Ibrahim B. Syed,
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA
We read in the Qur'an the
"Mothers shall suckle their children
for two whole years; (that is) for those who wish to complete suckling……."
Surah, Al-Baqara (The Cow): 233(Verse #).
This is a Qur'anic command for
the mothers to suckle (breastfeed) their children for a period of two years.
This command is modified by the subsequent words " (that is) for those who wish
to complete suckling." Obeying the Qur'anic command is an Ibaada (worship). The
wisdom of breastfeeding the children has been instilled in the Muslims through
this Qur'anic revelations. Those who followed this Qur'anic command raised
mentally and physically healthy Muslim children. Alhamdulillah.
The following article gives us
the opportunity to think and appreciate this Qur'anic wisdom. In the Western
world, majority of the children are raised by drinking "formula" milk. Some are
of the opinion that the mothers in the West are refusing to breastfeed their
children to maintain their youthful figure. Now let us see what the Western
studies reveal with regard to breastfeeding the children.
Many epidemiologic studies
reported over the years suggest that breastfeeding reduces the risk of infection
and atopic disease in the breastfed infant and child. The United States Surgeon
General released in October 2000, the Blueprint for Action on
Breastfedeing, (HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding.
Washington, DC: Dept of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health;
2000) which spells out the strategic plan for the country to
improve the percentage of women who breastfeed and the duration of that
breastfeeding. The health goals of the United States for 2010 include having:
at least 75 % of mothers
leave the hospital breastfeeding and
- at least 50 % of women
breastfeeding at 6 months and 25 % at 1 year postpartum(after delivery).
The American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and
continues breastfeeding while adding weaning foods for at least a year and then
for as long thereafter as mother and infant wish.
In a very recent article titled "
The Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT) - A Randomized Trial
in the Republic of Belarus" published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA, January 24/31, 2001--Vol 285, No.4 pp.413-420), which is
considered as masterful study of more than 17,000 mother-infant pairs recruited
from the maternity hospital and polyclinics in the Republic of Belarus. The real
and clear message of this study is that breastfeeding, especially prolonged
breastfeeding, affects child health, particularly in the area of
gastrointestinal infections and atopic eczema in the first year of life. This
study confirms previously held impressions that breastfeeding is protective
against acute problems in infancy, namely gastrointestinal and allergic
diseases. Existing epidemiologic data suggest breastfeeding protects against
childhood cancers, Crohn disease and celiac disease.
New research, published in The Lancet -
a British Medical Journal (Vol. 357, of Feb. 10, 2001, pp. 413-419) suggests
that babies fed infant formula grow up to have higher blood pressure than those
given breast milk. The scientists found that the diastolic blood pressure
reading- the lower number- was 3.2 points lower in the teens fed breast milk
than in those given pre-term formula. The systolic reading - the higher number -
was 2.7 points lower. An elevation in either reading is bad. Major American
heart disease studies have found that if adults' diastolic blood pressure was
lowered just two points, the prevalence of high blood pressure would drop by 17
percent, the risk of heart disease and heart attacks would drop by 15 percent. "
The most likely thing is there is something in breast milk that protects," Lucas
said. (Alan Lucas is a co-author of the article along with Atul Singhal and Tim
J Cole). Studies in the 1990s have shown that breast milk is associated with
improved intelligence quotient, and cognitive development. On the other hand
early childhood anemia is associated with mild or moderate mental retardation.
Consumption of human milk has
been shown to have many benefits for infants-both preterm and full
term-including a reduced risk of necrotising enterocolitis, atopy, and infection
and improved later cognitive development. The breastmilk contains a wide range
of non-nutrient factors, including trophic substances and hormones that are
responsible for the beneficial effects of human milk.