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Leaving Your Nursling for Hajj

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

I Passed the IBCLC Exam

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 suckledsunnah@gmail.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.

I Wrote a Book, Now I Need Your Help!

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 suckledsunnah@gmail.com if you are interested in being an editor or have a photo I can use.

Thank You

Why Muslims Should Start a Mommy War

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.