**DISCLAIMER: We are NOT in any way affiliated with the What to Expect When You’re Expecting franchise.**
by Zainab Yate
There are some fundamental practices for what to do after birth in Islam that most people know about, and information from reputable sources can be easily accessed online (or see my references below).
Let us jump right into the main ones:
Things like saying the adhan in the right ear, and the iqamah in the left both a variation of the call to pray), and performing a ghusl (bathing) the baby are to be performed immediately if possible, or once the baby has been wiped clean and handed to the mother. Then there’s the tahneek or chewing a tiny bit of date, and applying it to the child’s palate to aid its suckling at the breast.
The shaving of the head, from around the seventh day (but differing schools have different timeframes for this), and giving away the equal weight of it in sadaqah (charity). The naming of the child also has great emphasis, as a child in Islam is entitled to have a good and honorable name with meaning. Second to last, there is the aqeeqah, as previously mentioned, which is the practice of sacrificing a goat/lamb/animal for the child, after birth, and distributing the meat. Lastly, there is the circumcision, for a boy.
However, there is something that isn’t often covered in Islamic scholarly articles is about what to do straight after the birth of a baby in Islam, and that is breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is one of the most important duties in Islam, as it is the right of a child to have human milk, first and foremost, the milk made by their mother. It is also the duty of the father to provide everything the mother needs to nurse. In some madhabs (schools of law), a woman can even demand payment for breastfeeding!
Islam legislates and actively protects breastfeeding in the Shari’ah (law), and scientific research is beginning to show why. The last few decades have seen an exponential rise in research studies into breast milk and breastfeeding. These studies show, unanimously, that breastfeeding reduces infant death, hospital admissions, infant infections and costs of healthcare systems across the globe. They also show breastfed babies are more intelligent and less likely to develop illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity.
Breastfeeding is not only good for the baby, recent studies show that the longer a woman breastfeeds, the less likely she is to develop breast cancer. We can only discover more about the benefits of breast milk as time goes by, so trying to breastfeed, and having all the support around you to do it should be one of your primary goals. To do that you need to learn about it and be prepared because as much as breastfeeding is natural, it is a skill to be learned by both you and your baby – so it can be a little tough in the beginning.
Make sure you attend an antenatal breastfeeding course, to get all the information, tips, and support you will need. Antenatal education will be the key of your success in your breastfeeding goals. These are a few points, to begin with on your journey.
Whichever way your birth goes, it is usually possible now to request skin-to- skin within the first hour. This is one of the most important steps for success in breastfeeding. Skin-to- skin with the mother (or with the father if you can’t straight away) regulates a baby’s temperature, heart-rate and temperament. You can allow your baby to latch themselves, by placing them on your bare chest naked (except a nappy), and giving them the time to do a ‘breast crawl’ and find the nipple.
Give them space, and time to do this. Secondly, consider the old age practice of ‘rooming-in’ with your baby. This is an established social tradition in many cultures where women-folk around the new mom will take care of food, cleaning and any other siblings for the first 40 days. This can be your mother and sisters, aunts, mother-in-law and sister-in-laws and even friends. This gives you an opportunity for well-deserved rest, the time and space to nurse frequently (newborns can feed every 1-2 hours, even at night). It will also establish both your milk supply for the rest of your breastfeeding journey and your relationship with your baby. Thirdly, breastfeeding can be a little painful in the beginning while your body gets used to lactating and feeding.
Typically, the first minute or two of the latch can also be quite painful for a bit, but this ought to subside. If breastfeeding continues to be painful, or even difficult for any reason, always get help from a skilled breastfeeding professional (at a local breastfeeding group, a breastfeeding counselor or from a lactation consultant). Sadly, most doctors and pediatricians are not often adequately trained in the most recent research and best practice in infant feeding.
They can inadvertently make the situation worse by suggesting formula or bottles when they are not needed, thus compromising your supply, and the babies latch. Follow Dr. Jack Newman on social media for the most up-to- date research and practice in breastfeeding.
These tips will help ensure your new baby the comfort and safety it deserves, and more importantly, the love and nurturing he or she will need from the beginning. To be able to really understand, however, would require a lot of reading and ‘learning on the job’. It can be a tough time, especially for a first-time mom and dad. Do not despair, though, the main objective in this new chapter in your life/lives is to have a firm niyyah or intention for having a child, raising it on the deen (religion), and to do your best within your means.
About the author
Zainab’s background in academia is in Medical Ethics & Law (Imperial College, MSc), and she is researching her doctorate in Bioethics. Her working background is in Public Health and commissioning with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. She is Alt. Vice Chair and named qualitative lead of north London Research Ethics Committee, with the Health Research Authority in the UK (HRA). She is also a member of the Kings College London Research Ethics Governance and Policy Committee (KCL). She has been a breastfeeding peer supporter with the NHS for a number of years and is the owner author of the resource site for mothers and healthcare practitioners on Breastfeeding/Nursing Aversion and Agitation (BAA), http://www.breastfeedingaversion.com, where she researches and writes for the viewers of this site, to try to understand what BAA is and why it arises. She also regularly produces factual videos on breastfeeding, parenting, and life topics, and is the owner of ‘Factavid’ on
Facebook/YouTube: Informative videos on the above can be found here:
Nursing in Islam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3BMashAOCA&t=24s
Skin – to – skin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2sKSz9rwlU
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