Is Breastfeeding an Excuse to Not Fast?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum,

My wife will be pregnant in Ramadan. She may also be breastfeeding our daughter. When she fasts she has very little milk for our son who then struggle throughout the day.

Does my wife has dispensation from fasting this Ramadan?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

The basis is that pregnant and nursing women are obligated to fast.

As such, your wife should take the reasonable means in order to be able to fast by consulting with medical professionals and seeking the advice of other religious, pregnant or nursing women and behaving in a way that is conducive to actually fasting.

If, however, fasting results in some kind of harm to herself or the child, such as, (1) a limited milk supply, and she cannot give the child other food, (2) her falling sick in some way or another, whether by considerable dizziness, feeling faint and nauseous, or other similar matters, or (3) any other reasonable fear of harm, she may break her fast. The fast would then need to be made up later and after Ramadan.

If she tries this a few times and continues to struggle, she may consider herself unable to fast for the time being. Reasonable harm would be established by clear signs, relevant past experience, or the instruction of an expert, outwardly upright Muslim doctor.

Note that you should ask the doctor for his medical opinion, and not a legal verdict. Dr. Asim writes, “As an example of this, my wife once asked a Specialist Muslim OBGYN whether a pregnant woman should fast, and received a straight answer: ‘no.’ She then asked, ‘under what circumstances might an otherwise healthy pregnant woman abstaining from food and drink for 14-16 hours – but nourishing herself well outside of these times – be detrimental to mother or foetus, and in what way?’ The specialist went away, researched the question, and then came back with a nuanced, referenced and well-supported medical answer with no reference to any sort of legal verdict. (The short answer, out of interest, was ‘there are very few circumstances.’)”

As for past experience, it needs to be relevant and applicable in the current situation as there is a difference between a lady who is two months pregnant, and one who is nine months so; and, similarly, a lady nursing a newborn baby, and one nursing a six month old child, and so on.

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah (2.354); Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (2.116)]

Please also see: Pregnant Women & Fasting and: Pregnancy & Making Up Fasts: Does She Really Have To?

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani