutritious food and consumption of fluids during breaks.

Some symptoms of low sugar levels and dehydration are almost the same. These include extreme thirst, feeling dizzy, dryness of the mouth and fatigue. If you feel any of these signs, never hesitate to seek medical consultation.

Apart from the signs mentioned above, any change in your baby’s breastfeeding pattern or health condition should be taken into consideration and reported to your pediatrician.

Overall, fasting for a short period of time may be allowed for breastfeeding moms, but sufficient hydration is needed to maintain their health and milk supply. If you are planning to do water fasting while breastfeeding, it should strictly be done under the guidance of a health professional to monitor your health and your baby’s wellbeing.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3401745/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19286839
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16732795

Leave a Reply