Breastfeeding Experts – A Sign Of The Times?

// May 21st, 2007 // Blog

Another question from the Guardian, this time on health. I was flicking through the website, this morning, trying to find some Ninjabi news… hence all the Guardian-based inspiration.

Anyway, the following response from the 'breastfeeding expert' reminded me of a short conversation i had at work, last year:

Many women need skilled, sensitive help to resolve physical problems and to cope with lack of confidence and with their expectations that their babies will eat and/or sleep predictably. When breastfeeding is distressing, you need face-to-face help from someone who knows about it, who won't judge you. That person may be a counsellor from volunteer organisations such as the NCT or La Leche League – they're highly trained and non-judgmental – or a healthcare professional with breastfeeding training.

My French colleague and I were chatting about breastfeeding, having just returned from visiting another colleague who had recently given birth in the hospital attached to our building (very convenient!). We mentioned the fact that some women find it very difficult, and need expert help. On hearing this, a third (or is it fourth?) colleague, the Russian male, jumped in with: “Why should it be so difficult? I don't understand! It's a natural process!”. I suppose it was his condescending tone that ruffled our feathers, rather than what he said.

He was right though (darnit), breastfeeding is a natural process, so why should there be any problems? Babies even have a reflex to help them suckle; whenever anything strokes past their cheek, they automatically start to move their heads from side to side, in order to help them find the “food source”. So the main difficulties most likely stem from a lack of confidence, especially if one is a first-time mum.

Normally, in closely-knit communities, women learn from the experiences of matriarchal types, such as their own mothers, their aunts, older sisters, grandmothers; anyone who has essentially been there and done that. In my own community, it is still commonplace to observe married daughters returning to their parents' home for forty days after the birth of their first child. I'm sure someone has, by now, attached some superstitious nonsense to the act, but it is obvious why such a tradition has arisen. Not only does it give the new mum an opportunity to recuperate away from the in-laws, but while she is there, she can get a much needed crash course on “How to be a Mum, for Dummies”, from her very own in-house expert.

The fact that there are special voluntary organizations set up to advise new mums, suggests that the traditional practice of handing down age-old wisdoms from mother to daughter, is being gradually lost, due to the fragmentation of modern day families. Sometimes, tradition is in place for a reason, and when we start pushing it aside in our efforts to “progress”, i feel that we are actually taking a step back in terms of developing as a society. The lessons learnt from generations of experience are priceless, and timeless (human biology has not changed recently), and sometimes the way that such information is delivered to a new generation, is just as important as the information itself.

I pray that one day, i will be able to take part in the “40 day” ritual that i spoke of earlier, as i believe it will only serve to enhance the already special bond that exists between me and my mum. My own mother was not able to take part in this ancient rite of passage when i was born, as my naani has already passed on (may Allāh relieve her soul) and the rest of her family were in India. I'll have to give birth to twins, or something, to make up for the gap in the chain. I can just imagine her mollycoddling me, and my bundle(s) of joy – no doubt, i'll be snapping at her to stop fussing… what an ungrateful child, i am! May Allāh forgive me, and allow my family and I to experience the joy of newfound parenthood, together. Āmīn.

P.S., Just to avoid confusion, i wish to add that i do not have anything against voluntary organizations for new mums or breastfeeding experts; not everyone is in the fortunate position to have their mums or close relatives with them, at such times. I simply feel that they should assist, and not replace, the time-honoured traditions that have served humanity so well. Help is help, and the work that these volunteers do is most noble.

8 Responses to “Breastfeeding Experts – A Sign Of The Times?”

  1. hema says:

    it is sad that the need for these organisations has arisen. as much as we may sometimes “diss” the traditions we deem as backward in our communities, we need to try and preserve the positive aspects as much as possible. it would be interesting to investigate the roots of the “40 days” tradition, i am certain there is an Islamic basis to it.

  2. iMuslim says:

    I asked my mum about it, and she says it is something that many Indians do, independent of their religion. I guess the time period of 40 days may have something to do with nifaas (post-childbirth bleeding)… perhaps it was an old Indian tradition that got ‘Islamified’ to become 40 days? Would be interesting to know for sure. :)

  3. Sumera says:

    I think the desi’s incorporated the nifaas time period with complete bedrest – to rejuvinate the woman during that time of the weakness she may be experiencing and encourage bonding with the baby.

  4. Since this is a long post I will read it tomorrow as I’m so sleepy now. And you my dear, you need to get studying! Or I’ll tell Mommy…………………………………………..

  5. iMuslim says:

    Sumi: Yeah, it makes sense… i just think it’s cool/weird how Hindu women (and possibly other faiths) also do the same thing for 40 days. :)

    Unique: Lazy moo! That goes for both of us.
    Please don’t tell my mummy of me… i’ll be good, pwomise! {innocent look}

  6. AnonyMouse says:

    In my old city, my mum and a few of her friends formed this informal “Mothering Club” to help out all the new moms in our Muslim community… I’ve learnt waaaaay too much hanging around them… :/

    In fact, just today I was treated to a graphic description of what ‘back labour’ is like, and why I should desperately pray that I don’t have one. *Shudders*

  7. iMuslim says:

    I have no idea of what you speak of… AND I DON’T WANT TO KNOW! {plugs ears and sings “lalalalalalala”}

  8. AnonyMouse says:

    Yes… in some cases, ignorance truly is bliss.

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