Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “The reward that a woman receives from the time that she falls pregnant until she delivers the child and commences breast-feeding is equal to the person who is guarding the borders of the Islamic state and who has to be ever ready to wage jihad. If this woman dies in the course of this period, she will receive the reward of a martyr.”
Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “When a woman breast-feeds her child, the reward that she receives for every sip is as if she has given life to a dead person. When she commences breast-feeding, an angel taps her on her back (a form of congratulation) and says to her: ‘All your past sins are forgiven. Now whatever you do will be recorded from the very beginning.'” That is, the sins that you may commit will be written for the future. Minor sins are referred to in this context. However, having one’s minor sins forgiven is no small feat.
Benefits OF BREAST FEEDING
by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D.
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
The Muslims read the following verse in the Qur’an with regard to breast-feeding the infants:
And mothers suckle their children full two years; it is for one who wants to complete the (period of) suckling. And on him, to whom the child is born, falls the provision of food and clothing for them (the mothers) with fairness. Nobody is obligated beyond his capacity. No mother shall be made to suffer on account of her child, nor a man to whom the child is born, on account of his child. And on the heir it falls likewise. Now, if they want to wean, with mutual consent, and consultation, there is no sin on them. And if you want to get your children suckled (by a wet-nurse), there is no sin on you when you pay off what you are to give, as recognized. And fear Allah and be sure that Allah is watchful of what you do. …..The Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqara, 2: Verse 233)
There is a dramatic decline in breast-feeding in the United States and European countries, which are all Industrialized countries. It is disheartening to note the abandonment of breast-feeding in developing countries, such as India and others in Asia, Africa, and South America. This is particularly true in tire urban and periurban areas. In both Europe and United States, the shift from breast milk to artificial means of infant feeding was both recent (since 1930*s) and rapid. Bottle-feeding has many disadvantages for the child, mother, society, and the nation. The liberated women think bottle feeding is natural and normal, and that breast-feeding is old-fashioned, animal-like, primitive, and obsolete. They treat breast-feeding as a sign of backwardness, low social status, ignorance and poverty. On the contrary, none of these is true. They are being exploited by self-interested, profit making commercial enterprises, which manufacture bottles, nipples, baby foods, milk powder, formulas, pacifiers, etc.
Breast-feeding is a very natural and normal way designed by God.
BENEFITS TO THE CHILD
Breast fed babies not only grow healthy with mental and physical development, but their chances of survival is substantially higher compared to the bottle fed babies. In a study conducted in the Khanna district of the rural Punjab, it was found that 19 of the 20 infants (95%) who were artificially fed from birth, died before reaching age one. But only 12 percent of the breast-fed infants died before reaching age one.
Human milk is the best food for the human infants. An analysis of human milk shows it consists of more than 100 separate constituents of which few of them are available to the bottle fed infant. Human milk is easily assimilated by the infant with quick emptying of the stomach with almost 100% protein utilization. Lactose (primary sugar) helps in the absorption of calcium, increases protein efficiency, and creates an acid medium in the child’s intestines. The growth of putrefactive bacteria is inhibited by the presence of pure culture of Lactobacillus bifidus in the baby’s intestines. This prevents diarrhea too! A mother can breast feed her baby even under unhygienic conditions without fear of Infection due to the presence of lysozomes. Fewer Infections, absence of food allergy, and many immunological benefits are derived from breast milk. One study showed that the bottle-fed children had a higher incidence of gastrointestinal diseases, respiratory, middle-ear diseases (chronic ear infection-), anemia, allergic and autoimmune diseases compared to the traditionally breast fed youngsters.
As the infant grows, his increasing need for milk is met by stronger sucking which in turn stimulates more milk production. Sucking in the first 24 to 48 hours after birth causes the breasts to secrete colostrums. Colostrum is the name given to the first milk secreted by the breast; it is much richer and creamier than the milk that soon follows. This first milk has been reported as being valuable to the infant’s health, for cells present in colostrum have been known to ingest and destroy bacteria. It has also been reported that no formula can duplicate the gradual changes that occur in the colostrum and milk following childbirth. Colostrum contains natural antibodies against measles, polio, mumps, and a host of other diseases. Colostrum acts on bacteria (E. Coil) that are notorious for causing infant diarrhea the first month of life and may cause infantile meningitis, and offers the baby protection against respiratory infections, such as flu and pneumonia. Breast milk protects a child from obesity, staph and other infections. Cow’s milk causes allergy in some children. It may manifest itself by mild wheezing (asthma), eczema or persistent colds. Breast fed babies have less diaper rash and require less care.
God has designed baby’s facial structures, such as flat nose, sucking pads in the cheeks, in such a way, as is best fit for breast-feeding. The ridged edge of the gums helps the baby to grasp and to hold on to the nipple while sucking. In Western countries, a dentist will point out the frequent problems of bottle fed babies, such as lip and finger sucking, tongue-thrusting, tooth decay, bite deformities, incorrect swallowing and mouth breathing. The tongue and jaw muscles of a breast fed baby show better muscular development, as he has to suck harder with his lips, tongue, and Jaw muscles.
The breast is nature’s pacifier for the baby. It calms the Infant. The baby finds security and warmth at his mother’s breast.
BENEFITS TO THE MOTHER
The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute in United States, report that cancer of the breast is more apt to develop in those breasts that do not give milk (among Nuns, unmarried women, married women with no children, mothers who bottle-fed) and scientific studies confirm the fact that long-term breast-feeding lowers the breast cancer risk.
If the infant is allowed to suck immediately after birth, the sucking causes a strong uterine contraction, which helps to expel the placenta, and also prevents post-partum (after birth) hemorrhage. With continued nursing, the uterus involutes rapidly without shots and pills. Many times a third-degree prolapse of the uterus after the birth of a child virtually disappears without surgical correction in cases of breast-feeding mothers. Breast-feeding may help restore the sagging sinews and muscles to original condition.
It has been well established that breast-feeding has a contraceptive effect by delaying the return of ovulation. The underlying mechanism is believed to operate through an ovulation effect of prolactin and other hormones secreted in response to the infant’s suckling. The high levels of prolactin in the mother’s body stimulate the ovaries to maintain a high progesterone level. As a result of this, the return of menstruation 1s delayed anywhere from eight to eighteen months. This is good for the mother as her body’s iron is conserved. A lengthy absence from menstrual periods following childbirth 1s called lactation amenorrhea. Not having periods during pregnancy is termed pregnancy amenorrhea. Many mothers have relied successfully on breast-feeding during amenorrhea as a method of natural child spacing, and some mothers have experienced some infertile cycles after the return of menses. However, some nursing mothers have conceived without a return of menses. Present research seems to indicate that the risk of pregnancy during lactation amenorrhea (prior to the first menses after childbirth) is about 6 percent. Thus, lactation amenorrhea is a health asset to the mother in her childbearing years. Breast-feeding eliminates the need for drugs and prevents breast cancer.
Nursing provides brief rests during the day and gives relaxation for a mother who tends to be tense and nervous or gives a break for a busy mother. Bottle feeding mothers don’t have prolactin, a “mothering” (Mamta in Hindi/Urdu) hormone, whereas prolactin in a nursing mother produces the mood and a feeling of a good mother. The personal satisfaction that a woman can experience only through breast feeding, the total giving of herself to her baby, and a deep feeling of pride in her motherly accomplishments cannot be found in bottle feeding mothers. A nursing mother learns that true fulfillment comes in the giving and not the taking.
Breast-feeding saves time of the mother. She need not spend the time in the kitchen preparing bottles, nipples, and formula, or spend the time in cleaning up afterwards. Nighttime feedings are no bother when mothers generally nurse in bed and fall asleep while doing so. This also doesn’t disturb the sleep of other members of the family. Breast feeding not only helps satisfy the baby’s nutritional and emotional needs, but satisfies the emotional needs of the mother — not only in that it is restful for her, but she derives satisfaction in doing what is best for her baby and from having a contented and quiet baby as a result. Baby and mother thrive on each other. More and more emphasis is being placed on the importance of skin-to-skin contact between parent and child. Physical contact generates warm feelings of being loved and appreciated. The baby feels secure in the mother’s arms or bosom. With breast-feeding, the child is guaranteed frequent contact with his mother. The child needs to receive much skin stimulation from his mother (nursing a baby, rubbing a child’s back. or rocking a child to sloop) In order to survive physically and emotionally. Breast-feeding is a very satisfying and enjoyable experience for the nursing mother. It gives a mother a feeling of satisfaction, security, and trust in herself, which she needs in the future care of her child. Ashley Montague in his book, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, says, “tactile failure in infancy results only too often in estrangement, uninvolvement, lack of identity, detachment, emotional shallowness and Indifference — all marks of the schizoid or schizophrenic personality.”
For a traveling mother, nothing can match the conveniences of breast-feeding without the problems of baby stops warming the bottle, or running short of formula.
BENEFITS TO THE FAMILY, SOCIETY AND NATION
Breast-feeding saves money for the family. Money not spent on bottles, nipples, brushes, sterilizer, formula, juice, foods, food and bottle warmers, and the gas, electricity or fuel wood required in the preparation, is money saved for the family. In the years to come, less money will be spent on doctor’s fees, hospital fees, and probably fewer drugs and fewer dental bills. Except the tender loving rare, breast-feeding costs nothing. In case of bottle fed babies, the artificial foods and juices stain baby’s and mother’s clothes and require frequent washing and dry-cleaning.
When all infants are breast fed, then the society will have mentally and physically healthy and active children. When these children grow the nation will be proud of its great leaders and admirable citizens. Such a nation will be strong in character and a model nation to emulate.
Breast-feeding never pollutes a country’s air or water, nor does it detract from the environment. With bottle-feeding, our environment will be polluted with broken or unbroken bottles, bottle liners, nipples, pacifiers, baby jars, cereal boxes, sterilizers, formula, and powder milk cans, bottle brushes, so on and so forth. With natural breast-feeding, there will be a decrease in the usage of sanitary napkins because mothers would be averaging one year or more without menstruating after childbirth.
It was mentioned earlier that prolonged lactation protects against pregnancy mainly by delaying the “return of ovulation. The problem of population growth is a very serious and urgent, problem of developing countries. If unchecked or uncontrolled, it will be detrimental to the country. The abandonment of breast-feeding among the urban people in the developing countries will have a significant demographic impact resulting in increased birth rates because the practice of birth control is not universal. It is recognized that although lactation is not highly reliable as a contraceptive for individual women, it can have a large effect at the societal level, especially where the practice of birth control is not widespread. The developing countries should give more attention to the role of breast-feeding in decreasing the birth rate as a natural child spacer. A slogan like “Breast-fed is Best-fed” should be popularized.
In the foregoing it was shown that breast-feeding humanizes a child whereas bottle-feeding tends to mechanize him. The advantages of breast-feeding are promotion of infant survival; breast milk is nutritionally ideal at least for the first six months, provides some immunity from disease and is clean. Breast feeding benefits include mental and physical development of the infant and economic advantages for the parents.
Natural mothering is not going to cure all of the problems of the world, but it does have some far-reaching effects. At the family level, it contributes to the physical and emotional health of both mother and baby. At the larger community level, it results in less pollution in a number of ways, and, at the level of both the individual family and the nation, it provides a natural form of birth regulation. With all these benefits for natural mothering, it would seem more than appropriate that it would be encouraged at every level.