Breastfeeding and Being Judgemental

24 06 2007

baby-feed.jpgThree years ago, on a very rainy summer day, I gave birth to my first son. I was sure that I would breast feed him. In Islam, breastfeeding is spoken of very highly.

“The mothers shall give suck to their children for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling”

[al-Baqarah 2:233]

I had this very fictional image that the baby would automatically begin sucking and my milk would flow freely. This didn’t happen. Reality hit me like a load of bricks. My son had complications and I couldn’t  see him for hours after he was born. I knew something was wrong since he was born blue and not breathing. My husband ran off with the doctors and the baby with a worried look on his face. I did see that much. Plus, I kept overhearing my mother on her phone asking people to pray for me and the baby.   Yet, no one would actually come in and explain to me what was going on. So, finally, my husband along with the pediatricians came in and explained that the baby was going to be fine. He had just been born with the cord wrapped around his neck, they had given him fluids, he was recovering nicely and they would bring him to me in a few minutes.   When he came in, I immediatley tried to breast feed him. The nurse on duty came in to help me and to no avail. The nurse suggested that was because he was given fluids in the NICU.All he wanted to do was sleep.  Understandably, the poor baby was so tired after his ordeal.  So, we decided to let him sleep.  In a few hours he woke, crying. I changed his diaper and tried to breastfeed again. I needed major help, so I paged the nurse. She came in and we tried everything, yet, he was still crying. I went through this for two days. His diapers were not being soiled or wet up to par. I tried pumping but never got more than half an ounce. I never felt the milk come in.  So, they advised a bottle. I complied. I continued trying to get him to breastfeed but was never sucessful. So, I gave up and went completly to bottle feeding.

I was severely criticized for this both by my non Muslim mother and also more so by the Muslim sisters that I came into contact with. Everyone seemed to have the opinion that I just didn’t try hard enough or was a lazy american who couldn’t stick with anything. This made me feel absolutely terrible. The passive agressive comments they made implying my lack of concern and love for my child brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

A year later, I learned that I was pregnant again. Mash’Allah, I told the doctor straightaway of my breastfeeding problems with my first child. I asked her for anything to increase my breastfeeding ablility. So, she gave me a diet while I was pregnant. It consisted of plenty of protein and veggies. During the last trimester I was told to use alfalfa sprouts to make a tea and drink it  also fenugreek tea. So, I did.

The big day came.  I gave birth and the doctor cleaned him off and put him on my chest immediatey. I was told to try to feed him. The nurses all helped me and with little effort he latched on. I was thrilled. I thought, it is going to work this time.

The first few hours were fine. Then, he began to cry. I kept trying to breastfeed.  He would latch on and vigorously suck, yet he would let go in a few minutes and scream. The nurses brought in a pump and had me pump when I wasn’t trying to feed him. Yet, again, nothing would come out and I didn’t feel the milk come in. I refused to give up this time. My husband’s mother was with us along with my own mother. They spent a week with me.  My obgyn prescribed an herbal supplement to try to increase my milk supply. Still nothing. I was not giving up! For the entire week, I kept insisting on NO BOTTLE. I was determined my milk would come in. It didn’t. He was not having suffient wet diapers and virtually no bowel movements by the end of the week. That’s when i realized something was wrong. He became jaundiced. So, I took him to the doctor. She weighed him and said while a weight drop was normal, his weight had dropped too much and he had jaundice. I had to have him hospitalized to stay under the billylights in order to get the bilirubion down.  Alhamdullilah, by morning he was allowed to go home. By this time, the mother who had so harshly criticized me the first go around was begging me to stop and give him the bottle. I tried to breastfeed a couple days after that, even though he was using the billyblanket at home.  He was still screaming all hours of the day and it was not getting any better. So, I sent out my husband for bottles and formula. He drank, he smiled. Alhamdullilah.

Believe it or not, I was still criticized by the muslim women in my life at the time with the exception of my husband’s family who had witnessed my struggle. It seems that it is so easy to point the finger and judge someone and how they are bringing up their children even without knowing the full extent of their situation.

I’m well aware of all the benefits of breastfeeding: closeness,less sickness,some studies show breast fed children are smarter, better quality, less chance of bacteria. Though, Some women, no matter how much they want to breastfeed or even pump can not.  Every woman doesn’t have an ample milk supply or even a decent enough supply to feed her child (ren). Not only that, but every woman is not comfortable with breast feeding. Some women work and can’t find the time to pump. I am well aware of all the bacteria linked to formula these days. This was one of the factors that pushed me so hard to try to breastfeed. I think we do take that risk with most anything though. Our children could come into contact with bacteria virtually anywhere. They are like magnets it is drawn to them.Do I love my children less because they are not breastfed? NOOOOOOOOOO WAY! Are they lacking because of it? From what I can see compared to their peers, NO WAY.  In my opinion the intelligence and happiness of the child is more of a result of the parenting he/she recieves that the milk they drink as a baby.

Maybe many of these muslim women would be surprised to learn that in the Prophet(saw)’s time, many mothers (including the Prophet’s mother) sent their children to wet nurses. They had no formula in that time period.  So, It’s not for us women to judge one another and make assumptions about how we are raising our children .  Most of us, whether we want to admit it or not, are all the same in regards to our children. We are all struggling to give our children the best possible life  and to raise them to be the  best individuals they can be.

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7 responses

24 06 2007
bluemilk

You’d think mothers would be especially understanding of one another’s difficulties in motherhood but somehow it doesn’t work that way. Its a shame mothers judge one another, when we really should be offering support. Good post.

24 06 2007
Sheila

AOA sister,

it is very true that people are very quick to judge and alos voice it either directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, people use too much of their ‘judgement’ and dont do enough to get to know the real situation/person to learn about a situation and to advice a person in the best way. I am sorry that you had to go through this kind of taunt with the most sensitive of subject. Its amazing how people can think that they would ever want better for a child that the childs mother, who bore the child 9/10 month and gave birth to it. It surely beats me.

Unfortunately, ‘presumteousnes’ has become a what I would like to call ‘disease’ in our society. Everybody goes around thinking they are better than the next person or hey know better than that person. I have a very laid back personality and I usually dont fuss and I certainly do not talk about things if I am not very knowledgeable about the subject or the situation. May be because of this personality I get so amazed by how people behave in certain situations. And how people act as if they know everything…

Sheila

24 06 2007
hema

salaam

thanks for sharing. i was amazed that you’ve been judged in this way. surely people should understand that noone wants whats best for their child than the mother??

25 06 2007
adikbongsu

Assalamu’alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh ukhti,

people who criticise without truly understanding are those without knowledge, this things happened a lot in my homeland too….i too was subjected to criticism but mine was on not getting pregnant fast enough…. ppl forget that certain things are beyong our means…. and the worst thing is, they know it but they still ignore and continue with their heartless criticism…

26 06 2007
carimuslima

Subhanallah, women just love to put more pressure on other women especially moms. People seem to always have their opinion on what is best for the baby, and in the beginning you want to make things perfect for your little one and usually take the advice of mommy dearest, and criticisms are taken heartedly. I know this is what happened to me. I was made to feel that I failed in motherhood because I didn’t have enough breastmilk, not from my mom but by other Muslim sisters astaphrallah. Seems I had the best of the litter ha?!

Why are people so judgemental, I mean a mother knows best for her child, so please keep all advice to yourself unless you’re asked. I mean 4 babies later I know that now. I let people talk and say their advice, but ultimately I let it be known that I know best for my baby, and if they don’t like it tough tamales. They need to get over it, I think some people just never cease to criticize and so we reach the term your damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Subhanallah….
GREAT POST SIS!!!! something those opinianated mothers out there need to read carefully. Hugs ;)

27 06 2007
Aaminah

Asalaamu alaikum,

I read your post last night but couldn’t bear to comment right away. It brought up so many feelings for me. I am thinking, I don’t know, perhaps I should just write something on my own blog. Because it might be long. I’ve never written something so intensely personal on my blog, but maybe if it would be helpful to someone else, inshaAllah… I had problems nursing, and not because I didn’t have enough milk but other problems. And I knew that I wouldn’t be able to have any more children after the one. So there are really two issues there that I dealt with first as a non-Muslim with family etc. butting in, and then after I became Muslim and sisters getting after me about it. It’s been very emotional. I really wanted to breastfeed, I felt that it was absolutely essential. When I wasn’t able to do it, I felt like a terrible failure. And that was magnified by knowing I wouldn’t get a second or third chance, that I was failing my only baby who I wanted to get everything right for. My son will be 11 years old in a few months, and still the whole thing hurts when I really think about it. And I still get the questions and digging and all that from sisters about why I only have the one, why I don’t have more, what am I doing wrong, etc. I’ve accepted the qadr and am actually happy to not have more children – wow that gets a terrible reaction too – what kind of a Muslim woman really doesn’t mind not having a houseful? But to me I just accept that Allah knows my limits, you know? But still even accepting that, I still get hurt by the comments and gossip. It’s a hard thing to heal from completely.

28 06 2007
Umm Yusuf

Assalaamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu sister Aaminah,

I’m so sorry that happened to you. May Allah make it easy for you and reward you for your patience and accepting His Decree. ameen.

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