Feeding time is bonding time
By Sumayyah Motala
The Quran says, “The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear” (Surah 2: Verse 233).
I recently observed a young mother breastfeeding her little one whilst busy scrolling through her Blackberry. It suddenly occurred to me that something was wrong with this picture. The mother I observed was not simply reading or replying to a text message but was engrossed by her mobile phone almost throughout the feed. We need to be careful in thinking that by simply providing the milk for our child we are fulfilling our duty toward them. There are many books and articles about the long-term psychological effects that close bonding during the early days have on our development and probably a lot more about the effects of radiation and increased exposure to cellphones.
One has to understand that whether you are able to breastfeed or bottle-feed, your child is not only being nourished but getting to know you, bond with you. Babies are said to use all five senses during feeding time. They can smell their milk as well as their mother so avoid wearing strong perfume especially during the early days. An infant senses touch and movement as you cradle him, they are able to see you when they are being held close to you, their sense of hearing is stimulated by listening to your heartbeat and they taste the milk that they drink.
Regardless of how many things you have to do after the feed, try to take this time as a timeout for yourself, lie down or sit in a comfortable place, you need the rest! Try not to talk too much or move a lot, let them get to know you, listen to your heartbeat and attain a calmness that makes them feel secure and loved. Remember that you cradled them in the warmth of your womb for nine months. Allow them to find solace in you from the hustle and bustle of the big world out there.
Babies can sense their mothers stress levels; they are too young to talk so if they sense that you are not composed, they can become restless. If we look at breastfeeding as form of Ibaadah, then it is appropriate that we try to do it whilst in a state of Wudhu. When we are in Wudhu our state of mind is also meant to be pure so this can help you to be calm before feeding. Remember to say ‘Bismillah’ before you begin. Islamic scholars agree that it is permissible to read Quran if you so desire while breastfeeding. You could also use this time to engage in quiet Zikr. If you wish to talk to your baby, tell them stories relating to our Deen, their spiritual development begins with you.
Stress hormones can also affect your ability to produce milk. An infant who is not settled may end up with an upset tummy. There is evidence linking stress in mothers to colic in babies. We end up with an almost vicious cycle where you, the mother, becomes more anxious and stressed at why your infant is howling. In order for your baby to be content, you need to be content. Make dua for Allah to make it easy for you. Ask for help if you cannot cope with the additional responsibilities that you could not have anticipated. You need to be honest with yourself. Some mothers are lucky to have help from spouses, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Others may not have family members but should not feel shy to ask a friend to come over. There are lactation consultants, baby clinics who can assist with free advice.
There are also support groups available for new mums such as those at the local hospitals (usually linked to the maternity/antenatal units). Insha allah if we work together, we can also form support groups specifically for Muslim sisters who are having difficulties with their little ones, mothers who have children with special needs or simply want to learn and share ideas from others. Please let us have your thoughts on this and other topics so that we can improve and provide you with information that is both interesting and useful.
PS: It’s rude to text at the dinner table so avoid it during your baby’s dinnertime!