Sharjah: While breastfeeding mothers are not obliged to fast during Ramadan, especially if the mother fears it would affect her baby, a review of several studies undertaken worldwide to investigate the effects of fasting, has revealed that fasting does not negatively impact breastfeeding.

In a study conducted 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 macronutrients. Macronutients are nutrients needed in large quantities for growth and energy, such as proteins, carbohydrates and fat. However, fasting did affect the level of “micronutrients” such as magnesium, zinc and potassium, but these are by definition only needed in small quantities.

Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Director of the Executive Committee for the Sharjah Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign, remarked: “Breast-milk is incredibly resilient, and can retain its major nutrients even during fasting.”

She explained that no matter if the mother chooses to fast or not, It is crucial that she maintains the same breastfeeding pattern during Ramadan, to give the baby a sense of continuity and rhythm. Hessa explained that it is vital that breastfeeding mothers to stay hydrated, as they should ensure their milk volume and feeding frequency is as close to normal.

“If a mother chooses to fast, it’s vital that she replenish her nutrients with a balanced diet encompassing all the major food groups when she breaks her fast each day, and revert to her normal eating habits immediately after Ramadan.” Hessa added.

All studies concluded that breastfeeding mothers who are fasting during the holy month should compensate by paying extra attention to their dietary intake — and avoid fasting if they have medical conditions.

Mothers should not fast if they are taking medication, or suffer from serious conditions such as uncontrolled migraines, blood pressure problems and diabetes, experts said.