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Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
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We read in the Qur'an the following verse: 

"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: 

  1. at least 75 % of mothers leave the hospital breastfeeding and
  2. 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. 

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