How new mothers mark Ramadan while caring for infants

Holy month is a different experience with babies on the scene

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Ramadan can be a particularly special time for new mothers, who celebrate the month with worship at home.

While pregnant women can choose not to fast during the holy month, many new mothers are also unable to fast or attend prayers for health reasons, or due to the demands of breastfeeding.

Many speak of feeling disconnected during Ramadan, missing the community spirit offered by attending prayers at the mosque.

Others told The National they have established their own traditions of reading together, decorating their homes, iftar tables and involving their children in their worship.

Breastfeeding is very demanding because mothers who are breastfeeding lose a lot of calories
Dr Pooja Jaisal

Samia Shah, an Indian mother of two in Dubai, delivered her baby in February, a month before Ramadan.

She put up decorations and lights to make sure her older daughter did not miss out on the festivities.

“I do feel a disconnect especially because I am not able to do the simple act of sujood (prostration in prayer),” said Ms Shah.

“I have a personal attachment to going to the mosque and listening to the imam in congregation. I definitely miss that.

“Islam is so flexible, especially for women, in their post-partum period that you can find ways to work in your worship in your daily activities. One of the biggest things that I make sure I do all day long is to focus on the remembrance of Allah.

“The biggest thing I've learnt is to go easy on myself and to not get frustrated when I'm not able to do my worship in the way I had hoped for.”

Marking the countdown to Ramadan, putting up decorations with the family or reading Islamic stories are some of the ways she involves her six-year-old daughter in the festivities.

“In terms of celebration, I keep talking to my older child about Ramadan and try to get her involved in preparing for iftar,” said Ms Shah.

“We have been following a few practices for the past two years and this is the third year that we've put up decorations. I always make sure that my daughter is with me while I'm decorating to make her feel like she is a part of the activity.

“I'm facing challenges for the first time because in my previous pregnancy I had family around. I would say the biggest challenge right now would be sleep deprivation.”

Ms Shah encouraged mothers to focus on the small things and changes they could make to improve themselves rather than picking big goals to accomplish.

Sana Akhir has two daughters aged five and 16 months. She tries to keep up her recitation of the Quran during Ramadan but misses the community feel of attending prayers in her local mosque.

“That experience of going to the mosque captures the whole Ramadan feel … It’s a festive time and the children can meet other children,” said Ms Akhir.

“I couldn't go to the mosque Iast Ramadan and I still cannot go to the mosque because they don't entertain children as they make a lot of noise. Instead, I pray at home.”

She said she enjoyed connecting with her faith while praying in the early hours of the day while also nursing her infant.

“I miss the community feel. I keep sending my friends Islamic trivia quiz questions which helps them and me increase my knowledge,” she said.

Dr Pooja Jaisal, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at Fakeeh University Hospital, said women who were pregnant or breastfeeding and fasting should ensure their nutrition and hydration needs were met.

She advised eating a protein-rich diet and urged family and friends to provide support.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women need to be aware it is their choice whether they want to fast, Dr Jaisal added.

“We support their decision, whatever the decision is. It's not like they cannot fast … they can fast, but the right nutrition and right guidance and sleep and rest is very important,” said Dr Jaisal.

Mothers were screened for high-risk conditions such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, she said. Based on these results, they were advised whether fasting is safe.

“Breastfeeding is very demanding because mothers who are breastfeeding lose a lot of calories, and they keep getting hungry and need to replenish their nutrition and hydration,” Dr Jaisal said.

“Whenever they are fasting, I urge them to make sure they take adequate rest and delegate some of the work to other family members.”

Rest, nutrition and supplements were essential for mothers who were fasting, she added.

Updated: March 21, 2024, 11:19 AM