Once again, it appears that infant formula companies are inappropriately advertising their products to families. Read the the following linked article get more info about how breastfeeding advocates in Ghana are making a comeback by launching a campaign to encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed.
One of the most debated topics in the acclaimed “Mommy Wars” is breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding. Self-proclaimed “lactivists” proudly stand for breastfeeding while their formula-feeding opponents generally express indifference to the whole issue. I think it is ludicrous to debate about something that has been around for thousands of years (breastmilk) versus something that has been around for 50 years (formula). But, I think the discussion is a healthy medium to promote the unmatched benefits of breastfeeding in a society where bottle-feeding is the cultural norm. This controversy should be brought up in the Muslim community, where encouraging mothers to breastfeed is nearly taboo. From my experience, sisters are light-hearted about the recommendation to breastfeed in the Quran and are very reluctant to mention the importance of breastfeeding in Islam. Influenced by popular culture, many Muslims have adopted the myth that formula is superior (or equal) to breastmilk. Then, there are those who feel that breastfeeding is immodest and should be forfeited to maintain one’s dignity. Lastly, for many who are first generation Americans, bottle-feeding is a status symbol, a sign that they are truly American. However, our brothers and sisters are missing out on the barakah of breastfeeding by disregarding this truly forgotten sunnah. If more of us followed the divine guidance of Allah (swt), we would avoid some of the common perils of artificial feeding such as contamination, constipation and obesity. As an Ummah, we should do more to encourage each other to breastfeed, providing the perfect form of nourishment for the mind, body and soul of a child. Insh’Allah, more Muslim mothers will learn about the superior benefits of breastfeeding and will be motivated to adjust their lifestyle appropriately when they do become mothers. Lastly, we should not neglect or shun the mothers who do commit to breastfeeding their children. Instead, we should be openly proud and supportive of the fact that they are gaining reward from Allah (swt) “for every drop of breastmilk.“ By promoting breastfeeding, we are not only protecting the health of our children, we are strengthening our families, our community and our future.
While doing some research online, I found this intriguing book review by Hannah Katsman from GreenProphet.com. The book entitled “A Fading Art: Understanding Breastfeeding in the Middle East,” writen by Dr. Modia Batterjee, attributes the high infant mortality rate amongst Muslim countries to the lack of breastfeeding.
She blames formula companies for heavily marketing their products to mothers and healthcare professionals in these countries. Consequently, bottlefeeding with formula is highly practiced in predominantly Muslim countries such as Pakistan where “the number of feeding bottles sold annually, if placed end to end, would reach Mt. Everest.” The book focuses a lot on Dr. Batterjee’s study of Saudi women who often do not breastfeed for the following reasons:
- Working outside the home
- Due to lack of breastfeeding women in extended family, women have not observed any relative breastfeeding women
- Traditional, extended family structure is less prominent
- Healthcare workers do not know much about breastfeeding
- Formula companies heavily promote bottlefeeding
- Older generation of women, who did not breastfeed, have influence on younger women
There are also cultural beliefs and practices that prevent women from successfully breastfeeding in the Arab World, which include:
- Women are separated from baby after birth and baby kept in nursery throughout the hospital stay.
- Babies are often served formula and/or tea to help soothe their tummy or help them sleep.
- After being supplemented with formula in a bottle, many babies prefer the bottle and will refuse the breast.
- Many women doubt they have a sufficient milk supply and/or do not know the signs of a satiated baby.
- Babies are often not correctly latched-on
- Women are often given pain medications during birth which effects the mother and baby as they initiate breastfeeding
Since I aspire to be a health educator for Muslimahs these articles were very beneficial for me and insh’Allah I can get my hands on a copy of this book. As brothers and sisters in Islam, this information can help us to understand the factors that prevent our mothers from breastfeeding. Insh’Allah, more children can benefit from the Barakah of Breastfeeding and live longer lives. May Allah (swt) make it easy for us all. Links to the book review are below.
Years ago, I learned about bisphenol-A as a nursing student and was shocked to find out that 90% of Americans have traces of it in their urine, mainly as a result of food and beverage packaging. On Tuesday, the Federal Food and Drug administration announced that BPA can no longer be used to make sippy cups and baby bottles. This controversial chemical which is used to make polycarbonate plastic, makes products clear and shatter-proof, which is why it is ideal for manufacturing children’s drinking containers. Parents became aware of this chemical when it was discovered that it leached out of bottles and into the milk, especially when heated. This was alarming news, as research studies continually show that the chemical acts like a hormone and triggers a host of unhealthy effects such as cancer, obesity, heart arrhythmias, developmental delays and reproductive problems. This issue reveals the dynamic of the hidden risks involved with formula and bottle-feeding. Companies generally do not have the consumers best interest in mind, and we may be unknowingly exposing our children to things that are detrimental to their health. If one is capable, it is best to breastfeed because it is perfectly designed for feeding babies and it protects the mother and child from dangers in the external environment. Once again, the divine wisdom of Allah (swt) prevails. Help Spread the Barakah of Breastfeeding by sharing this with someone.
*Please be aware that it is still permissible and considered safe by the FDA to use BPA in toys, food containers and drinking bottles. The FDA is considering a petition to ban BPA from formula containers.
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.
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- Slovak Republic
- United Kingdom
- United States
A recent study revealed that 48.1% of UAE babies aged 3-6 months are fed formula. This alarming statistic reaffirmed the need for breastfeeding promotion in all institutions that interact with pregnant and nursing women. An established campaign that focuses on publicizing the benefits of breastfeeding has implemented new strategies to gain community involvement by encouraging facilities to become Baby-Friendly, a designation promoted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF which sets standards that empower women to breastfeed. The Sharjah Baby-Friendly Emirate Campaign, which was initiated under the generous patronage of Her Highness Sheika Budoor Bint Sultan Al Qassimi, has four primary initiatives: Breastfeeding-Friendly Nurseries, Mother and Baby-Friendly Public Places, Mother-Friendly Workplaces and Baby-Friendly Health Facilities. They recently held an educational seminar on “Baby Friendly Health Facilities”, attended by several healthcare representatives and prominent breastfeeding specialists. Their participation was crucial to the campaign because hospital staff are most trusted by women as credible authority figures, and are seen as sources of reliable information. All participants agreed on their vital role of increasing breastfeeding awareness and education to families. They also all expressed willingness to adopt the ten steps to becoming Baby-Friendly. Insh’Allah, the campaign’s strategies are effective in improving breastfeeding rates in the UAE and more of our Muslim brothers and sisters can benefit from the Barakah of Breastfeeding. If you are pregnant and will be delivering at a hospital, make sure that it is Baby-Friendly certified. Become familiar with the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding which must be practiced by the facility. Here are the guidelines for the United States:
Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
Every facility providing maternity services and care for newborn infants should:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
- Practice rooming-in – that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together – 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
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!