Food for the newborn child
Allah (swt) has placed food and water for the child in the body of the mother and has created an amazing system of feeding the newborn child in a manner which is perfect and most beneficial. It is narrated from Jafar Al-Sadiq:
“Oh Mother of Ishaq, don’t feed the child from just one breast, but fed from both, as one is the substitute for food, and the other is a substitute for water.”
Al-Kāfī, vol. 6, pg. 40, no. 2
In another tradition, it is narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him):
“Allah (swt) has placed the sustenance (rizq) of the child in the two breasts of the mother, in one is his water, and in the other his food.”
Wasāil ash-Shī~a, vol. 21, pg. 453
As we are on the subject of directly feeding the newborn child from the mother, it is necessary to mention and highlight the importance of halal income, the paying of Zakat, the use of pure and halal food by the mother and its effect on the child. Allah (swt) has mentioned the necessity of eating halal and good food several times in the Noble Quran and traditions have clearly highlighted that lack of adherence to this is one of the main causes of bad Akhlaq, aggression and oppression.
Pertaining to the effects of eating haram food, the Prophet (peace be upon him) has narrated:
“Every time a bite of haram food enters the stomach of a person, all the angels of the heavens and the earth send curses on him, and until the time that the haram bite is in his stomach, Allah (swt) does not look in his direction. Every person that eats a bite of haram food is gathering causes of Allah (swt)’s wrath. Then, if he repents, Allah (swt) accepts his repentance and if he leaves this world without repentance, he is deserving of the fire (of hell).”
Thawab al-A~māl, pg. 566
Importance of breast milk
It is narrated by the Prophet (peace be upon him):
“For a child, there is no milk better than the milk of the mother.”
Mustadrak al-Wasāil, vol. 15, pg. 156
He has also said that there is nothing that can take the place of food and water except milk. Likewise, it is narrated from Ali ibn Abu Talib that for a child, there is no milk that has more blessings than the milk of a mother. Breastfeeding is not only feeding your child, it is the exchange of love and strengthening of the soul. When the child is feeding, he/she can hear the sound of the mother’s heart and this leads to relaxation and calmness. Breastfed children tend to be healthier and sounder in terms of bodily and spiritual health and psychologists believe that breastfeeding keeps children happy and content and even has an effect on their Akhlāq.
Being breastfed is one of the rights of a child and is also counted as the right of a mother, and has been strongly recommended in the Noble Qur`an and traditions. Indeed, its benefits are widely accepted in the world today. Of course, it should be kept in mind that breastfeeding is only recommended if it does not pose any risk to mother or child.
The benefits of breast milk
1. Breast milk contains all the necessary ingredients that the child needs in the first 4-6 months of life.
2. Breast milk contains the suitable proteins and fats to satisfy the natural needs of the child.
3. There are higher quantities of lactose in breast milk than other types of milk, as this is what is needed by the child.
4. There are enough vitamins in the breast milk, ensuring that no extra vitamins or fruit juices are needed.
5. The iron in breast milk is enough for the child. Even though the levels are not very high, the child’s ability to absorb the necessary amount is very good.
6. Breast milk contains enough water for the child, even if one lives in a dry climate.
7. Breast milk contains enough salt, calcium and phosphate for the child.
8. Breast milk contains the enzyme lipase that digests fats.
9. The breastfed child is less susceptible to infections due to increased immunity.
10. Breast milk is the most important protector against two main causes of death among children: diarrhetic illnesses and respiratory infections.
11. Being breastfed reduces illnesses resulting from allergies such as asthma, eczema, etc, and helps prevent or reduce some diseases when the child is in the teenage years and above.
12. Diabetes and some digestive problems are found less in breastfed children.
13. Breastfeeding helps ill children recover faster; therefore, it is important that it is not stopped during this time.
14. Breast milk is easy and quick to digest, therefore, breastfed children tend to get hungry faster than children fed on other types of milk.
15. Breast milk is always ready and has no need for any preparation.
16. Breast milk never spoils or becomes sour, even if the child hasn’t fed for a few days.
17. Regular feeding, and feeding when the child desires, prevents conception.
18. The regular contact between mother and child in the first days of its life increases the spiritual and physical bond between the two, leading to a deep and loving relationship and better training and fostering of the child.
19. Breast milk doesn’t require any expenses.
20. Breastfed children develop sight and talking and walking skills faster.
21. The sucking of the child soon after birth causes the stimulation of oxytocin which results in the contraction of the womb, and thus less bleeding from the mother.
22. Mothers that breastfeed are less likely to get breast or ovary cancer.
23. Breastfeeding women return to their pre-pregnancy body sooner, as their maternal fat is being used up faster.
24. Breast milk of the mother changes according to the daily needs of the child. There are also differences between mothers depending on the needs of their children, e.g. the milk of a mother of a premature child and the milk of a mother of a full term child.
25. Breastfed children are more intelligent even as new-borns (i.e. the first four weeks of their lives). Research has shown that these children move more in the first two weeks and show more reactions than other children.
26. Adults who were breastfed tend to be more stable and temperate by nature.
The recommended time period of breastfeeding
Allah (swt) mentions in Surat al-Baqarah, Verse 233:
“Mothers shall suckle their children for two full years, – that for such as desire to complete the suckling.”
And in Surat al-Aĥqāf, Verse 15, He states:
“And his gestation and weaning take thirty months”
As outlined in the above verses, the recommended time in Islam for breastfeeding is approximately two years.
There are several recommendations on the period of breastfeeding. In some traditions, it has been narrated that breastfeeding for less than 21 months is counted as oppression and aggression against the child. In other traditions, breastfeeding for 21 months is seen as necessary and a must. Similarly, it is narrated in traditions that breastfeeding for more than two years is also forbidden.
It is necessary to remind the reader that although there are many recommended methods of weaning, this manual only mentions a few that have been mentioned in many Islamic sources:
1. Do not use harshness with the child, and stay away from techniques like rubbing spices on the breast, etc.
2. When a child insists on breastfeeding, do not chase him/her away from you.
3. With attention to the fact that breastfeeding is not only a source of food but a source of closeness and comfort for the child as well, it is important that along with adequate food replacements, adequate love and quality time with the child are provided as well.
4. Choosing a good time and place for the beginning and end of all acts, especially those with importance and value, is one of the techniques of the scholars of Islam. Therefore, it is only appropriate that for the weaning of a child from such an important act as breastfeeding, a good place and time is chosen, and acted upon by taking into account the readiness of the child and presentation of a good opportunity.
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