Is it safe to fast during the period of lactation? Here are some tips to follow.
By Dr Seema Khanna
Yes, it is safe to fast during the period of lactation. The body will produce enough milk to satiate your baby. This happens because your body attunes to the new way of burning calories to produce milk. Navratri fasting is a very liberal kind of fasting. A lot of high carb foods and a combination of proteins (dairy) with vitamins and minerals are usually consumed. The intake of water during fasting should be increased to 2.5-3 litres per day to avoid dehydration in mothers.
However, mothers who have a problem of sugar metabolism should avoid fasting or consult the doctor to prevent health issues. Short-term fasting will not decrease milk supply, but long-term may decrease milk production. Fasting for a day or two does not impact breastfeeding, but longer periods may impact on breast milk supply. Fasting at a stretch may decrease the fat content in breast milk and may also reduce the quality of milk. Long-term fasting may result in a hypoglycemic effect, inducing headaches, while mothers may also lose weight rapidly, feel dizzy, pass dark coloured urine, feel tired and need medical help.
Tips to make fasting easier for nursing mothers:
* Eat a healthy diet after breaking fast, by including all food groups to keep your nutrition quotient high.
* Keep your body hydrated. Consume ample amounts of liquid before and after the fast as breastfeeding makes you feel extremely thirsty.
* Do not exert yourself. Exertion can lead to low energy levels but proper rest can keep your energy stored.
* Finish your chores beforehand, such as buying groceries, laundry, cooking, etc. This is because unnecessary exertion can dehydrate your body.
The following food items should make up a major part of your diet. Frequently consuming these can help in maintaining your nutritional state.
Fresh fruit juices provide vitamin, minerals and keep you hydrated and refreshed. They also cleanse your body removing toxins.
Milk & Milk Products
These are packed with calcium and protein and help in completing your body’s protein and allied requirements.
High carb foods
They provide instant energy. Foods like potatoes (better to be eaten in boiled form instead of fried, as it adds up calories), sweet potato, khichdi, chestnut flour, Sama rice kheer, buch wheat flour.
Nuts & Raisins
They provide minerals like potassium, iron, calcium, proteins and fibre. Nuts can be consumed by adding them in kheer.
Fruits & Raw Veggies
Fruits like banana, papaya, watermelon help you to cope with empty stomach gastritis.
This concludes that short-term and liberal fasting with intermittent food breaks can be undertaken by nursing mothers. On the other hand, long-term fasting should be avoided. You can consult your nutritionist in case you observe depreciating health conditions.
(The writer is a consultant nutritionist.)
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