Mothers shall suckle children for two whole years, for those who desire to complete the suckling. It is for the father to provide for them and clothe them honourably. No soul is charged save to its capacity: no woman should suffer because of her child, nor any man because of his. The same responsibilities are incumbent on the heir. But if (the couple) decide by mutual consent to wean (the child), there is no blame on them. And if you desire to seek nursing for your children (by hiring a foster mother), there is no blame on you provided you pay her fairly. Fear God, and know that God sees everything you do (Qur’an, 2.205).
Breast-feeding is extremely important for the mother’s own health, as well as that of her baby. The propaganda in the sixties and seventies of some materialistic physicians in cahoots with baby-food manufacturers tried to throw doubt on the value of breast-feeding and to present it, especially in ‘Third World’ countries, as something second-best, unsophisticated. More recently, however, the scientific community has been forced to recognize the irreplaceable value of the mother’s milk, compared to any artificial product, and the World Health Organisation has banned all negative propaganda directed against it.
In what follows, I shall try to answer, from a scientific standpoint, these three questions:
1) What does mother’s milk impart to the baby?
2)What should be the frequency and duration of nursing?
3) What effect does nursing have on the mother?
For nourishment human beings need the three basic foods, and phosphorous and vitamins. All of these substances, namely proteins, sugar, fats, phosphorous and vitamins, are present in the mother’s milk. The special worth of breast milk, however, lies rather in the fact that it contains these substances in very subtly tuned proportions, and the most important secret of its composition is that fatty molecules are dispersed within it in very fine, small particles.
The mother’s own breast milk is prepared more richly than the table of a tycoon. To begin with, the entire vitamin requirement of the baby is present in it for the first six months. Properly informed science can only be amused at the sight of over-anxious parents rushing about with a fruit press in their hands in an effort to provide baby with Vitamin C.
Secondly, there are antibodies in the mother’s milk during the first six months that protect the baby against all infectious diseases. There are even antibodies protecting against measles in the milk of a mother who has never contracted measles, an inexplicable fact in biological terms. This can only be a divine indication of the value God places on the well being of His creatures.
Certain atheistic scientists have put forward an absurd claim that breast milk is deficient in iron. It has been established in recent years, however, that in adults blood is produced in the bone marrow, whereas in babies it is produced in the liver. Iron is stored in the baby’s liver even while it is in the mother’s womb. Attempts to compensate for this supposed deficiency by medicines containing iron may condemn babies to a lifetime of enteritis.
It is a biological imperative that the baby be nursed on breast milk during the first six months, since the liver, normally the centre of digestive activities, is largely occupied with blood production in babies. Furthermore, the baby uses nutrition for the purposes of growth and development rather than energy. For this reason, it is next to impossible to select and balance the required food types and vitamins. We know that there are more than 50 vitamins in addition to the handful known to medicine. The growth and development of the baby is, through the perfect balance of breast milk, brought under perfect control by Divine Omnipotence. To attempt to imitate this divinely managed blessing with imperfect human imitations of it is both arrogant and ridiculous.
Another burden atheists have put on breast-feeding is the rule of feeding every four hours, which they have invented by analogy with the normal period of digestion. Recent research has shown that milk is completely digested in 45 minutes. When this period is over, the secretion of milk in the mother’s mummeries increases by a telepathic reflex, and the baby normally begins to cry due to hunger. All these events constitute a biological computer system, and if the feeding periods do not correspond, the baby’s stomach is filled with acid, seriously disrupting its digestive system. It has even been conjectured that this may contribute to ulcers in later life.
Regarding the duration of breast-feeding, modem medicine has imposed a wholly arbitrary period, namely nine months. But the basic logic of suckling is based on two facts:
a) The liver is heavily loaded because it is producing blood, and hence there is a need for milk. It takes about two full years for the liver to recede into the background as regards blood production. For this reason, breast-feeding should last two years.
b) The most important phase of development, the period when basic biological materials are required, is again two years. Medical science definitely recognizes that the first two years of development of the baby are the most significant phase.
Another miracle of the Qur’an’s wisdom is that it specified this period, although, before Islam, the practice in the societies in the Middle East was to breast-feed for four to five years.
A final point in regard to the length of the breast-feeding period: Research on childhood mental disorders has shown that an infant needs to be breast-fed for about two years for mental health to be robust. A study done on a global scale revealed that no child in Indonesia and the Philippines suffered mental problems, and the research committee found that this was due to the sense of security and tenderness imparted to the baby during two years of breast- feeding in those countries.
a) The healthy functioning of the mammary glands:
Health statistics gathered world-wide have shown that cancer of the breast occurs seldom in mothers who breast-feed their infants for one or two-years. Mothers who do not do so, on the other hand, run the greatest risk of contracting this disease. If only for this reason, a one or two-year nursing period should be commended as a cancer preventive.
b) Biological regeneration occurring in the mother’s body during nursing:
The liver functions at full capacity in a mother who breast- feeds. All the chemical problems of the mother’s body come under scrutiny in this way. Further, since all the required substances have to be mixed into the maternal blood, the mother’s cells compensate for their deficiencies during nursing. Again, since the pituitary gland is in full control during nursing, the general hormone processes all function properly, and hence the psychological makeup of the mother is vastly improved. This harmony in the hormone balance of nursing mothers and the period of calm it imposes on the psychological structure is a priceless gift. You may have noted that despite being physically tired, nursing mothers are never ill-tempered. The reason for this is the harmonization of glandular secretions during breast-feeding.
Again thanks to this hormonal balance, the womb and ovaries of the nursing mother are also afforded a period of rest. Although this period is not equal to the nursing period, a repose of two to six months is a very valuable rest in terms of the mother’s sex organs. In the meantime, simple disorders of the womb and ovaries are also cured. Two years is, again, the ideal duration of the nursing period for these benefits to fully manifest themselves.
In sum, the disparagement of mother’s milk and of breast feeding generally by proponents of an atheistic modern medicine must rank as one of the most shameful stains on the history of medicine. Biologically and psychologically, the health of both mother and baby is greatly improved by breast feeding for, ideally, up to two years. Independent scientific studies have confirmed that this is so. We should not be surprised that they have done so. For who would know better what is best for the well-being of mankind than the One who created us?