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The Imam's Daughter

Fasting for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers

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When Ramadan comes around, those of us that are Pregnant or Nursing are debating whether to Fast or not, and want to know the Islamic View in this issue, as well as modern scientific information. The answer is - it depends - on several issues. If you decide not to fast, you also want to know how to make it up and if there is any payment involved. After quoting the Islamic info from Fiqh Us Sunnah, i have put my own advice and tips.
 
From Fiqh Us Sunnah by Sayyid Sabiq:

Volume 3, Page 107a: The Virtues of Fasting : The fast is a shield. If one is fasting, he should not use foul language, raise his voice, or behave foolishly. If someone reviles him or fights with him he should say, 'I am fasting,' twice. The one who is fasting is happy at two times: when he breaks his fast he is happy with it, and when he meets his Lord he will be happy that he has fasted." This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and an-Nasa'i. A similar version was recorded by al-Bukhari and Abu Dawud, but with the following addition: "He leaves his food, drink, and desires for My sake. His fasting is for Me... I will give the reward for it, and for every good deed, he will receive ten similar to it."

'Abdullah ibn 'Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "The fast and the Qur'an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: 'O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.' The Qur'an will say: 'I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.' And their intercession will be accepted." Ahmad related this hadith with a sahih chain.

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah said: "No servant fasts on a day in the path of Allah except that Allah removes the hellfire seventy years further away from his face." This is related by "the group," except for Abu Dawud.

Volume 3, Page 115: Essential elements of fasting, those who are permitted to break the fast, but who must pay a "ransom" for not fasting : There is a hadith that states: "Allah has relieved the travelers of fasting and half of the prayer, and the pregnant and the breast-feeding women of the fast."According to the Hanafiyyah, Abu Ubaid, and Abu Thaur, such women are only to make up the missed days of fasting, and they are not supposed to feed one poor person a day.

According to Ahmad and ash-Shaf'i, if such women fear only for the baby, they must pay the "ransom" and make up the days later. If they fear only for themselves or for themselves and the baby, then they are only to make up the missed days at a later date.

Volume 3, Page 120: Those who must make up the missed days : The scholars agree that it is obligatory for menstruating women and women with postchildbirth bleeding to break the fast and to make up the missed days later on. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that 'Aishah said: "When we would have our menses during the lifetime of the Prophet, we were ordered to make up the days of fasting that we had missed but were not ordered to make up the prayers that we had missed.

Summary: Pregnant, Breastfeeding, Menstruating, or women with postchildbirth bleeding who fear of themselves or for the baby must make up the missed days of Ramadan. Following Abu Hanifa, if you fear only for the baby, you must pay the fidya in addition to making up the days missed. Following the other schools of thought – you don’t have to pay in any case.

As for assessing the “fear” – I have talked to some doctors and this is my opinion:

Pregnant:  (for those who have a low risk pregnancy and are healthy otherwise)

         1st trimester or 9th month – high risk so you fear for the baby:  fasting not recommended but possible, see advice below.

         2nd trimester through 8th month – low risk so the only fear is that continuous fasting may harm you and the baby: fast as much as you can, breaking once, twice, or three times a week, depending on how you are feeling or how much fear you have.

Breastfeeding:

  • Fact: Fasting does not affect the quality of your milk. When you nurse your body will take what it needs from your food and then from your own body so if you don't eat well, you will be physically affected but not your milk quality.
  • Infant exclusively breastfed: moderate risk of decreased milk supply, depending on your eating and drinking habits: fast a few days a week, monitor your supply and if you feel it is decreasing then take a day or two break.                                                                   

          Infant eating solids 6 mo+: low risk: fast normally. But if you feel that your milk supply is decreasing too much then take a break one day a week. If there is a small decrease in milk supply, just increase solids/formula/or yogurt drink.

          Infant to toddler: no risk – if the milk supply decreases just increase solids / cow milk.

Advice for those above with a moderate to high risk:

1-       You must eat well at Suhoor and after Iftar time. Eat a variety of foods and limit the sweets which are empty calories that fill you up with no room left for more nutritious food. Eat a good size snack before bed to make up for missing lunch.

2-       You must drink very well at Suhoor and Iftar time since the water is a main issue. If you cannot do this, then you are increasing your risk and therefore increasing the fear of harm to yourself and/or the baby. Decaf or Herb tea is a tricky way to get some liquid in if you have trouble forcing yourself to drink 2 glasses of water at Suhoor time. Drink one glass of water when you first wake up, then drink a cup of tea with the breakfast, then drink another glass of water before the Imsak time. Keep a water bottle with you all evening and drink frequently.

3-       Eat dates – they have many vitamins, minerals, protein, calcium and are known to make a good milk supply. Take a multivitamin if it will make you feel better and more safe.

Experiences of my Mommy Friends

Several of my Mommy Friends have fasted during Ramadan when their infants were younger than 6 months and were exclusively breastfed. They all said there was very little change in the milk supply. Some gave their child a little extra water. By the end of Ramadan, they all said the same thing: "I don't think I could not have fasted one more day." It definately was tiring, but do-able.

This article by Mona Eid.