UAE doctor advises nursing mothers on fasting
Dubai, July 31, 2011
A UAE-based obstetrician has offered some important advice for breastfeeding mothers who wish to fast during Ramadan.
Dr Wafa Sulaiman Al Nasseri, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Dubai’s Medcare Hospital, is using World Breastfeeding Week, which this year coincides with the start of the Holy Month, to draw attention to what she says is an important issue and to offer support to nursing mothers who are keen to fulfil their religious obligations by participating in the annual holy observance.
“A nursing mother’s needs for energy and nutrients are far more critical than those of women who are healthy, who are not lactating and who are not pregnant,” she said.
“If a breastfeeding mother restricts her food and fluid intake during the day without compensating for it in the evening, there is a possibility of health complications for both the mother and the breastfed child. This can occur because the energy and nutrient requirements for both are not met, so it is important to follow certain guidelines when fasting to ensure that there is no harm to either mother or infant,” she added.
Dr Al Nasseri says that breastfeeding mothers can still participate safely in fasting during Ramadan providing they ensure that they drink plenty of fluids and maintain a good nutritional intake after sunset and before sunrise. She cited research that revealed how an inadequate fluid intake could lead dehydration, which in turn affects the volume of breast milk that is produced.
“There have been a number of studies on short-term fasting and breastfeeding and these have revealed that dehydration affects milk volume, which is normally around 23-27 ounces of milk per day.”
“In one study, the researchers noted that the women compensated for this by drinking plenty of water overnight, which appeared to diminish their daytime dehydration. I would therefore recommend that nursing mothers ensure that they drink at least two litres between periods of daytime fasting,” she added.
Dr Al Nasseri advises that nursing mothers should consume around 2,500 calories during the non-fasting period, with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and protein as the main sources of nutrition. She also suggests taking a supplemental vitamin and mineral pill to offset any reduction in nutrient intake caused by the daytime abstinence.
“In addition to drinking plenty of fluids, it is also important to ensure an adequate diet after Iftar and before Suhoor,” she said.
“The basic rule for protein is to eat one gram for every pound that the mother weighs, as this will maximise the mineral and nutrient content of the breast milk. Some studies have shown that nursing mothers have low levels of folic acid and zinc. Folic acid is important for the baby’s developing immune system and zinc is vital to boost their immunity. Taking a multi-vitamin and mineral pill can help counteract any such deficiencies,” she added.
Although fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and should be undertaken by those who are physically able, Dr Nasseri says that Muslim women who are breastfeeding may be exempt if they feel that their health or the baby's health would be adversely affected.
She advises nursing mothers to discuss their individual situation with their doctor if they are in any way concerned.
“Mothers who are breastfeeding come under the category of those who may be excused fasting if they are worried about their own welfare or that of their infant,” she said.
“Health concerns are unique for each individual woman's circumstances, particularly if they have other medical conditions that may complicate the issue, so it is important for them to consult their doctor and their religious advisor if they feel that they might have an issue that precludes them from fasting. Ultimately, It is important to ensure their and their child’s health and if necessary, they can compensate for any missed fasting at a later time,” she added. – TradeArabia News Service