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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who said breastfeeding is a choice?

This is my opinion piece in response to online discussions about the news of Federal National Council committee adding breastfeeding clause to UAE’s Child Rights Law.

Who said breastfeeding is a choice?
Perhaps it is for the mother but it is most definitely not a choice for the baby. According to my Islamic understanding all babies are to be breastfed; the choice is whether it is from his birth mother or from another woman.

If we go back to the Quran it clearly states the desire to complete the term of breastfeeding. An in depth look at the four ayahs on childbearing and breastfeeding/weaning, we can deduce that a mother has the choice to complete the term or not, herself. The calculated term for breastfeeding is a range between twenty-one and twenty-four months, depending on the length of pregnancy.

2.233: The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if [you] desire to complete the term. But the father shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms.

Notice, it states here the desire to complete the term for two whole years, not the desire to breastfeed or not.

31.014: And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail up on travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command).

Mentioned again, weaning after two years a total of twenty-four months.

46.015: We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth. The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months.

Quran regards breastfeeding a continuation of child bearing. If a child was carried in the womb for nine months, weaning can be after twenty-one months to total a term of thirty months. If the child was carried for less than nine months it is recommended to wean after 24 months for the completion of the term if she desires to do so herself.

65.006: and if they suckle your (offspring), give them their recompense: and take mutual counsel together, according to what is just and reasonable. And if ye find yourselves in difficulties, let another woman suckle (the child) on the (mother’s) behalf.  

It is clearly stated here that if the mother chooses not to complete the term of breastfeeding, than another woman shall feed the baby. If the parents decide mutually that the mother shall not feed the baby herself, the father is responsible to provide for another woman to feed the baby on the mother’s behalf to complete the total of thirty months of child bearing and breastfeeding compiled. So, the choices that we are looking at here are the choice for the mother to feed or for a wet nurse to feed. The choices are not between breast milk and artificial milk for the baby, the choices are breast milk from the mother to complete the term or breast milk from a wet nurse to complete the term.

Breastfeeding is so much more than simply placing a baby on a mother’s breast to feed for nutrients. The method in which a baby is nourished in the first two years of life has an impact on health, emotional development, and the general wellbeing for a lifetime. As a whole, a given health care system should be the ultimate source of information and support for mothers in order to sustain these infant rights to proper feeding, nourishment, and development. Positive changes towards the practice of breastfeeding in maternity facilities and hospital environments imposed by governments are necessary for any major improvement in society related to breastfeeding and mothering practices. And if countries in the Middle East feel that it is pertinent to impose laws to protect these infant rights than so be it. Infant breastfeeding is essential for the benefits it provides to the child, and it should be focused on and considered an important aspect of disease prevention and economic stability by any country. In my humble opinion we are not talking about women’s rights, we are talking about infant rights. It is very clearly stated in the Quran that an infant shall be fed breast milk be it by the birth mother or another mother for a complete term of up to two years.

The only time feeding naturally for an infant became a choice was with the introduction of artificial milk by artificial milk industries and the misinterpretation of Quran and science. I personally don’t think it is fair to impose on an infant anything artificial. It is well documented that breastfed infants are protected from ailments including diarrhea, respiratory infections, otitis media, asthma, and many others. Additionally, WHO/UNICEF estimates annual deaths of 1.5 million infants worldwide because they are subjected to diseases related to not being breastfed.

If I gave you the choice to eat an artificial apple or a natural apple, which would you choose? I suppose you would choose the natural one, because the artificial one is made of an assortment of chemicals, preservatives, and sugar. So, why would you give your newborn child artificial milk? It is made of an assortment of chemicals, preservatives, sugar, and adjusted cow milk or soymilk proteins.
How would we feed our infants if for some reason the world faced an economic crisis that shut down all artificial milk factories? How would women know how to breastfeed if we don’t keep the art of breastfeeding alive? How would our daughters learn how to breastfeed if we don’t role model for them? Do we have to wait for war, death, and disease before we realize the value of keeping the art of breastfeeding alive and protected?

© all rights reserved by Modia Batterjee

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post.
    I already fully agreed on the children's rights aspect of the law, but because I do not actually know an awful lot about the UAE, which is often perceived as oppressive towards women, I felt uneasy about the law because it seems another way of controlling women with men being encouraged to report their wives.
    And I think that aspect made a lot of very pro breastfeeding women in the west rather uncomfortable. For me BF is not a choice, it's what I do, but I do not know how I would feel if I knew that my husband could report cessation prior to the age of two.


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