Significance of Breastfeeding Infants in Islam by Dr. Meghdadi, Director of the Legal Clinic, Mofid University
Breastfeeding has been recognized as an absolute right for children in Islam and there have been numerous detailed recommendations and teachings on the subject.
The significance of this right of the child is rooted in the fact that breast milk is the healthiest and most perfect nourishment for an infant which helps his physical growth as well as mental and emotional development. Scientific studies also indicate that the changes in the breast milk components from birth to the end of breastfeeding period are in full accordance with the child’s needs for nourishment, health and immunity; thus the chances of survival for children who are breastfed are six times greater than others.
On the topic, the Almighty God in the Holy Qoran says: “Mothers should breastfeed their children two full years, provided they want to complete the nursing… neither the mother nor the father has the right to hurt the child…” (Sura Baghareh, Verse 233)
This issue has been considered widely in Islamic narratives so much so that the narratives can be categorized in three groups:
First group: Narratives which reiterate the benefit, good and bliss in breast milk for infants, like the one by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) which says: “For a child, there is no milk better than the milk of the mother.” (Bahar Al-Anvar, Volume 100, Page 323)
Moreover, Imam Ali (PBUH) emphasized breastfeeding, saying: “For a child, there is no milk more copious than the milk of the mother.” (Vasael Al-Shiite, Volume 21, Page 452)
Second group: The second group includes narratives which touch upon the moral aspect of a breastfeeding women and say that breast milk for infants is so important that can change their nature and thus the woman who breastfeeds should be chosen carefully. Imam Sadegh (PBUH) quotes Imam Ali (PBUH) as repeatedly saying that the same way you choose your wife with careful considerations, don’t pick just anyone for breastfeeding your child, because nourishment through breast milk can change the baby’s nature. (Vasael Al-Shiittes, Volume 21, Page 468)
Also, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says: “Beware of having your children breastfed by a stupid and unwise woman, because milk is the basis of a child’s growth and upbringing. (Mostadrak Al-Vasael, Volume 15, Page 162)
In another narrative, he says: “Avoid having your children breasted by evildoer and mad women, because the milk affects the child.” (Vasael Al-Shiites), Volume 20, Page 15)
Third group: It includes the narratives which highlight the reward for breastfeeding mothers. In other words, since breast milk is very useful and copious for infants, these narratives encourage mothers to take the trouble and do not deprive their children of the milk. Om-e Salameh says: “ I asked Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), mention have been made of many rewards for men, will there be a share for women of these rewards, too? He said: Yes, when the woman gets pregnant, she is like a fasting person who is wakeful all through the night and who embarks on Jihad in the path of God with all his life and wealth. And when she delivers the baby, there is a reward for her, the magnitude of which is not known to anyone and when she breastfeeds her baby, in return for every suck by the baby, there is a reward for her equal to the release of a slave of Ismaeel’s children. And when she is finished with breastfeeding, a fair angle tells her: resume your acts, since God has absolved you. “(Vasael Al-Shiites, Volume 21, Page 451)
In another narrative, the Prophet (PBUH) told one of his companion women: “when the mother delivered the baby and began breastfeeding the infant, in return for every suck of milk, there will be a brilliant light in front of her in the Day of Judgment and whoever from the past or the future sees that light, is amazed and the reward for a fasting and wakeful praying person will be recorded for her…and when she is finished with breastfeeding her baby, the Almighty God says to her: O woman, know that all your sins have been forgiven, so resume your act.” (Mostadrak Al-Vasael, Volume 15, Page 155)
Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Maghdadi
Director of the Legal Clinic
Mofid University of Qom
World Breastfeeding Week- August 2013