Nursing a newborn baby is seen in Islam as the natural duty of the mother, or in the case that she is unable, of a wet nurse. Many experts, in fact, cite this surah when they speak of the duties of women in Islam.
However, the benefits of nursing a child extend far beyond this one verse from Qur’an. Breastfeeding fulfills many requirements, as hinted at in the above verse.
It benefits the mother’s health, enabling her to perform her household duties more efficiently; provides better health to infants, enabling the healthier development of Muslim children; and cuts down on healthcare and nutritional expenses (less expensive than bottle feeding).
Nursing also protects against disease in developing countries – all important issues in the Muslim community, as we will see below.
First and foremost, many mothers choose to nurse simply because it is the easiest thing to do. Although many women experience initial difficulties, once they are overcome within the first ten days or so, most women find that nursing makes their life much easier. Instead of the house being run by the new baby, as is often the case following a new birth, the mother is able to take care of the infant as well as her other duties around the house.
Nursing saves mothers the work of sterilizing bottles; choosing, measuring and making formula; sitting to hold the bottle for infants, and getting up at night to heat bottles. In many cases, the mother is able to hold and nurse her baby in a sling while she is shopping, working, or taking care of other children.
Nursing also helps new mothers lose weight more easily as more calories are burned during milk production. Nursing promotes better health in children for many reasons. But, the consensus is that the main reason is that man cannot mimic the protein and nutrients that Allah has provided in a mother’s milk. Even more of them are being discovered each year.
In 2001 another nutrient was found – a soluble protein called C14 which stimulates the development of B cells, immune cells made in the bone marrow and key to the production of antibodies.
Dr. Michael Julius of the University of Toronto and Toronto Hospital who led the study said, “Over the last decades, the scientific basis for this conventional wisdom has increased due to our identification of many of the elements of breast milk that mediate all these good things. In addition to being full of nutrients and growth factors, it is full of things that protect the newborn.”
The devastating effects of substituting cow’s milk for human milk are most evident in developing countries. Human milk is rich in all the nutrients that the human body requires for proper development. Cow’s milk passes on many of these same benefits to calves; however, because its nutrients and immunology factors are specifically suited for calves, it is a mismatch for humans.
As well, once cow’s milk is processed, its immunology factors are destroyed. It is even more harmful when one considers the number of pollutants that are found in cow’s milk formula in the form of white sugar, synthetic hormones, heavy metals (from the cans it comes in) and preservatives.
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