“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”
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.