Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil thought she knew what a challenging fasting day was…until she became a mother and began nursing her baby.
I thought that my hardest Ramadans were the ones I spent in Jordan, as a young student of knowledge. The days were incredibly long, and the blistering summer heat was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I missed the comfort of my mother’s cooking, and the familiar faces of my family and friends. In place of the loved ones I left behind, Allah blessed me with the warm company of new friends. May Allah reward the families who opened their homes to me, especially during Ramadan.
Almost a decade later, I find myself faced with an entirely different set of circumstances. I am married, living in Malaysia and nursing my baby daughter. She is almost one, and I am so grateful that she enjoys eating solids. Fiqh rulings about fasting while breastfeeding have taken a whole new meaning for me. Once, I would have thought it impossible. Nursing mothers like myself often experience a hunger that accompanies nursing a baby. Despite that, I’m realising how much Allah sustains my baby daughter and me, from heartbeat to heartbeat. Is it easy to fast while nursing a baby? Absolutely not. It’s humbling, it’s exhausting, it’s possible, and for now at least, I’ll keep going.
Tips for nursing mums:
1) Drink plenty of water after iftar, alongside chia seeds soaked overnight.
2) Have a solid suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and ask Allah to sustain you.
3) Nap during the day when your baby naps!
4) Express milk after suhoor or iftar, or both, if you need to.
5) If you start getting unwell or your milk supply drops enough to impact on your baby’s nourishment, then know that it’s OK to stop fasting. Pay it back later, and look at the rules of fidyah for your school of thought. Some women can fast while nursing, while others can’t. Allah knows.
Extra Worship Is Another Matter
This Ramadan, I haven’t been able to step into a masjid, because my baby daughter doesn’t sleep through the night. Some nights, she can stay asleep for long stretches, and other nights, she wakes up continuously. I’ve made my peace with that. Instead of the luxury of hours of tarawih like in days gone by, I have precious moments of solitude as my daughter sleeps, or plays with her father and grandmother. These are the moments where I close my eyes and remember the power of intention. Every day looking after my baby is a day spent in love and service, for the sake of Allah Most High. Keeping connected to that intention is challenging, even on the best of days. What’s helped me stay present with that intention is listening to the SeekersHub Ramadan Podcasts in between putting her to sleep, feeding her, and playing with her. Mercy, forgiveness, and salvation – we are all in need.
May Allah help us make the most of the days we have left, help us be of service to others, and help us be pleased with His Decree.