Hello, and a good week to everyone. I hope all my Jewish readers had an easy time fasting on Tisha B'Av last Thursday – I wanted to stop by before it and wish everyone an easy fast, but didn't have the opportunity. At any rate I hope this was the last time we fasted on Tisha B'Av, and that next year we can rejoice in a new, rebuilt Holy Temple.
As you might know (or not), Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur are the only two fasts pregnant and nursing women are not matter-of-factly released from. Therefore I fasted, for the first time since Shira was born, and it was one of the most difficult fasts I ever had to go through. Nursing makes you lose extra liquids, and as soon as I sit down to nurse, I have an effect of violent thirst kicking in, making me want to gulp down a big glass (or two, or three) of water. Torturous! While normally I fast with no adverse effects (even while pregnant), this time I spent most of the day lying down on the couch, dozing in and out of weak sleep, and day-dreaming about everything I'm going to drink once the fast is over.
Needless to say, I felt a dip in my milk supply and could not nurse as much as I often do. So during the day we supplemented with a few bottles of milk I pumped during the previous week. My husband was a great help, taking over all the baby business, feeding and entertaining Shira. I couldn't have done it without him. I broke the fast about half an hour before it ended, because I felt too weak to even pick up my baby, and my husband was in synagogue.
We tried to seek counsel from a rabbi prior to the fast, but there is no rabbi we can call "ours" (meaning that we would fully trust his opinion in all matters), and there is a variety of rabbinical opinion on the subject – there are those who say a nursing mother may eat and drink as usual if she even thinks a fast might cause lower milk supply, and there are those who say a mother should give up trying to nurse that day altogether and feed the baby formula – and even supplement with formula the day before, to "make sure the baby will drink it".
It goes without saying, of course, that I'm incensed by the ignorant (I'm sorry, but I have no other word) advice of the latter, particularly when given to a young mother of a baby who is just a few weeks old, disregarding the permanent damage such practice may do – exposure of a very young baby to allergens like cow's milk or soy protein, disruption of the (perhaps fragile) nursing relationship, not to mention engorgement, plugged ducts and mastitis. As Mother in Israel once eloquently said, "I don't believe Judaism is about replacing a warm breast with a bottle." I don't like supplementing with bottles at all, even though it was my milk. Had we run out of pumped milk, or had I been unable to pump prior to the fast for some reason, I would have broken the fast as soon as I felt I'm not producing as much milk as usual.
When time comes to prepare for the next fast I must observe (which will be Yom Kippur, in two months), we can seek advice from a rabbi while informing him of how ill I felt during the previous. I suppose Shira will take more solids in two months than she does now, but I still expect her to nurse as much or nearly as much as now. Certainly I'm not supposed to be too weak to take care of my baby.
Fortunately, a one-day fast is not supposed to cause permanent damage to milk supply. After a day of plentiful liquids, food, rest and nursing, everything seems to be back to normal. If any of you ladies ever have to fast while nursing (for religious or other reasons), make sure to check out this page of excellent advice from KellyMom.