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Is it safe for a nursing mother to fast on Yom Kippur?

Is it safe for a nursing mother to fast on Yom Kippur?

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Question:

I am a healthy breastfeeding mother. Is it safe for me and my baby to fast on Yom Kippur this year?

Answer:

Yes, it is absolutely safe!1 I'm a nursing mom, and have nursed through several Yom Kippurs without any problem. The milk supply does not diminish in that time span. Just do note that you have to fast but your baby doesn't, be sure to continue nursing him/her normally throughout the fast.  Granted, fasting does make you thirsty...make sure to increase your drinking intake in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, and to limit salty foods. Another suggestion I heard and which I personally found to be helpful is to eat grapes right before the start of the fast. Also, if you have started supplementing the baby’s feedings with solids or bottles, you may want to use those feeding methods on Yom Kippur so that the nursing will be easier on you while fasting.

Finally, if you have any other concerns, or if you want more advice, speak to a lactation expert. You can also click here to find more fasting tips.

Remember to take it easy. The mitzvah of the day is to fast, if you have to lie down most of the day to do so that is fine.

Let me know how it goes!

Best wishes for a sweet new year,

Chani Benjaminson,
Chabad.org

Footnotes
1.

While pregnant and nursing women are exempt from fasting on most of the fast days on the Jewish calendar, Tisha b'Av and Yom Kippur, the two most stringent fasts, are mandatory for all (aside for those suffering from medical issues, who should consult with a rabbi).

Chani Benjaminson is co-director of Chabad of the South Coast, coordinator of Chabad’s Ask the Rabbi and Feedback departments, and is a member of the editorial staff of Chabad.org.
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Chana Benjaminson New Bedford, MA October 6, 2011

To Anonymous I'm so sorry you had such a bad experience while fasting and nursing!
Your experience is rare, though, most women are able to nurse while fasting without negative consequences. Reply

Anonymous Denver, CO October 6, 2011

I completely disagree Dear Chani,
I have spoken to numerous medical professionals who completely disagree that it's safe for a nursing woman to fast. Although when fasting you do continue to produce milk, my doctor told me that the nutritional content of that milk begins to decrease if you are not eating anything,. Not drinking anything can affect your supply negatively, especially with low supply. My lac consultant warned that having a baby nurse too vigorously on an empty breast puts you at high risk for mastitis. Despite these warnings, I tried fasting on Tisha B'Av because my doctor had not specifically forbidden it- she strongly discouraged it. The results were traumatic. I almost ended up with a breast infection. My baby got sick because he was eating something with no nutritional value. We are both healthy and he is older, but on fast days won't eat food or drink from a bottle (except water) & refuses any food but my milk. Just because you had an easy time doesn't mean everyone can or that it's safe. Reply

Dina September 19, 2010

I did it! Just wanted to share that I successfully nursed twins Yom Kippur. I had 4 oz of pumped milk, which only one baby was interested in, and I think I would have been OK without it also.

I attribute it mainly to having drunk a gallon of water two days before, and 1.5 gallons on the day before Yom Kippur. I also severely restricted my activity all day (mostly sitting or lying down, even for the Amidah).

So anyone wondering... it is possible! Reply

Anonymous Delmar, MD September 29, 2009

How to breastfeed & fast or be away, a labor of love Pump/collect your milk wks ahead of fasting; when your milk is short by afternoon, instead of a hungry crying baby & risking you getting an infection for over feeding on a dry breast, defrost & warm a bottle from your milk supply.
Collect your milk weeks ahead. God made woman to produce exact milk needed to feed our baby, as long as we eat & drink enough, uses 900cal/day : ) I had no extra milk to collect after a feeding, so I kept a sealed disposable baby bottle with liner in my freezer & added my milk to it. Mornings are best as you know, feed on one side, when milk lets down, collect small amt. of milk in a bottle w/new liner on other side, before raising your forearm to stop flow. When the other breast is empty, put baby on collection breast. I collected sometimes only 1/4-1/8 inch (?) in bottle at a time & I would add that to my bottle in the freezer. Some woman can fill a freezer fast w/extra, not me. Breast milk flows, if baby rejects bottle, boil bottle nipple w/toothpick to open. Reply

Chava Chicago, IL September 18, 2007

Minimize dehydration It is very helpful to bottle feed at least part time during a fast. Reply

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