Mothers shall breastfeed their children for two whole years, for those who wish to complete the term (Al Quran)
Breastfeeding or Nursing is the way of feeding of new born babies and young children with breast milk. It has a very high nutritional value and is considered the ‘best food’’ for a new born baby. Scientifically, it has been proven that breastfeeding is very important within the initial hours of a baby’s life. Breast milk is normally the only food that infants need for the first 6 months of life. Breast milk continues to be an important source of energy with high quality nutrients and must be continued for a specific period of time. Breastfeeding is clearly mentioned and encouraged in the Holy Quran as well. Allah (SWT) Says, “Mothers shall breastfeed their children for two whole years, for those who wish to complete the term" (2:233).
Some of the benefits of breastfeeding are:
Optimal nutrition: Breast milk provides high quality nutrients that are easily digested and efficiently used by the baby’s body. Breast milk also provides all the water a baby needs. There is no need for any additional liquid. Numerous studies indicate that, for infant’s breastfed exclusively and on demand, the water in the breast milk exceeds water requirements. The solute levels in the urine and blood of these infants - even those living in very hot, dry climates were within normal ranges, indicating adequate water intake. Colostrums have special properties and are very important to the infant for a variety of developmental, digestive, and protective factors.
Increased immunity: Breast milk is a living fluid that protects the baby against infections. During the first year of a baby’s life, the immune system is not fully developed- the baby depends on mother’s milk to fight infections.
Reduced risk of diarrhoeal disease and respiratory infections: A study from the Philippines showed that artificially fed babies were up to 17 times more at risk of getting diarrhoea than exclusively breastfed infants. Partially breastfed babies were more likely to have diarrhoea than exclusively breastfed babies, but less likely than babies who received no breast milk. A study in Dundee, Scotland found that breastfed infants had much less diarrhoea. For example, between 0 and 13 weeks of age, almost 20% of bottle-fed infants had diarrhoea compared with only 3.6% of the breastfed infants. In a study on the effects of breastfeeding on infant mortality in Latin America the authors conclude that artificially-fed infants 0-3 months of age were over 14 times more likely to die of diarrhoeal disease and four times more likely to die of acute respiratory infections than exclusively breastfed infants. Artificially-fed infants 4-11 months of age were almost 2 times more likely to die of both diarrhoeal disease and acute respiratory infection than partially breastfed infants. Another study in Dundee, Scotland found that breastfed infants had much less respiratory illness. For example, between 0 and 13 weeks of age, almost 39% of the bottle-fed infants had respiratory illness compared to only 23% of the breastfed infants.
Lower risk of obesity: A study in Germany found that among 9357 children aged 5 and 6 there was an over 5 times difference in the prevalence of obesity among those children that were never breastfed compared to those breastfed for over one year. There was a dose effect with the longer an infant had been breastfed the lower prevalence of obesity at the age of 5 and 6.
Breastfeeding has psychosocial and developmental benefits: Breastfeeding helps mother and baby to bond. Close contact right after delivery promotes development of a loving relationship between mother and baby. Babies cry less and mothers respond better to their babies’ needs. The effects of breastfeeding and breast milk on infant and child development and IQ has been a subject of much interest in the scientific field and the findings over decades of research have found consistently better developmental outcomes and higher IQs if breastfed.
Protection of mother’s health: The oxytocin released during breastfeeding helps the uterus to return to its previous size and helps to reduce postpartum bleeding. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers. A reanalysis of data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries found that the relative risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3% for every year of breastfeeding. In contrast artificial feeding causes; interference with bonding, more diarrhoea and respiratory infections, persistent diarrhoea, malnutrition - Vitamin A deficiency, more allergy and milk intolerance, increased risk of some chronic diseases, increased risk of overweight, lower scores on intelligence tests (for low-birth-weight babies), too frequent pregnancies for the mother, increased risk of anaemia, ovarian and breast cancer for the mother. It also costs less than artificial feeding. Money spent on buying infant formula can be used to buy nutritious food for mother and family.