At Islam’s core of a stable society is a functioning family where, interestingly, the mother has a higher status than the father. And for a family unit to be healthy, mothers are given the greatest responsibility for nurturing the next generation. Breastfeeding is a greener, more eco-friendly and wholesome feeding method for mother, baby and environment.
Islam encourages mothers to breastfeed their new babies as it develops a better maternal bond, so much so that prophetic teachings (hadith) state that each gulp of milk the baby takes counts as an act of charity and reward for nursing mothers.
It is difficult though, for newly mothers to leap into feeding with ease when Muslim cultural values or even the woman’s own self-evaluation, puts the whole process to question.
Under the umbrella of Islamic parenting, a pregnant and breastfeeding woman is closer to God and she is exempt from fasting during Ramadhan – the month of fasting (Qur’an, 2:185).
The Islamic Shari’ah (rules and regulations) even states that a husband has the right to ask his wife to breastfeed their children because of the health benefits it nurtures. Breastfeeding prevents infections, allergies to foods, and some reports say it is connected to an increase in children’s IQ.
The breastfeeding period could be around two years therefore a light-hearted attitude is adopted by Muslim women who try nursing any longer than one; weaning babies onto the bottle too early affects their growth and well-being.
Basically, the longer a mother breastfeeds the better, especially in the first 6 months and mentioned in the Qur’an (46:15).
Do Muslims breastfeed in public?
Yes, they do. For a majority of countries in the West, breastfeeding in public has become an uncomfortable topic. While Islamic etiquette stands by the Muslim covering of hijab, which is translated as a headscarf, a full burqah or jilbab (full length tunic) for women, there is no ruling against a mother feeding in public, so long as she is covered appropriately.
This attitude varies from Muslim country-to-country and unknown to most, it is more accepted in Middle Eastern countries.
British Muslim women do nurse their infants at social gatherings and family events, behind a curtain or in another room, but both British character and the weather means they will not be breastfeeding on a park bench any time soon!
Myths of breastfeeding
- “Baby formulas are almost the same as breast milk” – Such claims have been made by advertisers but formulas do not contain the enzymes and immune cells found in breast milk. Formulas actually contain too much protein and minerals needed for the baby.
- “Breastfeeding hurts” – Although some mothers may experience some tenderness at first, pain may be due to an infection or the baby latching on poorly. It does get easier as the baby grows and is used to feeding.
- “Many women cannot produce enough milk” – Most women do produce more than enough milk. If the baby has difficulty breastfeeding it may be poorly latched to the breast.
- “Breast milk doesn’t contain enough iron and vitamins” – Not true! Breast milk contains all of the vitamins a baby needs, including vitamin D. There is also enough iron in breast milk to last for the first six moths after birth.
Breastfeed to save the environment
Breastfeeding cuts out at least a whole year’s cost of mass manufactured teats, bottles and powdered formula. Think about it, you use less water in washing and sterilising your baby’s bottle, all those plastic teats and tinned formulas – which are not all bio-degradable – means less pollution and a greener living.
Immune cells are passed from the mother to the baby only through breast milk, giving stronger immune systems to children than formula milk. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of milk and food allergies, mothers usually lose weight faster than mothers who do not breastfeed. For this it is recommended to begin breastfeeding immediately.
Breastfeeding takes time to get into a rhythm but the intuition of both parent and child creates a signal so the mother knows when her baby is hungry. It is good for emotional and mental health, and it lowers the risk for postpartum depression and anxiety.
In the interest of self-preservation and the Earth, breastfeed your baby.
Read more on breastfeeding:
Breastfeed Your Baby in a Hijab
World Breastfeeding Week on “Baby Friendly” Policies
Image :: Kupih