If you are pregnant and planning to breastfeed or if you recently gave birth and are just starting on your nursing adventure, congratulations! This article is for you, Insha’Allah.
In the holy Qur’an, Allah SWT says,
“Mothers shall breastfeed their children for two whole years, for those who wish to complete the term.” (2:233)
In His infinite knowledge, the Creator of the universe felt that breastfeeding was important enough to mention specifically in His book and to recommend a duration of two whole years.
Breastfeeding has innumerable benefits to both mother and child, including enhanced health, bonding, and intelligence. It is also much more affordable than formula feeding, as well as better for the Earth.
The first few months of breastfeeding lay the foundation for the nursing relationship and therefore are crucial. Mother and baby need to get the hang of nursing while recovering from the upheaval of birth. While sometimes the process is easy, other times there are some challenges.
This list is meant to help moms with some of the most basic breastfeeding information.
1- One of the most important things to realize is the concept of supply and demand. The more baby sucks, the more milk is produced. In the first few months of life, expect baby to nurse almost constantly. Newborns fall asleep easily at the breast and might nurse for only a few minutes, nap, and then awaken hungry again.
The best policy is for mom to rest as much as possible with baby close by, and then nurse on demand (in other words, whenever baby indicates that she wants to nurse, not on a schedule). If mom substitutes with formula or a pacifier, her milk supply will decrease.
2- This brings us to an inevitable question: if mom is nursing her baby all the time, who will do all the tasks she usually does? Since breastfeeding is so crucial to a child’s development, consider those first few months a true investment in your child’s future. That means your normal standards of tidiness, organization, and household management might need to be relaxed.
If you can possibly afford a helper in the home, do so. If your husband, in keeping with the tradition of our beloved Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him), can help with some household tasks, it will be a wonderful gift to you and baby. Graciously accept support, also, from friends and family. Allow them to earn good deeds,Insha’Allah! Conserve your energy and strength until your breastfeeding relationship is solid and your strength has returned.
3- Breastfeeding should not hurt! If baby’s lips are latched correctly, nursing should not cause pain. If you DO experience pain, a number of issues could be occurring, almost all of which have a solution. Please do not give up breastfeeding if you face an obstacle! There are so many resources available to breastfeeding mothers. La Leche League International has breastfeeding experts who can often troubleshoot over the phone and offer free advice. (www.llli.org). LLL also hosts meetings where breastfeeding moms worldwide can get advice, support, and tips.
4- Certified Lactation Consultants can examine mom and baby and figure out the source of the problem. Sometimes, baby’s anatomy might cause him to suck improperly. Tongue tie, lip tie, and bubble palate are some common issues that can cause a baby to have trouble latching correctly, and a lactation consultant can spot these problems and suggest solutions.
5- Most hospitals have on-staff Lactation Consultants who will visit new mothers in the hospital in day(s) after birth, free of charge. Take advantage of this service! Have the consultant check your baby’s latch and your positioning, and ask her any questions you have. Take her business card and then you will have someone to call if any problems arise.
6- If you experience a fever, tenderness, redness, or soreness in your breasts, you should see a doctor immediately. Mastitis, or a breast infection, can be very serious and needs to be treated quickly. Plugged ducts are less serious but still might cause discomfort. A helpful website for troubleshooting some common problems is www.askdrsears.com, where a whole section is devoted to breastfeeding, including common problems and FAQ’s.
7- Don’t go it alone. If you are experiencing problems, post-partum depression, or extreme anxiety, reach out for help. After birth, a mother’s hormones are in upheaval, often causing mood swings and sometimes even debilitating depression. If you are feeling helpless or full of fear, speak to your doctor. If you are overwhelmed and tired, reach out to supportive friends and family and don’t be shy to accept their assistance.
8- Don’t rely on old wives tales for breastfeeding information. Many cultures have long-held beliefs about breastfeeding that are actually incorrect. Sadly, many women get well-meaning but erroneous advice that sabotages their experience. Moms might be warned that they can’t make enough milk that they are nursing too often, that the newborn needs formula and/or solids in addition to mother’s milk, or that they are “spoiling” their infant by holding him so much.
The list of faulty advice goes on and on. Much research has gone into breastfeeding in recent years, and there is a plethora of correct, modern, and scientific information available. So, when in doubt, be sure to consult experts (lactation consultants or trained breastfeeding educators) for advice.
9- Do not expect a breastfed infant to sleep through the night. While every child is different, expect newborns to nurse at least every four hours. Breast milk is so easily digested that babies get hungry quickly. Keeping baby in a bassinet next to your bed is an easy way to meet her night-time needs.
10- Remember that breastfeeding is about comfort and bonding as well as nutrition. You cannot spoil and infant, and your warm and loving arms are the best place for your baby. Those first few months will fly by, and before you know it, your baby will be learning to crawl, walk, and slowly gain independence. Know that those overwhelming demands of the early months are short-lived and actually precious.