The fast: Stop if the baby’s health is at risk

With daily temperatures in Maiduguri soaring around 41°C to 43°C and the prolonged blackout – for more than three months now – many in the Muslim ummah are finding fasting during this year’s Ramadan heavy going.

Deliberate and repeated sabotage of power grids and towers, said to be by insurgents from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) or, in some cases by the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), also known as Boko Haram, has left the Transmission Company of Nigeria flailing and unable to keep the lights on.

As soon as one power tower is repaired, others are destroyed, leaving the capital city – with a population of more than 2-million − in the dark.

Maryam Mala, a nursing mother, said having to abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset left her with “zero breast milk”.

“I cannot feed my baby with anything other than breast milk because she is only six months old. I am worried about her not getting enough to drink. I am finding taking care of a baby, house chores and other necessary mundane activities are really taking a toll this year.”

She said the heat and the almost-constant blackouts made matters even more difficult.

She was aware that nursing mothers were allowed to leave the fast but she was taking it day by day.

Ali Mustapha, an Islam scholar,  said that according to the holy book of Qur’an, nursing mothers could leave the fast if and when necessary.

“Mothers should take care and decide if they can fast or not. They should not fast if it will affect the child’s health. But only they know if they can undertake the fast. It is a decision that should not be taken lightly,” he said.

Mustapha said mothers should not take the permission given for granted.

“Fasting is obligatory for every healthy, mentally sound and mature person.”

A health worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said lactating mothers should eat nutritious meals and ensure their diet was well balanced to avoid dehydration.

“The extreme heat can cause dehydration which is not good for the mother or the child. If the baby does not get enough breast milk, it can affect their health and that could lead to further complications.”

He said if a nursing mother could not cope with fasting, she should stop.

“In this heat, it is hard to stay hydrated. If the mother is not healthy, the baby will not be healthy. It is common sense to stop fasting. And the holy book allows for this.”

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