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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books Family Principles of Upbringing Children

Principles of Upbringing Children - Supplement the Mothers Milk

Article Index



The principal food of the baby is no doubt the mother’s milk but it is better to supplement judiciously with a little fish oil and fruit extracts. This will ensure that the feed is complete and the child grows in a better way. As the child grows its requirement of food increases. It reaches a stage when the mother’s milk becomes insufficient for the child.

At this stage other food materials are included in the child’s diet to provide optimum level of nutrition. After four months of delivery, or latest by six months, the child must be trained to eat other foods. It is important that the baby’s feed is soft and succulent. Juices of different fruit can be ideal at this stage. Water strained after boiling vegetables in it can be a good source of nutrients for the child. Soups are good for the growth of the child. When the child starts setting teeth the diet can have boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, biscuits, fresh cheese, bread, butter and fresh fruits. There should be variety in the diet of a child, but care has to be taken that it is not over fed.

Weaning from Mothers Milk

There are certain times when a child is deprived of the mother’s milk.

1. The time when the mother is affected with some infectious disease.

2. When the mother is suffering from a serious health condition like a heart attack and the doctors advised not to breast-feed the baby.

3. When the mother is mentally ill or suffers from epilepsy.

4. When the mother is suffering from anaemia and feeding the baby on her own milk may be harmful to both.

5. When the mother is addicted to drugs and alcoholic beverages because her milk poisoned by these materials will harm the baby.

In such conditions when there is the danger of infecting the baby or transferring poisonous matter through the milk, it is better to avoid feeding on the mother’s milk. When the breast-feeding mother becomes pregnant, she should wean the child in stages and simultaneously introduce other foods in the diet.

The Schedule of Breast Feeding

The experts have suggested two methods for feeding of the babies. Some are of opinion that for feeding the child well thought out schedules have to be devised and the feeding should be done implicitly at those predetermined intervals. Between two feedings some have prescribed a delay of three hours and some suggest a gap of four hours. In the interim period it is recommended to abstain from feeding the baby.

Some other experts do not approve of this type of scheduling. And they believe in feeding the baby more frequently on the basis of the indication of the appetite by the baby. They say that whenever the baby shows the desire for food, it must be fed.

Some other nutritionists feel that the latter method of feeding is more suitable as they believe that the baby must get the milk whenever it shows signs of hunger. Both the methods, however, have their own pros and cons as illustrated here:

1. Hunger or thirst of a child cannot be determined positively because it cannot express its need clearly. In the initial stage of feeding it will be drinking the milk for sating its appetite and then it continues to suckle the breasts. In such situations the child cries not so much with hunger as with the desire to suckle the mother’s breast. The mother too gives her milk to the child to stop his crying. Often the child cries without any appetite for food but the mother gives it the milk thinking that it is hungry.The child therefore drinks the mother’s milk while it has the appetite and sometimes when it doesn’t. It is a well established fact that taking of food at erratic intervals is not good for the health of the children as it is for the adults This habit might upset the digestive system of the child.

This is why unplanned feeding of babies is fraught with risk of illness for them.

Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

“Excessive eating and eating more thereafter should be avoided. Those who eat more are more likely to fall ill.” (Mustdarak al-wasail, v3, p. 82)

2. The child who drinks milk without any controlled schedule will have a disorganised existence from the very beginning and grow into a disorderly adult.

3. It is common practice that whenever a baby cries, the mother’s breast is given to it without trying to determine the cause of the crying. Such children get into the habit of skulking all the time. They think that crying and shouting is the only way to get things done according to their wishes. They can never show patience and courage in doing anything. They want to achieve their end immediately even if they have to cry profusely for the purpose. They do not feel ashamed at playing such shameful antics.

4. The parents and other members of the families are always restless because of such children.

Dr Jalali writes about such children:

“If the feeding schedule of a child is fixed in consultation with an expert paediatrician then it will get used to the timings and the mothers will understand when the child is hungry and when its appetite is sated.

Secondly, people do their daily tasks as a force of habit. Similarly feeding of the child too becomes a habit and is done almost automatically at the scheduled timings. (Ruwan shinasi kudak, p. 224)

Russel says:

“These days an ordinary mother knows the norms of bringing up children. She knows that it is important to feed the baby at predetermined intervals and not whenever it cries for some reason or the other. She knows that such regime is followed to keep the digestive system of the baby in good trim… When the children see that the parents are acceding to their cries, it becomes their second habit and keeps crying at the slightest excuse. It also happens that the repeated episodes of crying over a long period earn them the anger of their parents. When the children realise this, they become morose and the world looks cold, dry and bleak to them.” (Dar Tarbiat, p. 78)

Attention must be paid to a few points:

1. For all the children the same programme of feeding could not be possibly adopted. Every child will have its own digestive and nutritive requirements. And also the food requirements of any child are very dynamic. The digestive system of the new-born will be delicately tiny for the first forty to fifty days from birth. Therefore it can retain very small quantity of milk. It will be able to take a very small quantity of milk at a time. But it becomes hungry very soon thereafter. During this period the feeding times have to be of shorter intervals, say, every hour and a half to two hours. But as the children grow the gap between the feeds have to be increase, say, a feed every three to four hours or even more.

2. All the children will not be of the same physical condition and digestive capacity. Therefore an individual feeding programme has to be developed for every individual child. Some children become hungry quite soon after a feed and others take more time for the same. Careful mothers are very observant and they take care to design an ideal schedule of feeding for their children in consultation with experts.

3. Whenever milk is given to the baby, care has to be taken that it is fully satisfied with the feed. But mothers must carefully observe that the newborn babies fall asleep while feeding on their breasts. In such instances they may not be fully fed and the mother has to gently strike the back of the child that it wakes up and completes its feed.

4. When the complete programme of feeding the child is prepared it must be put to practice very carefully. The gaps between the feeds must be strictly adhered to. In between two scheduled feeds the child must not be given the milk even if it cries. This task needs patience and firmness on the part of the mother to ensure that the child gets used to the regime. Then the child will awake automatically at the scheduled time to receive its feed. Patience and forbearance will become a part of the nature of such children.

5. The feeding schedule of the children must be prepared in such a way that from midnight to dawn there is no need of feeding it. When the child takes to this habit, both the mother and the child will have a good night’s rest.

6. The breasts must be cleaned with a little cotton wool after every feed. This is essential for the health and hygiene and will also prevent the chance of injury to the breast.

7. When a child suckles the mother’s milk some air too enters its digestive tract and makes it uneasy. Therefore, after every feed the child has to be raised a little and its back is gently tapped to see that the air comes out of its digestive system.

8. The suckling baby should be fed from both the breasts of the mother. This should be done to avoid drying of the milk, which can result in the pain of the breast. One lady says, ”Imam Sadiq told to me,’ do not feed your child only from one of your breasts to ensure that it gets complete food.’” (Wasail al-shiah, v15, p. 176)

9. The lactating mothers should take care that they do not perform very tiring physical tasks and avoid spells of anger. This is advised because such events can affect their capacity to produce milk, which ultimately is bad for the child.

If the Mother is Deficient in Milk

If the mother is unable to satisfy the appetite of the baby, she has no right to deprive the baby of her own milk. She must breast feed the baby to the extent of the milk available with her and supplement it with other milk and nutrition. But if the mother is totally dry, which condition is quite rare, she can wean the child and turn to the cow’s milk, which is qualitatively very similar to the mother’s milk. When shifting to the cow’s milk the following have to be borne in mind:

1. The cow’s milk is generally denser and heavier than the mother’s milk. Therefore it should be diluted with some boiled water before feeding to the child so that it comes closer to the density of the mother’s milk. The milk should also be sweetened with a little sugar.

2. The cow’s milk should be boiled for fifteen minutes to ensure that any germs present there are destroyed.

3. The milk, while feeding to the baby, should neither be too hot nor very cold. The temperature of the milk to be ideally close to the temperature of the mother’s milk.

4. Every time the child is given milk, ensure that the feeding bottle is properly washed and free from contamination to prevent the child from getting infected. .

5. Efforts have to be made to ensure that right type of milk is used for feeding.

If the mother wishes to use dried milk powders for feeding the child then it is necessary to consult a paediatrician to get the recommendation for the baby food suitable for the child. There are several products available in the market to suit specific requirements of children of varying ages and physical condition and only an expert can decide on the product suitable for any particular child.

If the milk recommended by the doctor is not found suitable, then the mother should refer back to the doctor and get a fresh recommendation.

SECTION [Weaning the Child]

The baby should ideally be on the mother’s milk for a period of two years. Every child has a right to be on breast-feeding for two years, which Allah has granted to it. Allah says in the Quran: "Mothers should feed their milk to the children for two years." (2:233)

If the mother has to wean the child earlier than two years, she is permitted to do it but not earlier than twenty-one months of feeding.

Imam Sadiq says:

“The period of the mother feeding the child should be a minimum of twenty one months. If someone feeds the child for a lesser period, it will be causing a hardship to the child." (Wasail al-shiah, v15, p. 177)

In the two years of feeding by the mother, the child slowly gets used to consuming other types of food. In this period the mother can taper down the breast-feeding and substitute it with other nutritive foods. After the period of breast-feeding is over the child is weaned. Now it will get ready to have other type of nutrition. Careful and informed mothers know the type of foods on which their children can be fed. These foods have to suit the nature of the child and should have good nutritive value.

Weaning the child from the breast is however not an easy task. For some days it will cry and crave for the breast-feeding. At this juncture the mother has to exercise a lot of patience and tact. The mothers sometimes try to apply some bitter material on their nipples or colour the breasts black that the child develops an aversion for feeding on it. But care has to be taken not to scare the child. The child should not get a fear complex during weaning that it can have wrong effect on its health and psychology.

Daughter or Son

No sooner a woman becomes pregnant the speculation commences whether she will have a male or a female issue. She offers prayers for having a son. When her relatives come visiting her they say that the glow on her face indicates that she would get a son. Her adversaries say that her eyes indicate she is carrying a girl. The husband too wishes for a son.

He occasionally expresses this desire to her. Prior to delivery the mind of every relative around in the maternity home wonders whether she will give birth to a boy or a girl. When they come to know that the new arrival is a girl, sudden quiet descends on the gathering. But if it is a boy there will be instant shouts of joy. When the father hears of the birth of a boy, he becomes overjoyed. He will run to fetch sweets and fruits for the visitors. He issues instructions for taking good care of the child lest he caught cold. He starts pampering his wife and distributes gifts to the midwife and the attendants.

But, if the new arrival were a girl, his mien would drop. He would go and sit in a corner. He starts cursing his ill luck He thus makes his existence bitter. He neglects his convalescent wife and sometimes even talks of divorcing her. This is the state of affairs of our degenerate society. But there are always exceptions. There are parents who receive a daughter with open arms and affection as they do the son. But such families are in a minority.

Dear father and respected mother:

What difference it makes if you have a son or a daughter? Is a daughter less human than a son? Doesn’t a daughter have the capacity to grow and progress? Can’t she become a useful and valuable person? Is the daughter not your offspring? What special advantage the parents draw from a son that the daughter cannot provide them? If the daughter was not important in the eyes of Allah, then the progeny of the Holy Prophet would not have come through his daughter Fatima Zahra.If you bring up the daughter properly she will not be any less than a son for you. If you see the pages of history you will find references of women who were more capable than thousands of men.

Why this ignoble thinking in our society which has reduced the status of our women. There is need to carry on jihad against this evil. There is need to remove the thought of any difference between a son and a daughter. A daughter can be as useful and efficient a person as a son. You must receive the news of the birth of a healthy child, be it a son or a daughter, with equal happiness. You must thank God that it is a gift from Him that has come to you. It is a part of your existence that has come to the world.

The Prophet and his Holy Descendants always took this attitude towards the life.

Whenever the Imam Sajjad received the news of the birth of a child he never enquired if it was a son or a daughter. But he used to offer a prayer to Allah when he used to be informed that the new-born was hale and hearty. Wasail al-shiah, v15, p. 143)

One day the Holy Prophet was busy talking to his companions when a person reached his presence and informed that Allah has given to him a daughter. He was joyed and offered his thanks to Allah. But when he saw the faces of his companions he found them crestfallen. He was upset with them and said, “What has happened to you? Allah has given to me a flower whose fragrance I smell. Allah has ensured sustenance for her too as He would for a son !" (Wasail al-shiah, v/p)

Allah has deplored the discrimination between the sons and daughters thus: “When they get tidings of a daughter their faces turn dark with shame; anger pervades them and they hide their faces from others." (Quran, 16:58-59)

Naming the Child

One of the prime responsibilities of the parents is the selection of a name for the new-born child. They should not treat this important thing as a triviality. Individuals and families are recognised with their names. If the name is affable the person will be well received by the people. Persons with unpleasant sounding names will not get good attention from others and sometimes even they might ridicule them. The persons who are given improper names will be victims of inferiority complex. Therefore Islam requires the parents to exercise care in selecting good names for their children.

The Holy Prophet has said:

“It is the responsibility of every father to choose a good name for his child." (Wasail al-shiah, v2, p. 618)

“The children have three rights over their fathers. The first is that they are given good names. Secondly, they are provided good education; and lastly, they help them to select good spouses." Wasail al-shiah, v104, p. 92)

Imam Musa al-Kadhim said:

‘The first good that a father does to his child is that he selects a worthy name for him." Wasail al-shiah, v15, p. 122)

On the other hand the name of a person has a lot of social significance too. It is his name, which gets recognition to a person that he belongs to a respectable family. If the parents have high regard for a well-known poet, they may name their child after him. If the parents are fond of high learning they may select the name of a reputed scholar. The highly religious parents name their children after the prophets, the Imams and other religious personalities. If the parents desire their children to struggle in the cause of the faith, they name them after Mohammed, Ali, Hasan, Hussain, Abul Fadhl, Abbas, Hamza, Jaffar, abu Dhar, Ammar, Saeed etc.

If the parents are enamoured of any sport they like to name their children after renowned players of that sport. Similarly if the parents appreciate the art of any musician, they may prefer to name their child after that person.

When the nature of the parents is tyrannical, they take pride in naming the child after historical personalities like Alexander, Changez, Timor etc. It is noticed that while naming the child the parents generally associate themselves with certain groups and people of the past This will have a definite impact on the nature and thinking of the child when he grows up.

The Holy Prophet has said:

“Keep good names, because on the Day of Judgment you will be called by these names only. It will be proclaimed, ‘so-and-so son of so-and-soRise and get associated with your lightO, So-and-so, son of so-and-soArise that there is no light for you that can guide you!’” (Wasail al-shiah, v15, p. 123)

One person said to Imam Jafer al Sadiq, “We name our children after your name and the names of your revered ancestors. Is this beneficial for us. ”The Imam replies, “YesBy AllahIs faith anything else than love for the pious and hate towards the profane!"

For the propagation of their beliefs people derive benefit from every opportunity to project the names of the important personalities. They go to the extent of naming the towns, streets and other landmarks after important personalities. A responsible and devoted muslim too takes every opportunity to perpetuate the names of the great personalities of Islam and one of such acts is to name his children after them.

YesHasan, Hussain, Abul Fadhl, Ali Akbar, Hur, Qasim, Hamza, Ja’afer, abu Dhar, Ammar are amongst the names which enliven the spirit to remember the valiant acts of the great persons and encourage the coming generations to groom themselves on those models. When a person is named after the Holy Prophets like Ibrahim, Musa, Isa or Mohammed he is bound to have a feeling that he must try to be as righteous a person as he can. When a person is named after the friends and devotees of the Holy ahl al bait like abu Dhar, Maithum and Ammar he will realise the significance of the deeds of those great men. An intelligent Muslim will not give the names of tyrants and enemies of Islam to his children.

Imam Baqir says:

”Beware of the Satan When he hears that someone is called as Mohammed and Ali, he melts in such a way as the lead melts and when he hears that someone is named after one of our enemies he is overwhelmed with happiness." (Wasail al-shiah, v?, p. 127)

The Prophet of Islam said:

“Whoever gets four sons, and he has not named even one after me has been cruel on me." (Wasail al-shiah, v?, p. 127)

Imam Mohammed Baqir said:

“The peerless names are the names of the Prophets."

The Holy Prophet attached so much importance to names that if he did not like the name of any companion or a place, he would immediately change the name. He changed the name of Abd al Shams to Abd al Wahab. He named Abd al Uzza ( the slave of Uzza the idol) to Abd Allah. Abd al Haris (the tiger) to Abd ar Rahman and Abd al Ka’aba to Abd Allah.