DOHA: Breastfeeding mothers fasting during Ramadan are advised by healthcare experts to compensate by paying extra attention to their dietary intake and avoid fasting if they have medical conditions.
The recommendation by the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is based on global studies to investigate effects of Ramadan fasting, which have revealed fascinating lessons to help breastfeeding mothers keep themselves and their babies in optimal health, according to Clinical Associate and Certified Lactation Consultant, Breastfeeding Resource Center, Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department at Al Khor Hospital, Dr Mohammed Ilyas Khan.
“In one study in the UAE at Muwajihi Primary Health Care Clinic, milk samples were taken from healthy breastfeeding mothers during and after Ramadan.
“It was discovered that fasting did not significantly affect the level of macro-nutrients needed in large quantities for growth and energy, and include proteins, carbohydrates and fat.
“Fasting affected the level of micro-nutrients, such as magnesium, zinc and potassium, but these are only needed in small quantities,” said Dr Khan.
He said that breast milk is incredibly resilient and can retain its major nutrients during fasting and it is crucial to maintain the same breastfeeding pattern during Ramadan to give the baby a sense of continuity and rhythm.
However, if the mother chooses to fast, it is important that she replenish her nutrients with a balanced diet encompassing all major food groups when she breaks fast each day, and revert to her normal eating habits immediately after Ramadan.
To protect their health during Ramadan, Dr Khan said it is vital that breastfeeding mothers stay hydrated through a regular intake of healthy fluids.
“Once the baby gets used to a feeding pattern, the mother should avoid upsetting that pattern.
“They should ensure their milk volume and feeding frequency are as close to normal as possible, by consuming plenty of fluids and a healthy diet.
“We should make more efforts to support women who are fasting, especially during Ramadan. Proper rest, a healthy diet and a strong support network, along with remembrance of Allah, are essential to maintain the well-being of mothers who are breastfeeding while fasting,” Dr Khan added.