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Nursing Infants – Rulings in Islam

Bismillah
Rabbi Zidnee Ilman
“My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”

Motherhood is a beautiful blessing of Allah سبحانه و تعالى and every woman dreams to be a mother someday. They say it is the highest, holiest service assumed by humankind. It is the definition of selflessness. It’s both a daunting responsibility and a glorious opportunity. The divine role of motherhood is a gift from Him, and key to His plan of happiness for all of His creation. But this beautiful phase brings with it a lot of changes in the life of a Muslimah – from sleepless nights to hunger cries, dirty diapers and having to be 24/7 on duty. Breastfeeding is one of the first activities after child birth and purely a personal matter whether the mother wishes to lactate or not. But it is an obligation if the child needs to be breastfed.

Ruling of Breastfeeding and the Wisdom Behind It
There is no difference of opinion among the fuqaha’ that it is obligatory to breastfeed an infant so long as he needs that and he is at the age for breastfeeding. It is the birth right of the child. Just like adults need food/nutrition to maintain their health, similarly a child needs to be breastfed. This is supported by a verse in the Qur’an:

“Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable….”
{Surah al-Baqarah 2: Verse 233}

This means that father should spend on the mother or the nurse who breastfeeds the baby as the baby receives the nutrition from the milk and hence it means indirectly spending on the baby.

The scholars agree that the child a woman nurses, becomes her mahram and establishes the prohibition of marriage. This makes it permissible for the child to look at and be alone with the lady but not to have any share or rights in property, nor guardian in marriage nor is it obligatory to look after the person. The scholars also unanimously agree that keeping a wet nurse is mustahabb (preferred act) but she should not be a kaafir or an immoral lady or a person with a contagious disease as it may pass on to the child. Nonetheless, it is best if the mother of the child feeds him. It may become obligatory if the child does not accept breast of anyone else.

There is wisdom in every command of Allah and this has been proven by scientific and medical research. Some of the benefits of breastfeeding (taken from Tawdeeh al-Ahkaam, 5/107) are:

  1. The breast milk is sterile.
  2. It has all the required nutrients in the right quantity as needed for the child’s development.
  3. It is easy to digest for the child as it contains exact needed proteins and sugar for the child unlike the cow’s, goat’s or buffalo’s milk which tend to be heavy for the child.
  4. The breast milk is at the right temperature perfect for the child.
  5. No man-made formula can be substituted for the natural milk.
  6. Breast milk is a natural contraceptive for the mother.
  7. It develops a strong psychological and emotional bond between the mother and the child.

Term of Breastfeeding
The term for breastfeeding is two years according to the Noble Qur’an:

“Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing (period).”
{Surah Al Baqarah 2: Verse 233}

This means that no mother can be obliged to nurse her child for longer than that. Also, it means that the father is not obliged in Islam, to pay for a wet nurse for more than two years. Also, after the two year period is over, a father who is divorced from his child’s mother will no longer have to provide the specific support that the divorced mother is entitled to receive for nursing the child. At the same time, there is no evidence that prohibits a mother from feeding more than two years.

Asking Husband for Payment
There is a difference in opinion regarding this – Some scholars (including Imam Ahmed) hold the view that the father should pay to the mother if she asks for payment (especially if they are divorced) and they quote the following ayah as an evidence:

   “Then if they give suck to the children for you, give them their due payment”
{Al – Talaaq 65: Verse 6}

The other opinion is that if the mother of the child is married to the father then he need not pay her as it is her duty to take care of the child, and in that case the father shall only take care of her maintenance.
(According to Al Baqarah 2: 233).

Breastfeeding a Baby While Being Pregnant with Another
The question of whether or not to breastfeed a child while being pregnant with another, should be asked of a capable and trustworthy doctor. If he says that breastfeeding the child will not harm the fetus or the nursing infant, then there is no reason to not do it and it is permissible. But if there is a chance that it will harm the unborn child, then do not breastfeed the infant.

Breastfeeding Doesn’t Invalidate Wudhu
No scholar says that breastfeeding invalidates wudhu. Scholars agree that anything that comes out other than from the front and back does not invalidate wudhu provided it is pure, not naajis (impure).

Breastfeeding in Front of Mehrams
A woman’s ‘awrah before her mahrams such as her father, brother, and brother’s son is her entire body except that which ordinarily appears such as the face, hair, neck, forearms and feet.

“..and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islâm)”
{Surah Al-Noor 24: Verse 31}

A woman must cover her breasts when she wants to breastfeed her child in the presence of any of her mahrams, so she may offer her child the breast beneath a blanket and the like. This is part of modesty and keenness to remain covered.

Fasting While Breast Feeding

“Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, has relieved the traveller of half of the prayer, and He has relieved the traveller and pregnant and nursing mothers of the duty to fast.”
– Messenger of Allah ﷺ
[Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud]

Although this hadeeth appears to be general in meaning and to apply to every pregnant woman and breastfeeding mother, it is restricted to cases where they fear harm to themselves or their babies. If the mother fears that fasting shall dry the milk or reduce the production which shall in turn be harmful for the child, she may not fast. Similarly, if the mother feels she will be exhausted by fasting and may not be able to bear it, there is no blame if she does not fast. But if fasting doesn’t adversely affect the milk production, then one needs to fast as a slight decrease can be substituted with bottle feeding.

If the mother breaks the fast, then there are different opinions:

  1. The Shaafa‘is, according to their most prevalent view, the Hanbalis and Mujaahid say that the mother should make up for the fast and also give the fidyah (expiation) i.e feed a needy per day. In light of the verse,
    “And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) (for every day)”
    {Surah Al-Baqarah 2: Verse 184}
  2.  Another opinion is that it is not obligatory for her to give expiation rather it is mustahabb (preferred). (according to Hanafis, ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabaah, al-Hasan, ad-Dahhaak, an-Nakha‘i, Sa‘eed ibn Jubayr, az-Zuhri, Rabee‘ah, al-Awzaa ‘i, ath-Thawri, Abu ‘Ubayd and Abu Thawrand a group of Shaafa’is)
  3. The third opinion is that she should fast but need not give fidyah. (The Maalikis and al-Layth – and it is a third view among the Shaafa‘is)
  4. Some of the earlier scholars – including Ibn ‘Umar, Ibn ‘Abbaas and Sa‘eed ibn Jubayr (may Allah be pleased with them) are of the view that she should give the fidyah but need not make up for the fast. And Allah knows best.

Amount of Breastfeeding To Make One Mahram
In order for the mahram relation to be established the following conditions need to be met:

1. The breastfeeding must take place within two years of age (according to Ayah 233 of Surah Al Baqarah)

2. The number of feeds should be not less than five.
‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said: “There was in the Qur’an [an ayah which stipulated that] ten [was the number of] breast feedings which created the relationship of mahram, then this was abrogated [by another ayah which stipulated] five. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ died and [the ayah which stipulated five] was still being recited as part of the Qur’an.”
[Muslim, 1452]

3. “Nothing of breastfeeding creates the relationship of mahram except what fills the stomach to bursting point, before (the age of) weaning.”
– The Prophet ﷺ
[Tirmidhi]

This means the child should drink his full just like eating and drinking. Switching of breasts, leaving to breathe or any other reason doesn’t count as one feed. It shall be counted as one full feed only when the child is completely satisfied and leaves it on his own accord.

Husband Drinking Breast-milk By Mistake During Intercourse
Drinking wife’s milk by mistake doesn’t create the relationship of mahram, there are a quite a few evidence in support of this view from the sahabas like in al-Muwatta’ (2/603), Maalik reported that Ibn ‘Umar said: “There is no breastfeeding except for the one who is breastfed in infancy; there is no breastfeeding for one who is grown up.” Its isnaad is saheeh. But it should be taken care that it should not be done deliberately and it should be avoided.

I hope this article helps and enlightens all the beautiful nursing and would-be mothers. May Allah سبحانه و تعالى help us fulfill our responsibilities sincerely and in light of the Qur’an and Sunnah – Aameen ya rabbul alameen.
Stay Blessed and Happy Motherhood! 🙂

Authored by Sister Ambreen
Edited and Drafted by Sana Abdul Samad

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ - "Convey (knowledge) from me even if it is just one ayah" [Bukhari 3461]

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