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Each year thousands of mothers leave for Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Many go for up to 3 weeks. Some choose to tote their young children but many forgo this option as it can add stress to an experience that usually only comes once in a lifetime. Going for hajj takes years to months of preparation. Careful planning is also key to leaving your nursing child. Ideally, we all would have a wet-nurse or nanny. But most people have to leave their child with someone outside the home.
First, have a loving, trustworthy, adult caregiver who your child has a good relationship with like their grandparents or a very, very, VERY close friend. You want someone who will be patient with them at times of separation anxiety. Young children may cry at bedtime or run to the door seeking you out. Clever distractions and lots of hugs may be necessary to keep them calm. Make sure their home is child-proof. As a reminder write down your child’s daily routine, medications, food preferences and favorite activities.
Secondly, tell your child about your exciting trip. They will learn best from picture books, crafts and active play. Point out airplanes, show them the Kaba, and tell them that you will be leaving and coming back inshAllah. An older toddler may be able to understand more than a baby. Ask them if there are any special dua that they want you to do while at Hajj.
In case communication is limited or reception is bad during the trip, record videos of yourself. There are also recordable storybooks and stuffed animals available. Make a calendar counting down to when you comeback. A small gift can be given for each day. Plan play dates or small outings for each week you are gone. Buy and wrap Eid gifts before you leave.
It will be important to decide if you will continue nursing or wean. If you will continue nursing:
- Express milk in advance and store in the freezer. To warm, place in a bowl of warm water- never microwave or cook on stovetop. Have someone else give a bottle at least twice a day. If your child has never had bottles they may refuse it. Using a cup or spoon will be much easier.
- Have your caregiver mix breastmilk in their food. If you do not have stored breastmilk, use donor milk from a foster mother or choose a halal formula.
- Learn hand expression. You will need to remove your milk every few hours to maintain your supply. Though it may sound tedious, hand expression will be easier and requires no electricity like a pump. Pack a good hand pump as backup. Unfortunately, you may not be able to properly store or travel back home with the milk. If you meet another mother with her child present in Mecca, consider milk-sharing. In a warm room that is 80+ degrees F, the milk will be good for about 4 hours. Review milk storage here.
- Pack breast pads and a few empty bottles/bags.
- Lastly, make sure you stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle, pace yourself and take naps.
If you choose to wean avoid the cold turkey method because it can be very painful and can cause mastitis. Gently lessen nursing sessions in the weeks before you leave. There may be some sleepless nights but it will be worth an easier transition for everyone involved. Know how to keep yourself comfortable in case you get engorged. The less your child nurses, the sooner your milk will dry up. But, it usually takes longer (a few weeks) for women who have been nursing longer to stop producing milk. So, you may still need to pack breast pads.
Most importantly make dua and ask Allah to make it easy for you. May Allah accept your Hajj and make it a source of blessing for your family. Please make dua for me sisters.
sources: www.kellymom.com and http://www.virtualmosque.com “8 Ideas for Little Children Left at Home while Mother Performs Hajj” by Umm Ameen 8/28/15
Unfortunately despite my intentions to do several webinars before Ramadan, I was unable to meet my goal this year:( Could of used some help from you tech savvy sisters, mashAllah. InshAllah I can try again next year or if you feel it would be a benefit to have a FREE live webinar about fasting in Ramadan while breastfeeding, let me know. My presentation is ready and I can still do them. In the meantime, I prepared a concise E-book with all the information that will beneficial to mothers who choose to fast this Ramadan. Nurse Your Baby and Your Soul: Ramadan Prep for Breastfeeding Mothers discusses how to prepare for fasting and be successful this Ramadan. Includes tips on staying hydrated, energized and maintaining your milk supply. Updated list of best foods for suhoor, the early morning meal. Here is the link to purchase.
I have been stalking websites that sell French jilbabs ever since the blogger OldSchoolHijabi began writing about them. When she posted about Tasnim Collections I was excited. The site was simple, in English and the jilbabs were more affordable. I bought two, a navy and dark purple. Though shipping was a bit delayed (which customer service did notify me of), I was so happy to receive my package from Morocco one afternoon. I was travelling that day so I decided to throw it on and give it a try. The fabric immediately felt light and I love the drape. As a mom of four kids under the age of 6, I appreciated the long khimar which included a headcovering that tied behind the head and sleeves. It’s an all-in-one outfit! The jilbab was not see through and the elasticized cuffs made it easy to do wudu. I wish this style of dress was more accessible in the U.S. because it really felt like the ideal, modest dress. The best part of this jilbab was the chest zipper. It allowed me to wear my 5 month old daughter in a front carrier and breastfeed with ease. I wore a blue jean jacket over it just because I like layers and it helped to “guard” her while nursing in public. Plus she was in the carrier which left me hands-free to juggle my other three tots! It came with a matching gathered skirt with an elasticized waist. This was super comfortable while driving over 100 miles. When I arrived to my destination I didn’t want to take it off. In fact, I wore it each day because it was so quick to put on for prayer and errands. Plus, if my daughter tugged on it or sat on my lap it didn’t come off. My only cons are that I wish I bought a longer skirt, the shipping could be quicker and as a slim person less fabric on the khimar would be nice. But overall I adore it and will use it for years inshAllah.
I think each nursing mom should have one of these. With Ramadan approaching, this would be something nice to wear to late night tarawih prayers or gatherings. InshAllah, I will be doing a Ramadan Prep Class for Breastfeeding Mothers which will discuss ways to improve fasting, maintain milk supply and save energy. Be on the lookout for my post Sisters.
Ramadan Mubarak. I pray this month brings us all closer to Allah (swt). I am fasting and nursing my 8 month old. So, I thought I’d share part of my journey with you all. By the way, ALL NURSING MOTHERS CAN DELAY THEIR FAST. THIS IS A PERSONAL CHOICE. FASTING IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR EVERYONE. I have years of experience fasting and I know my limits. If needed, I will stop fasting at anytime.
As soon as I heard the moon was sighted I started drinking more water and eating fruit, knowing the night would end soon and that my husband was headed out to Tarawih at a close masjid. We sat with our kids for a while and talked about Ramadan and what it means. I took my prenatal vitamins, prayed and went to bed pretty late. Actually I passed out on the prayer rug, lol. In the morning I went to work (I am only part time). I felt pretty good, no headache or anything. In fact I had a feeling of fullness almost all day, weird eh? Very careful to pace my self and not get frustrated, the day passed quickly. Toward the end of my shift my mouth was a bit dry because I do a lot breastfeeding education. So I found it easy to refrain from unnecessary chatting with co-workers. I was noticeably more focused and patient with helping mothers & babies latch. I spent my lunch break in a private consult room praying dhuhr, making dua, dhikr and reading Quran. My phone died so I was unable to read translation:( That’s when I got the fun idea of making some lactation breakfast bars. When I got home from work my daughter nursed right away on one side. No changes noticed, she reached out my lap and played as usual. She is starting to crawl so nursing sessions are a lot shorter. She also eats mixed fruits, vegetables, meat and grains several times a day and is being gradually weaned from breastmilk. I should mention that my daughter does not like expressed breastmilk and is not supplemented with formula. She drinks water or juice using a sippy cup and eats soft foods while I am at work. My close friend, a very loving sister who lives nearby is great with her. The house was decorated with streamers by the kids. About two hours before Magrib my tummy got a lil rumbly so I got my kids involved in helping me pour and mix ingredients for these no-bake lactation bars. I used flax seed meal which has fiber, lignans (phyoestrogens help boost milk) and Omega 3’s. The oats have iron, fiber, antioxidants and also increase milk. The vegan brewer’s yeast from beet molasses has B vitamins, chromium (helps control blood sugar), and probiotics. Oh, and the yeast also helps increase milk production. For this reason non-Muslims, commonly use beer to increase milk production, astaghfirullah (this contains alcohol). Be careful not to buy Brewer’s yeast from beer, I got mine from Whole Foods. The lovely smell of frankincense filled our home, soothing our minds as we got ready to break our fast. My older two children “fasted” for the last 2-3 hours. My husband prepared an iftar meal of comfort foods, including his famous crunchy fried chicken Alhamdulilah. Probably not the healthiest but I was thankful to not have to cook. Sisters, if you are fasting and nursing….it’s very important to have a supportive partner. I had been craving coffee but settled for pineapple juice knowing that caffeine would not be good to start out with. Why? Because caffeine can make my baby hyperactive, give me a headache as well as a crash. It also is diuretic, meaning it will make you urinate more which can lead to dehydration. So I broke my fast with dates, pineapple juice, whole wheat baguette from Whole Foods and homemade herbed butter. After we prayed we ate and opened small gifts from my oldest daughter. This is a tradition in our home. A few times during the month one child (we have four) is taken somewhere inexpensive like the dollar store and allowed to choose and wrap gifts for everyone. She bought me a new organic coffee from the Congo (Whole foods exception) and a Starburst candle. I was so happy to be able to smell this fruity candy I no longer eat because it is not halal in the U.S. She also snagged some candy bracelets for herself which was reminiscent of my childhood. The gifts definitely made us enjoy this special first night of Ramadan together. I kept the water pitcher near me, making sure to fill my cup when I noticed I hadn’t drank in a while. I took my two of my three small prenatal vitamins (for nursing also, I’m not pregnant). They are flatter and smaller than those common horse pills I have trouble swallowing. My kids had fun marking our first day of Ramadan on a big calendar (again, dollar store) with stickers. They were proud that they took part in “fasting”. We prayed, got the kids ready for bed, I rested and my husband stayed up to work and pray more. I woke up around midnight and felt right away that my breasts were fuller of milk than usual. In past years I have noticed this due to the surge of fluids and nutrients at night. I nursed my daughter in the side lying position and fell off back to sleep. Almost 2 hours later my husband came to wake me but I was alert nursing my daughter again.She stayed sleep and I floated downstairs to eat suhoor. I started with a few glasses of water and fresh juice my husband made the previous evening with the juicer. The juice contained two bunches of kale, two beets, strawberries and orange juice. You can see the colors in the picture. Juicing or making smoothies is a great way to hydrate and get extra nutrients from foods you may not have the energy or appetite to chew. I was surprised to taste the lactation bar, it tasted just like a granola bar with a blend of coconut and almonds. My kids will enjoy them. By the way, anyone can eat these and it won’t cause them to make milk. After suhoor we prayed and we spent some time together practicing tajweed. I made it a point to start learning more Quran in Shaban and a beautiful sister and fellow mommy volunteered to teach me. She is very flexible, joining me at a different time each week. In the picture you will see that I am wearing a one piece, stretchy prayer garment and using a large print Quran with a stand. If I have to hold my baby this makes it easier to continue reciting. Underneath I am wearing a comfy knit maxi dress. As I go into my second day of fasting I have many goals and know that I should eat better and obviously drink more. Sisters, it’s very important to aware of your needs and address any concerns about milk supply. If me or my child’s health was in danger I would seek help and not continue fasting. I have fasted the last few years and know my limits. InshAllah tomorrow is another good day. How did your first day go?
*I paid for all these items myself, I did not get paid for this post and the opinions are mine.
Easy Lactation Bars
Recipe from http://www.homemademothering.com by Maureen 5/17/14
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup almond butter
1 tablespoon vanilla -I used non-alcoholic vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3 tbsp brewer’s yeast – from vegetarian source
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
- On medium heat blend sugar, oil, milk.
- Next turn off heat, set aside and add vanilla and almond butter.
- In a separate bowl mix oats, almonds, yeast and flax meal.
- Add warm, liquid mixture to bowl.
- Mix and pour into greased pan.
- Pat down and cover.
- Refrigerate for two hours.
- Cut and enjoy.
Three years ago when I started this blog, I learned so much. I truly enjoyed sharing the benefits of breastfeeding with the world. Knowing the demand for nurses with the lactation certification, my mentor encouraged me to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. It seemed daunting, and it took me almost two years to figure out where to start. Last year I got serious about this goal, with the hopes of having a more meaningful career and being able to give families more specialized breastfeeding support. I studied for a year, and sat for the exam last year on the day of Eid ul-Fitr. We made the Eid prayer, shared breakfast and headed for busy downtown Chicago. While my husband took my three daughters to the nearby lakefront in their sparkly dresses and hijabs, I was in a high-rise nervously clicking away for 3 hours. Alhamdulilah, I passed. Also thanks to all of your prayers and support I have my dream job! I now work at a hospital, educating and assisting new families with their newborns. I am learning a lot, and each day is a challenge. It’s beautiful to see the face of a new mom when her baby finally sustains a latch. I see a lot of moms with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and who have had C-sections. Some days I’m called up to a delivery room or on another hospital floor helping mothers who are sick but still breastfeeding. It’s truly a blessing to do this work.
This Spring, I hope to revamp the Suckled Sunnah website and offer more “live” support such as classes, webinars or consults. Your suggestions are welcome. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post I have also written a book, The Muslim Companion to Breastfeeding, which should be available later this year, inshAllah. It’s taking me longer to write but is well worth the wait. I didn’t just want to give you all a 21 page E-book with stuff you could of Googled! So, please stay tuned. If you would like to review or donate a picture as a breastfeeding/babywearing Muslimah please email me at email@example.com.
Currently I am preparing some materials for a Ramadan Series. This would include info for women interested in learning more about how to manage fasting while breastfeeding. Once again, I am learning a lot and I look forward to sharing this information with you. Thank You.
After starting the blog Suckled Sunnah, I learned so much inspiring and resourceful information about Islam and breastfeeding. A few months ago, as I was completing my classes for the International Board Certification Lactation Exam my husband encouraged me to compile this information in a book. I liked the idea of being able to share my knowledge and promote the benefits of breastfeeding in a format that will be more accessible to people worldwide. So, I wrote a book entitled The Muslim Companion to Breastfeeding. It has several chapters and provides information about breastfeeding that is relevant to Muslims such as quranic verses, hadith, common fiqh issues, seerah, sunnah, explains why breastfeeding is best for Muslim families and explains how breastfeeding is from the fitrah, inherently a part of our spiritual and physical inclinations. It also includes culturally-relevant recipes for teas, smoothies, snacks and stews, a guide on getting started with breastfeeding, duas, tips on maintaining modesty, lists of halal commercial formulas, milk-sharing, alternatives to breastfeeding, how to make your own formula and so much more! Basically this book serves to educate Muslims on the divine blessing of breastfeeding and how to gain the most ajr (reward) from doing this action.
Now that you know more about this project, I would like to ask for your help. I need editors – scholars, mothers, men, breastfeeding counselors, anyone interested in this topic to review my book and help me to make it better before I publish it. I also need modest photos of Muslim families together, women and babies breastfeeding, and/or baby-wearing. With your permission using such photos will make my book more engaging and positive. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in being an editor or have a photo I can use.