Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fasting While Pregnant or Breastfeeding

I have a confession to make.

It has been a long time since I've fasted.

I actually have a really strong testimony of fasting but over the last three and half years there has been a grand total of two months when I was either not pregnant or not breastfeeding. I know that there are women who still fast when they are pregnant and breastfeeding but physically I can't seem to do it. When I am pregnant I get "morning sickness" (ie. all day sickness) if I don't keep something in my stomach and so a complete fast is out of the question. Then when I am breastfeeding I seem to need even MORE calories than I did when I was pregnant. I tried once to do a half day fast when I was breastfeeding and after a couple of hours I felt really faint and had to eat something.

I have to admit that for the first little while I was kind of happy to have a valid excuse to skip out on fasting. I didn't really feel like I was missing out on anything and that God understood why I couldn't. Yet lately I've really been yearning for the opportunity to fast. I know call me crazy. There is such a beautiful power that comes with fasting. It takes your prayers to a whole different level and brings you a bit closer to the Savior. After four years I really miss being able to utilize the power of the fast like I once was able to, especially when trials seem to be pouring out on my family and those I love.

So I'm wondering. How do you (or a woman you know) find ways to fast when you are pregnant or breastfeeding? Of if you have another medical reason, besides pregnancy and breastfeeding, that makes fasting impossible for you how do you find ways to keep the spirit of the fast?

I'd love to hear your suggestions.

32 comments:

  1. I struggle with this one. I've been nursing/pregnant for YEARS now, so I totally know where you're coming from. I try and plan meaningful ways to 'fast', but I admit I've been bad about it.
    Things I've tried (or thought about doing):
    Not drinking anything but water (but admittedly, I'm a big time water drinker, so this one isn't hard.) (I never restrict my water drinking while nursing or pregnant, but I do think giving up other drinks, if you're a milk, juice or soda drinker is a worthy 'sacrifice' that really shows you're 'denying' yourself something when you can't fully fast.)

    Having a thought out simple menu plan and not straying from it. No sweets, treats or anything 'fun' :-)

    Eating less -- smaller meals.

    Mostly though, I forget :-( I make breakfast for myself and my girls, then my husband comes down and I offer him food and he reminds me that it's fast Sunday. I need to do better about this, because simply forgetting it altogether, whether I can observe the fast or not, is not the answer!

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  2. When I am pregnant and nursing I do a modified fast. I only eat what I need, and I don't eat anything especially yummy. Dry toast, a boiled egg, crackers and peanut butter, something simple that isn't a favorite of mine. I don't eat chocolate, cookies or candy while doing a modified fast. I only drink water.

    P.S You body does need more calories while nursing. When pregnant you need about 100 more calories a day, while nursing is it about 300. :)

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  3. I've thought a lot about this recently, even though I'm not pregnant nor breastfeeding, but because in everyday life, I get sick really easily. If I don't eat right, and often, I get really weak and lightheaded. Right now I'm the Primary president, so on Fast Sundays, I dread having to face the Primary feeling so awful. Especially since I also teach Sharing Time on Fast Sundays. For the most part I still try to fast, but the last two Fast Sundays, I haven't been able to make it to (1 o'clock) church without feeling like I was gonna fall over, so I've caved both times and eaten something.

    Breaking my fast when I have "nothing" to justify it tends to make me feel really guilty. But I also knew full well that for everyone's best good, I had to eat. Which has made me do a lot of hard thinking on how I can still observe Fast Sunday when I am simply physically incapable of fasting for two full meals. This are my (current) conclusions:

    - I don't treat it as a normal day. I have to eat because if I don't, I get sick. Thus I treat food on Fast Sunday, not as a free for all, but as a medicine, if you will. I take it as necessary, but no more. I'll eat breakfast and/or lunch to keep up my energy. But if I walk past that box of chocolate orange sticks, I can't eat it. It is doing nothing to nourish my body. Only foods that are nourishing and keeping me from feeling faint are allowed. Treats are not. That way, I know I am eating exactly what my body needs, but I am still fasting from what my tongue wants. I also make a concerted effort not to cook anything that smells good. That's just not fair to my husband.

    - Spiritually, I still treat it as a Fast Sunday. I try to focus on one thing that I need all day. Something I need, something I'm trying to understand, requesting help for someone else, etc. I make an extra effort to pray about it, study my scriptures on that topic, ponder what I can do to help, listen for clues in talks and lessons, etc. Fasting is not just about skipping meals. It's a spiritual help. So even though I am not technically fasting, I am still focusing on what I am "fasting" for.

    - I try to go out of my way to do something extra to make up for my lack of a pure fast. An act of service, extra time spent reading the scriptures or another church book, or even actually remembering to write in my journal. I try to do something extra, no matter how little it is, to show Heavenly Father that I want to make that sacrifice to be worthy of His help, even if I have to make it in a different way.

    Good for you for actually yearning to fast. That's fantastic! I can't say I've gotten to that point yet. I've been doing the above simply because I feel guilty for eating, which I know I should feel, and want to do something, follow some rules, to make up for it. Thanks for the inspiration to try and improve my attitude about it.

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  4. I pick something to fast from when I'm pregnant or nursing. It's been a grand total of nearly 6 years for me of either being pregnant or nursing. I've had a month or two between where I could actually fast, but my husband I have both had crisis arise in our families in the last year. I decided to pick something to "fast from" and that was all things sweet. I ate light breakfasts and lunches and drank my regular amount of water. I increased scripture study and prayer. I really think the Lord looks on a Woman's heart and knows that there is purity of fast even when we're not fasting the conventional way. He knows our efforts are valiant and I felt the Lord was pleased with my efforts. I think each person needs to ponder and pray for their own revelation. This was the solution the Lord and I came up with! Good luck! The Gospel is truly wonderful, isn't it?!

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  5. I've also fasted from sweets/sugar for a day, or sometimes for two and three days. I've also "fasted" from poor behaviors of mine like nagging my husband, speaking unkindly to the kids, etc. I can't fast while nursing a baby less than 6 months for sure, or while pregnant, but after my babies start eating solids, I've found that I can fast from real food a bit.

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  6. I struggled with this as well when I was still Pregnant and nursing, I had 6 yrs with no breaks! I really prayed about it and decided that fasting doesn't just have to pertain to food, it can be pretty much anything that will help you feel the spirit of the lord. I fasted from t.v, radio, the newspaper even from buying new things. It becomes kinda fun to find new ways to fast!

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  7. I'm in the same situation--haven't fasted except once or twice in the past 5 years. Once my baby is eating good amounts of solids (so probably at least 9 months or later) I can fast one meal, but that's it. I don't fret too much about not fasting, since I will have plenty of years in my life when I can fast.

    I have a confession though: I haven't really ever gotten into fasting. I mean, I did it until I started being pregnant or nursing, but for me I usually didn't feel more spiritual, just hungry. The hunger made it hard for me to concentrate on anything spiritual.

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  8. How timely! I was just thinking about this over the past week. My patriarchal blessing talks about approaching decisions in my life "in the spirit of fasting and prayer." A few years ago I started a recovery process from anorexia, so for a long while, fasting was not a good thing for me to do, as it brought back restrictive tendencies and lowered my calorie intake when I needed to keep my weight up.

    Not being able to fast made me look at what I could do differently, and the phrase "in the SPIRIT of fasting" gave me encouragement that God knows my situation and I felt motivated to seek out ways to be more mindful about "fasting" without abstaining from food.

    I think the ultimate goal of fasting is to gain a heightened sense of spirituality and become closer to our Heavenly Father by doing something different from our day-to-day routine. For people whose situations allow it, this can be going without food or water for 24 hours, but just because that is the conventional method, it doesn't mean that anyone who is unable to do so for health reasons is not able to fast as legitimately as others.

    I've done the things others mentioned above; fasting from non-food things, focusing my energy more on spiritual things, and eating simply. I dive into my scriptures on Fast Sunday, and I usually find myself with an increase of gratitude for many things in my life.

    I think it's valuable to learn about fasting outside of the context of not eating two meals. The real goal in fasting is to increase our faith, understanding, and joy (D&C 59:13-14), and we can do that even with physical/medical obstacles if we approach it sincerely!

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    1. Great job on conquering anorexia :) Proud of you!! That's a tough one

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  9. Wow, thank you. I really can't tell you how wonderful it is to know that I'm not the only one out there trying to figure this out.

    Hilary, your comment about feeding you and your kids breakfast and then having your husband remind you it is fast Sunday sounds all too familiar!

    Rixa, You know it took me a LONG time to gain a testimony of fasting. For a long time I mostly just felt hungry. Then when I was in college I went through some really hard times and one day I decided to fast until I got an answer. I fasted for 48 hours straight. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done. The first day all I could think about was being hungry and it was spiritual at all. Then the second day I felt my body surrender-- I put aside my natural man so to speak-- and my spirit took over. It was an incredible experience and I got my answer. After that REALLY hard experience fasting changed for me and it has been different ever since. I think fasting is one of those things you have to do without understanding until one day the power of it knocks you over.

    I think the most important aspect of fasting is sacrifice and giving your spirit dominion over your body. It really comes down to the mind and body connection. Thank you for all your suggestions they have given me ideas on how to modify my own fast!

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  10. Someone I use to serve with once told me she can't fast for medical reasons but when it comes to fasting, she sacrifices something else. Like watching TV for example. She makes it a point to make a sacrifice even if it's not food or drink, she is showing Heavenly Father she is willing to give up a luxury or comfort and come unto Him. Good luck!

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  11. Wow. Thank you for this. I am currently pregnant with number 6 and can't fast. (I don't have the issue of not fasting for years straight because I haven't been able to nurse my last few.) But I have felt the power of being so grateful to be able to fast again after pregnancy is over.

    I NEVER thought about 'fasting' from something other than food! What a wonderful idea - and something I'll definitely have to ponder on. I do think that Heavenly Father wants us to adapt fasting to our individual circumstances. My husband doesn't feel that 24 hours is long enough for him, so he sometimes goes longer. My mother-in-law has in recent years found herself getting yeast infections the Monday after Fast Sunday if she doesn't keep drinking water - but she makes sure to fast from everything else.

    I know that Heavenly Father is mindful of our physical limitations and accepting of our sacrifice. Thank you for teaching me that I can make a sacrifice for Him in other ways than fasting "the real way".

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  12. Thank you for writing about this. I've generally not fasted when pregnant or breastfeeding and I've had friends and family members who couldn't fast for health or medical reasons. For someone with diabetes skipping meals could be life threatening. I can't believe a person would be denied the blessings that accompany fasting because they are physically unable to fast. However, I have felt the need for "something extra" spiritually when I've been pregnant and breastfeeding and thought, "If I could just manage a fast, that would give me the spiritual strength I need." Yet, looking back on the experience I am sad that I didn't see the sacrifice of beening pregnant or breastfeeding as equal to or greater than the sacrifice of abstaining from food. I think it is commendable to fast from sweets or other things as a message to God of our willingness to follow his laws to the best of our ability, but I hope each woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding understands that their sacrifice to do those things is VERY significant to God. They are in effect sacrificing their physical comfort, not for 24 hours as in a fast, but for 9 months and more. I've come to feel that pregnancy and breastfeeding "count" as fasting from physical comfort and convenience in an of themselves. They certainly involve putting your life in God's hands and doing his will. So, I believe He is pleased with those efforts and will bless us with the peace that can come with the sacrifice of fasting from food as we ask him to acknowledge our offering--whatever our sacrifice is--and to help us feel the peace of his acknowledgement of our offering and recieve blessings we are fasting for.

    Also, I like to read my patriaracle blessing on Fast Sunday before closing my fast. And even if I'm not fasting food, but fasting physical comfort when pregnant or breastfeeding, I choose something to fast for on Fast Sunday and I open my "fast" and close it with prayer just as if I were fasting from food.
    Those are things that help me.

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    1. Thank you for your words. As a pregnant/breastfeeding mother with other metabolism issues, I've always felt guilty until I prayerfully studied Isaiah 58. Then the Lord told me" I asked you to feed the hungry and care for others in your fasting: what do you think nursing is?" Since then I look at fasting as eating with an eye single to rejoicing in my ability to feed my children. And the spiritual power I was seeking came and continues to come.

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  13. For the past 6 years I've been in the same boat... either pregnant or nursing (except for a few months here or there.) What I began doing (because I started to miss fasting and I had friends/family who needed fasting in their behalf) is eating minimally. I wouldn't eat a feast of a breakfast and then another snack before church. I would eat what I needed to survive and not feel ill. Plus, I tried to stay away from any treats/sweets. I also tried to keep in mind what I was "fasting" for... and keep a prayer in my heart for that thing all day. I felt a lot better about "fasting" this way then just skipping out all together.

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  14. I have been either pregnant or nursing for 7 years now, and will probable be for 7 more... I am with you, it is hard. But I have felt the urge more, so I've tried to fast for shorter periods of time, and drinking lots of water. My FIL has told me that one of the main reasons to fast is to "conquer the flesh" and learn to give the needs of your body to the will of the father. Being pregnant and nursing gives us a constant reminder of that, and our flesh is not our own. Perhaps fervent prayer is enough at these times...

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  15. Richardsons and Haws,

    I LOVE the idea about remembering that pregnancy and breastfeeding are sacrifices. They are definitely time when we learn to sacrifice our own comfort and ease for someone else. Thank you for that insight. That is really powerful for me!

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  16. In seminary many (MANY) years ago, we had a discussion about this. We had someone in our class who was diabetic, so fasting for her was just not going to be the same. Our teacher challenged her (or anyone who would be in a similar circumstance sometime down the road ie- breastfeeding or pregnant) to simply fast from something other than food. Things like- the internet, TV, radio, ipods, books other than church literature etc. Obviously this takes a little thinking outside of the box, but when we give up something completely to show faith and come closer to the Savior- our efforts will not go unnoticed. Hope this helps...

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  17. When I was expecting our first child, a friend and mother of three taught me something about observing the spirit of the fast that affected the way I have observed fasting. Whenever she was pregnant or nursing, she would change the way she ate, cutting out unnecessary food or types of food. So, when I want to fast and my body is nourishing a baby, I personally cut out most added sugar from my meals and eat only as much as I need. This has allowed me to enjoy the blessings of the fast without interrupting my body's demands for my baby's nourishment.

    Thanks ever so much for your blog. Your perspective has enriched the ways I see women and feminine symbols in the scriptures. I have been especially fascinated by your ongoing discussion of veils as well as body image.

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  18. Thank you for this post and everyone for their comments. I've been thinking about this a lot since I first read this post-I even wrote about it on my blog!

    Some people commented they hadn't really caught onto fasting, and I thought I'd just share something that helped me. When I was 18 and in my first BYU singles ward I went to Stake Conference and our Stake President talked about fasting. Basically the gist of his message was that if you didn't feel joy doing it then you were doing it wrong. Living the gospel should bring joy. This applies to any principle of the gospel. If it doesn't bring you joy you're just not approaching it in the right way yet.

    So I spent lots of time praying (and fasting even) to catch onto the joy of fasting, and I can honestly say I enjoy fasting-or I did before I became pregnant-and that I really miss it. Your post was quite timely, I had been wanting to increase my spirituality and I would normally fast, but that wasn't available to me. So these comments have been a huge benefit to me.

    Thanks again everyone!

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  19. To take what Tianna said to a different level: fasting isn't about doing without food and water. Fasting is about focusing on one aspect of the gospel or one person or one problem or one blessing for an extended period of time. Going without food and drink is just a way to HELP us maintain that focus on the spiritual. When I remember it is fast Sunday, I devote that day to one particular topic, object of gratitude, doctrine of concern, etc... regardless of whether or not I eat or drink. I haven't done it in the past, but perhaps contributing a fast offering even when I eat would help me with the focusing part.

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  20. I went for several years not fasting because of pregnancy and nursing, and then that has continued because of health problems. I do the 'no treat' approach, trying to eat simply and deliberately avoid pleasure foods (even will do things like no honey on my wheat toast).

    I love the thoughts about pregnancy as its own sacrifice -- really beautiful. It makes me wonder if those of us who struggle w/ health problems can think a little that way, too -- of sacrificing our wills as we try to learn from hard stuff.

    ??
    ~Michelle

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  21. I know this comment is a little late, but my Stake President was also my seminary teacher when I was in 9th grade. His take on the idea was that everyone had the ability to fast, but not everyone was required to fast for the same amount of time, etc. His idea was that nursing babies fasted between nursings. Young children fasted between meals. 24 hours is not a necessary requirement for those who cannot go without food for that long, they just go for as long as they can, and that is all that is requested of them. So for you to go as long as you can, even if that is just between nursings, or whatever, just like your baby if you have an infant, that definitely counts :)

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  22. Thank you so much for this post! I just found your blog today and am so grateful. I am a breastfeeding mom and just can't make it the full 24 hours without eating. I felt so guilty and ashamed that I had to eat dinner! But this post (and some lovely commenters) gave me encouragement and hope. Thank you!

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  23. Thank you. The thought of going a year (or years) without enjoying the blessings of fasting greatly saddened me. I'm glad I'm not the only one looking for an alternative. Thanks to all for the suggestions.

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  24. As for me it is a matter of faith- HOW? I wait upon God to direct me to do fasts and God sees me through. If I do a fast fearfully i.e doubting whether I will make it, I end up breaking it even when not pregnant. If I obey God's voice and go on knowing God is leading me I manage because it's not by might or power but by the Holy Spirit. I have known sick people who have fasted and got healed in the event. To me fasting can also be a means of physical and spiritual healing. I don't want to pamper my flesh so much since it's at war with my spirit and it will look for every excuse to avoid fasting. Currently am 15 weeks and by the God's grace am fasting 3 days a week i.e taking dinner only on my fast days. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
    Beatrice

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  25. I have been fasting while breastfeeding. You must remember, the Daniel fast may better for lactating women. I have also done liquid fast, which includes fruit juices, soups and milk. However, I have been dropping weight like crazy with all fasts. However, food will not be a hindrance to my breakthrough. Sister, ask the Lord for the grace to fast.

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    1. Exactly the same way I feel. Thank you for this!

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  26. I'm choosing to fast while I'm breastfeeding although my baby is 9 months now and also eats solids. I'm thinking of giving up sweets and only drinking water and eating veggies, fruits, and nuts for protein and adding unsweetened oatmeal. No other breads or pasta. There are tons of things to eat like apples with all natural peanut butter for protien, salads with avocado salsa dressing, all kinds of fruits even raisins and nuts as a trail mix type to keep my energy up. No meats but maybe you can add fish like only tuna for more protien...al though i don't think i will add that...I'm going to try this out and see how it goes.

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  27. I wondered about this for a long time, even wondered if it was true that you shouldn't fast when you are pregnant until I had a bout of food poisoning or stomach flu when I was pregnant with my second. I couldn't eat anything for a day and it took me at least two weeks to completely recover from it, so I won't ever risk doing that on purpose to me or my child. And I've been pregnant or nursing for the last five years. But like others have mentioned, giving up something else works just as well. No sugar, or cutting all beverages but water, or something similar is still a sacrifice but won't endanger your health or the health of your baby.

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  28. I know this is kind of old .. Maybe 6 yrs old . Hahaha but I've been saved for almost 4 yrs in July .. So anyway I had about 1 yr of my salvation where I was able to fast because in 2013 I got pregnant with my son and I am still nursing him and he's a Lil over 2 yrs old . and I am 17 weeks pregnant with our 3rd blessing . I feel like God has really been dealing with me to fast once a week again from food . I feel like fasting from my phone or fasting from entertainment is not enough I want to give a whole day to fasting and prayer but I want it to be my everything dedicated to him but like I said in pregnant and nursing. . I guess I can try and if I faint are least it'll be worth it Hahaha.

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  29. Thank you for your blog. I'm currently breastfeeding my 2 month old and was asked to give a talk about fasting, which turned out to be a tough topic or me since I haven't fasted in a year. Thanks.

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