How to fast while nursing a baby?


I am new to the Church, currently in RCIA, and I wish to strenghten my faith and build confidence in myself as a Catholic by undertaking a period of fasting for one month. I read that the standard fast is one modest meal and two small meat-free snacks that don’t add up to another meal. The problem is I am nursing my 6-month-old daughter, so I can’t cut my food intake too drastically (I need 800 extra calories a day for her, according to my dr). But I really want to do the fast. Is there a way to compromise? Can I make the one meal much bigger? Can I have some milk or juice between meals if I don’t feel well?


Here’s a great quote from a great book by St Francis De Sales, a doctor of the Chuch on fasting.

Fasting and labour both exhaust and subdue the body. If your work is necessary or profitable to God’s Glory, I would rather see you bear the exhaustion of work than of fasting. Such is the mind of the Church, who dispenses those who are called to work for God or their neighbour even from her prescribed fasts. One man finds it hard to fast, another finds it as hard to attend the sick, to visit prisons, to hear confessions, preach, minister to the afflicted, pray, and the like. And the last hardship is better than the other; for while it subdues the flesh equally, it brings forth better fruit. And as a general rule it is better to preserve more bodily strength than is absolutely necessary, than to damage it more than is necessary. Bodily strength can always be lowered if needful, but we cannot restore it at will.



The Church discourages fasting for pregnant and nursing mothers and those with other health concerns. Instead of fasting, you could try the Catholic Lenten practice by “giving something up”, refraining from eating a favorite food (like chocolate) or not doing a favorite activity (like going to the movies). Welcome Home!


Don’t fast- your first responsibility is to your child and health. Substitute a good work or prayer, such as the rosary. Try ABSTINANCE instead of fasting- give up chocolate or an hour of tv or something like that. Your responsibility as mother comes before anything alse right now because it is a fulfilment of your vocation that God has given you. THerefore the more fully you realize that vocation, the more you are doing God’s will, and the more fully you do God’s will the greater you grow in holiness. It is actually better for your spiritual growth to stop fasting (in this case) and do the above recommendations while fullfiling your role as mother as best you can.


St. Frances de Sales echoes the Eastern praxis about fasting, which is to humble the flesh.

According to this same Eastern praxis, expectant and nursing mothers are FORBIDDEN to fast or abstain.

Remember, our fasting should NOT be self-willed or self-imposed, but according to the tradition and teaching of the church. Otherwise, it brings us closer to the demons, who never eat at all!


Love that quote Michael 1985.

It’s so hard to find the balance between church practices of suffering and the suffering of daily living… at least for me.

hence my other post.


It is not fair to impose a fast on your baby. If you are not well nourished, your baby will not be well nourished. And if you are in a weakened state, you will not be able to care for your baby properly.

Taking on imprudent fasting may be a sin of pride (i.e., “I know better than my doctor and the wisdom of the Church.”).

Follow the advice of your doctor, and do not do any fasting without his permission. You can fast from sweets, etc., but you must maintain a balanced diet with adequate calorie intake.

You can postpone your fast until your baby is weaned. Even then, you should do it under the guidance of your confessor/spiritual director and your doctor, to make sure you avoid anything extreme or unhealthy.


Thanks for the replies and advice. I guess I won’t be fasting for now, I didn’t realize it was actually forbidden. I’ll do the fast during Lent instead in preparation for my baptism (my baby will be weaned by then). My purpose in doing this is to strengthen my faith and build discipline, and I see there are many ways to do that. So for now I’ll try a combination of prayer and abstaining from certain foods, but not a fast.


Or you can fast on things other than food, such as fast on watching TV, fast on buying a new dress, etc.

For discipline purpose, you can also “pick up” rather than “give up” - make your prayer time longer like you said, or do extra Scripture reading, spiritual reading if time allows…

Just some thoughts. God bless you and yours!




the advice in classic Catholic spiritual direction is not to undertake fasting, penances, mortifications etc. beyond the Church’s prescribed or traditional practice, without the permission of one’s spiritual director or confessor. In any case, even when the fasting discipline was more severe nursing and pregnant mothers, as well as the infirm, were exempt. For most of us simply adhering to the diet prescribed by our doctors is a worthwhile discipline and hard enough to do. The key is to make an intentional effort to follow that diet in a spirit of fasting and self-denial, and offering up the sacrifices we make regarding food with the sufferings of Christ with the goal of coming closer to him as we do so.

In periods where it is unwise to fast from food, we look for other ways to fast–from TV, the soaps, limit recreational reading, from the internet, whatever would represent self-denial, and free us for the work of God, for prayer etc.


I think in your case, just being strict with yourself about correct nutrition for the sake of your baby would be enough discipline to grow spiritually and in love, especially in love for your child - particularly if the nutrition you are on includes foods that you don’t normally eat or like (liver, broccoli, etc.)

Welcome to the Catholic Church. :slight_smile:


Even in regards abstaining from certain foods - to be safe I’d get the OK from your doctor before you do that. Wouldn’t want you to be depriving yourself of any nutrition that you may need.


Yeah, like Twinkies and Cheetos! :smiley: :stuck_out_tongue:



At this point, your mortification is to realize that your can’t fast. Your baby’s needs come before your own at this stage and you need to stick to the diet plan given by your doctor. Giving up what we *want *to do for the needs or wants of another (assuming that they are not sinful) is also a mortification and spiritual mortification can often be more helpful to us than corporal mortification.

Later, after you’ve been received into the church and your daughter is eating solids, you can consider a fast. But for now, put that desire aside.


Do you have any good online references to fasting in the Eastern Tradition, especially in preparation for baptism. I am writing an article on fasting and I while it is not on the Eatern tradition it might be good to include something about the Eastern tradition. I am particularly interested in historical references or reference to the Church Fathers.


You do need extra calories when you’re expecting … and not everyone starts pregnancy with enough in the reserve tank to see them through :shrug:

Not that I’d recommend Twinkies and cheetos as the source of that extra fuel, but for some any cutting out of calorie content could be harmful.


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