Islam Protects and Promotes Breastfeeding

Islam protects the breastfeeding relationship by providing rights and provisions that ensure the mother and child attain optimal benefits.  Here is a small list of examples that make breastfeeding easier and more achievable:

  • Breastfeeding is the right of the mother.  If she is willing no one can keep her from doing it.
  • Breastmilk is the birthright of a child.
  • As a part of marriage, husbands provide emotional, moral, physical and financial support.
  • After birth, women are given a generous 40/60 day (depending on madhab) maximum resting period while she is still bleeding (nifas). During this time she is not obligated to fast or pray (Sunnipath).
  • Sexual intercourse with one’s husband is not allowed while a woman is bleeding (nifas) after childbirth.
  • With a valid excuse, breastfeeding women can delay their fasts and make them up at a later time.
  • Children must honor their parents as mentioned in the translation of Surah Luqman verse 14, “And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and good to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years. Give thanks to Me and to your parents; unto Me is the final destination”

The following are derived from Surah Al-Baqarah Verse 233:

  • The recommended full term of breastfeeding is 2 years.  This is the perfect amount of time because there are many benefits (please refer to this post).
  • Breastfeeding does not have to be a hardship. No one can force a woman to
  • Weaning early is permissible if a mother and father wish to do so.
  • If the parents choose to, they can hire a wet-nurse to feed the baby.
  • If the father/husband is not available e.g. he dies, his heir is responsible for facilitating his responsibilities for feeding the child.
  • Women have no obligation to work outside the home to provide food, clothing, or maintenance of the household. In general, and within reasonable means, this is the responsibility of the husband.
  • It is the father’s responsibility to find and pay for a milk-source if the mother does not breastfeed.
  • If a woman is divorced and still breastfeeding she has to be maintained (or compensated) by the ex-husband.

The Best & Worst Places in the World for Breastfeeding Support

Each year, the charity Save the Children reviews the education, health status, nutrition, economic well-being and political participation of women around the world. This years State of the Worlds Mothers report, focuses on the impact of nutrition in the first 1000 days of life and contains a Breastfeeding Policy Scorecard which looks at breastfeeding practices, policies, and support for 36 industrialized countries. Rankings are based on maternity leave laws, right to daily nursing breaks, percentage of hospitals that are baby friendly, state of policy support for the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and breastfeeding practices.

Norway showed their success by ranking first with a score of 9.2. The report states, “Norway tops the Breastfeeding Policy Scorecard ranking. Norwegian mothers enjoy one of the most generous parental leave policies in the developed world. After giving birth, mothers can take up to 36 weeks off work with 100 percent of their pay, or they may opt for 46 weeks with 80 percent pay (or less if father shares the leave benefits). In addition, Norwegian law provides for up to 12 months of additional child care leave,  which can be taken by both fathers and mothers. When they return to work, mothers have the right to nursing breaks as they need them. Nearly 80 percent of hospitals have been certified as “baby-friendly” and many provisions of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes have been enacted into law. Breastfeeding practices in Norway reflect this supportive environment: 99 percent of babies there are breastfed initially and 70 percent are breastfed exclusively at 3 months.”

To my surprise, the United States of America ranked last with a score of 4.2 (and Canada isn’t doing too much better in 31st place). The report states, “The United States ranks last on the Breastfeeding Policy Scorecard. It is the only economically advanced country – and one of just a handful of countries worldwide – where employers are not required to provide any paid maternity leave after a woman gives birth. There is also no paid parental leave required by U.S. law. Mothers may take breaks from work to nurse, but employers are not required to pay them for this time. Only 2 percent of hospitals in the United States have been certified as “Baby-Friendly” and none of the provisions of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes has been enacted into law. While 75 percent of American babies are initially breastfed, only 35 percent are being breastfed exclusively at 3 months.”

I thought it would be good to share these findings because there are millions (maybe even billions) of Muslims who live in these countries who are converts to Islam, immigrants or descendents of one of the two. Living in these type of societies definitely impacts our staggering breastfeeding rates as an Ummah and Insh’Allah, more countries promote breastfeeding by enacting laws that allow mothers to provide the best nourishment for their child(ren), overall benefitting society:)

Below is the full list of where the 36 countries placed on the Breastfeeding Policy Scorecard.

  1. Norway
  2. Slovenia
  3. Sweden
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Austria
  6. Lithuania
  7. Latvia
  8. Czech Republic
  9. Netherlands
  10. Germany
  11. Estonia
  12. Poland
  13. Portugal
  14. France
  15. Belgium
  16. Ireland
  17. Italy
  18. Switzerland
  19. New Zealand
  20. Cyprus
  21. Denmark
  22. Greece
  23. Slovak Republic
  24. Spain
  25. United Kingdom
  26. Finland
  27. Israel
  28. Japan
  29. Hungary
  30. Liechtenstein
  31. Canada
  32. Iceland
  33. Monaco
  34. Australia
  35. Malta
  36. United States

Indonesia gets Tough on Promoting Exclusive Breastfeeding

Excessive Formula advertising is one of the factors that negatively impact exclusive breasfeeding in Indonesia.

Indonesia is known for having the largest Muslim population in the world. However, despite the strong recommendations to breastfeed in Islam, there is a low prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding for newborns. Exclusive breastfeeding means that the baby only receives breastmilk and no additional food, water or formula. Generally, it is recommended to exclusive breastfeed for a minimum of 6 months. Recognizing the social and economic benefits of breastfeeding, the Indonesian government has recently implemented several new regulations to get more mothers to breastfeed their infants. Health Ministry Director-General for Nutrition and Maternal and Infant Health Slamet Riyadi Yuwono stated, “As soon as possible after delivery (with the exception of emergencies and special medical conditions), healthcare workers are required to help mothers initiate breast-feeding for at least one hour.” Issued on March 1, 2012, these laws require medical facilities and healthcare workers to promote breastfeeding to mothers and imposes tough rules on the use of infant formula for newborns. These regulations are a part of the 2009 Heath Law which stipulates that every child has the right to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth. Non-compliant healthcare workers may receive administrative sanctions in the form of written warnings, verbal warnings, and/or license revocation. Also, formula cannot be offered, unless prescribed by a physician. All forms of advertising is prohibited, such as free samples, discounts and sales bonus compensation Currently, the Ministry of Health is discussing regulations to hold formula manufacturers and distributors accountable for violating the law, and not promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a newborn’s life.  Please Follow my Blog by Email and Help Spread the Barakah of Breastfeeding!