Advice for the New Mother
The coming of a first new baby is a time of excitement and every Muslim mother-to-be eagerly awaits the arrival of this special gift. It is easy to find the latest advice and useful practical tips and information about what to expect of the early weeks of motherhood on a day to day basis from Western books, but because they are bereft of the guidance of Islam, they contain little advice for Muslim Women when it comes coping spiritually with the coming of a baby. Every baby is different and some first time mothers find things quite easy and smooth. But nearly all will have moments when they struggle to reorganize their lives and many have a very trying time if their baby suffers from colic or has trouble settling down or if the birth was complicated and long. There are many things Muslim women can do to make this time as smooth as possible and increase their Eamaan.
Welcome your child in the correct Islamic manner
There are many sunnahs relating to the newborn:
· The Adhan being recited to the child soon after the birth so that it is the first thing the child hears.
· Tahneek: rubbing a small piece of softened date or something sweet on the palate of the newborn.
· Shaving the hair of the newborn on the seventh day and giving the value of its weight in silver to charity.
· Announce the good news of the birth to family and friends and you will see that everyone is happy when they hear of the birth of a new Muslim child!
· The Aqeeqah is a strong Sunnah and many scholars regard it as an obligation upon the parents and it is the slaughtering of two sheep or goats for a boy and one sheep or goat for a girl preferably on the seventh day. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) is reported to have said:
“The Aqeeqah is a right (upon you). (Slaughter) for a boy two compatible sheep, and for a girl: one”. (Ahmad and others.)[i]
Although many people send money to poor Muslim countries for the Aqeeqah, this important Sunnah should be revived in the societies we live in as well. By having the Aqeeqah in your locality, by eating of the meat yourself and having your friends and family and other Muslims gather and take part in this joyous occasion or in distributing the meat to them there are many benefits: First of all this is the way the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) practiced it. The sense of identity of the Muslim community as well as Muslim children will increase, people will know that there is a new addition to the Ummah and will pray for your child insha Allah and you will be able to enjoy this occasion and perhaps meet family and friends who you may not be able to see so often now that you are a busy mother.
· A good name is one of the rights of the child. Good names are those which are known to be pleasing to Allah and approved by His Messenger or acceptable to the scholars of Islam. Recommended names are those that show servitude to Allah: Abdullah, Abdurrahman etc. The names of the Prophets and Sahabah and the pious people before us will also have a good effect on the childs psyche. She will want to be like Mariam (‘alaihas Salaam) and he will want to be like ‘Umar (Radi Allahu ‘anhu) if you give them those names insha Allah. And the child will have a role model in their name and love to hear the story of a person in the past with their name. Make sure the name has a good meaning, don’t just name it because it sounds good. There have been some people especially from amongst the non-Arabs who have named their children names that sound good but have a bad or improper meaning for a Muslim. That name will have an effect on the character of that child and will follow that child for life. One name that we came across amongst some children was a Muslim girl called: Ilaaha! Meaning ‘goddess’! We seek refuge in Allah from such names.
· Circumcision: If you have a son, get him circumcised on the seventh day or as soon as you can so as not to cause the child discomfort. It’s good to get a personal recommendation when looking for a Doctor and the procedure is a very easy one and local anesthetic is usually used. Usually healing takes a week or two.
Du’a and other worships
A common statement made by some sisters who are mothers is “I don’t get any time to do ‘Ibaadah”. This is a misconception amongst us because we don’t realize that even the every day tasks that we do as Muslims become Worships if they are accompanied with a good intention. So, perhaps you are spending most of your time caring for your baby and even after the post-partum bleeding period you may not be able to pray as many superogaratory prayers or teach Qur’an or do other praiseworthy acts that you used to do. But remember, the job that you are doing is one, which Allah has ordained for you, and a very important and rewardable one if you do it mindfully and for the sake of Allah. You are bringing up the future worshippers of Allah, the future scholars or Mujaahideen or teachers or leaders: the future Ummah!
Although you will not be performing Salaah as you are in your Post natal bleeding period, this is a time you need to call on Allah regularly and using His names and attributes, call on Him sincerely, ask Him to make easy anything you may be finding difficult. Make du'a for your child for the du’a of the mother for her child is answered as occurs in the hadeeth:
“There are three supplications that are answered – there being no doubt about it: the supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveler and the supplication of the parent for his child.” [ii]
Some du’as you can make for your child are as follows:
The du’a that the Prophet used to make for Hasan and Hussain which was also the du’a that the Prophet Ibrahim (alaihis salaam) used to make for Ismaeel and Ishaaq was:
“U’eedhukumaa bi kalimaat illaahi-ttaamah, min kulli shaytaanin wa haammah wa min kulli ‘ainin laamma” [iii]
“I seek refuge for you with Allah’s complete words from every Devil and harmful creature and from every envious eye”
And the du’a of Mariam’s mother (alaihas Salaam) to Allah:
“Innee u’eedhu haa bika wa dhurreeyyatuhaa minashaitaanir-rajeem”
“I seek Your protection for her and her progeny from Shaitan, the outcast.” (Surah Aal-‘Imran 3:36)
Suratul Fatihah, Aayatul Kursee and the last three Surah’s of the Qur’an can also be recited for seeking protection.
You may be awake in the night feeding your child for long stretches, so take this opportunity to make du’a and make adhkaar while feeding. Du’a and Dhikr are in and of themselves ‘Ibaadah. Allah has given us many ways of worshipping him for all different situations. You could revise the Surahs you have memorized[iv] or just listen to Qur’an recitation and contemplate on the meaning. Getting your baby used to having the Qur’an recited to him will insha Allah be beneficial and have an effect on him. Or get some cassettes with talks on them to listen to as this can have a very positive effect on you especially if the talks are inspirational like the Stories of the Prophets or Sahabah.
With your baby’s arrival, the first part of his Rizq or provision arrived too and that is breast milk! Allah Subhanahu wa ta’aala ordained breastfeeding for humans and many animals and people have been breastfeeding from the beginning of their existence.
Allah’s Messengers too were breast-fed. Allah inspired Musa’s mother to put her baby Musa in a basket in the river to save him from Pharaoh’s killing decree, Pharaoh’s family found him and wanted to keep him and looked everywhere for a wet-nurse to breastfeed him and Allah caused Musa to refuse to be breast-fed by any woman except his own mother.
The Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam in his childhood, suckled from his mother Aminah, Thuwaybah – a slave girl of his uncle Abu Lahab, Umm Ayman and Halimah as-Sa’diyyah.[v]
The Prophet’s Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam children too were breastfed. His son Ibrahim had a wet-nurse as occurs in a hadeeth and when his son passed away he was only 1 year and 10 months old so there were two months of suckling left for him so the Prophet sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam said as narrated by Al-Bara (bin Azib):
The Prophet, after the death of his son Ibrahim, said, "There is a wet-nurse for him (i.e. Ibrahim) in Paradise."[vi]
It is only in modern times that the wide use of artificial forms of baby-feeding, cow’s and goat’s milk formulas, have been used and that women have left their homes in pursuit of careers which make them leave the superior role that Allah has given them and pulled them away from the home to serve others and leave their own families.
Allah Subhanahu wa ta’aala tells us the recommended time of suckling a child in the Qur’an:
“And the mothers are to suckle their infants for two years, for those who wish to complete the suckling” (Surah Baqarah 2:233)
“We have enjoined upon the human being to treat his parents kindly. His mother bore him with weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years.” (Surah Luqman 31:14)
Look at the importance of breastfeeding! Our Creator even mentions it in the Qur’an a number of times! Breastfeeding is widely acknowledged now as being the best food for babies. It provides everything your baby needs: it is clean and sterilized, the right temperature, it’s fresh, it’s easily digested, contains antibodies and anti-allergens and is designed by Allah perfectly for your baby’s needs. As a result, breast fed babies have better immune systems, and less infections. But that is not all. Scientists agree that babies gain many psychological and emotional benefits through breastfeeding too. Some scholars say that the good characteristics of the mother are transferred to the child through breastfeeding. The child feels ultimate comfort and security through being so close to his mother and their special bond is strengthened, so much so that in Islaam if a non-related woman breastfeeds a child she becomes a foster mother to him and her children are foster sisters and brothers to him who he cannot marry! As the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said as is related in a number of Ahadeeth:
”Indeed, Allah has prohibited (marriage) among suckling relatives, as He has prohibited it among birth (or blood) relatives” [vii]
What more proof do we need of the bond that is created through breast-feeding?
It is permissible with the parent’s joint agreement to have a child breastfed by another woman and that wet-nurse is entitled to a wage. It was the custom at the time of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) to be breastfed by other women, which strengthened relationships and made more mahram men for women etc. This also took the strain off one woman if she was finding it difficult.
In Islaam, unless there is a legitimate excuse, the mother is required to breastfeed her baby. It is an obligation upon both parents – the mother provides the milk and the father provides the material support for the mother even if they are divorced.[viii] If a parent thinks there is a need to wean the baby before the end of two years it is permissible after consultation and joint agreement.
In the West, although breastfeeding is regarded as the best way to feed a child, still, some health professionals do not hesitate to advise women to give their babies formula milk top ups or to part breast feed- part bottle feed, even without a serious reason. And unfortunately many Muslim Women take this up too. Ofcourse if there is a serious reason then this is unavoidable (although reviving the tradition of other women feeding our children would be very useful in this case). But all too often our sisters are talked into bottle-feeding for convenience reasons or because a baby’s weight is not picking up as quickly as the chart says it should. However many women have found that even if it seems difficult at first, if they persevere, breastfeeding becomes easier. Yes you may have some discomfort early on and it is physically demanding at times because as the mother, you alone must wake up often and feed you baby whereas with bottle-feeding someone else can do it for you. But we must ask ourselves: Why has Allah given the mother such an honoured and lofty status in Islam? Why does she have so many rights upon her children, even more than the father in many cases? Is it not because of the sacrifices she made? The pain she endured? The nights she stayed awake?
Your new baby has just come from a very secure environment where all his needs were being met and he was so close to you and now he is suddenly in this very sensuous world where he may be feeling hunger, thirst, seperation, pain for the first time. He needs you and that closeness, nourishment and security that suckling gives him.
As Sheikh Suhaib Hasan so aptly puts:
“…the child should be suckled for the first two years of his life, instead of being given powdered milk which has been stored in tins for months. Few adults would abandon fresh fruit and vegetables for stale, tinned foods, yet they are quite happy to feed nothing but tinned milk and foods to their infants. Secondly, just as the mother’s blood in the womb passes nutrients and her emotions through to the blood of her child, so her milk also passes her characteristics and emotions to her child while she is suckling him, causing him to feel immense comfort and confidence.” [ix]
The scholars of the past too knew the importance of breast milk and the following is just a snippet of Ibn ul Qayyim’s advice regarding breastfeeding:
“Babies should only be fed the (mother’s) milk until their teeth appear. Their stomach and digestive system (in the early months) are incapable of handling (solid) food. When the babies teeth come out, its stomach becomes strong and ready for food. Indeed, Allah delays the growth of teeth until the baby needs the food. This is from His wisdom and kindness, and out of mercy toward the mother and her breast’s nipples, so that the baby would not bite them with its teeth.
The babies should be given solid food in a gradual manner, starting with soft foods, such as wet bread, (animal) milk, yoghurt, meat broth…
The parents should not be too disturbed by the baby’s crying and screaming, especially when it is hungry for milk. That crying benefits the baby tremendously, training its limbs, widening its intestines, broadening its chest…
The complete breast-feeding term is two years. This is a right for the baby – if it needs it and cannot do without it…” [x]
Patience & Gratitude
Whenever there are difficult patches in our lives we should remember Allah’s saying, the meaning of which is:
“Indeed after every hardship is ease, Indeed after every hardship is ease” (Surah ash-Sharh (94), aayah 6)
No pain afflicts a Muslim except that some of his sins are forgiven due to it. If things happened in labour, which you didn’t like, discuss with your husband how you could avoid those things in the future. But try not to over analyse things. Simply think of solutions and seek advice and seek Allah’s aid and move on. Deal with any major problems you can highlight to the hospital or nursing staff, but move on. We should remember to count the blessings in our situation and we will find that even though this testing time seems difficult to us - there will always be people who are being tested more than us and our situation is still much better than that of many.
If your labour was particularly difficult, think about Mariam (‘alaihas Salaam) and how she was all alone through childbirth, no hospital and facilities, no husband, no books telling her what to expect, no family support -and on top of that the fear of being falsely accused by her people and given a bad reputation. Allah tells us in the Qur’an, the meaning of which is:
“So she conceived him (‘Eesa) and she retired with him to a remote place.
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: she said: “Oh! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!”
But (a voice) cried to her from beneath her saying: “Grieve not! For your Lord has provided a water stream under you. And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad. And if you see any human being, say: ‘Verily I have vowed a fast unto the Most Gracious (Allah) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.’”
Then she brought him (the baby Eesa) to her people, carrying him. They said: “Oh Mariam! Indeed you have brought a mighty strange thing!” (Surah Maryam: aayaat 22-27)
She had no one but Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to help her and of course He was enough for her.
Reflect on this: if labour pains are so difficult to bear, then how is it that we sin and do not fear Allah’s punishment which is more bitter and longer lasting? Should we not now think twice before we sin?
There are probably women in our own families who had much less than we do, less information, facilities and support all round. So we must be thankful. You will see that insha Allah, within weeks or months you will be physically healed and will become a lot more organized. Allah has made us able to adapt to changes over time, so we must trust in Him and ask Him to help us overcome any weaknesses we think we may have.
Slow down & Prioritise
You may feel that there are many things to do and balance in the early days…but if you prioritise and really think about what is important and what can wait, you will achieve a lot more insha Allah. You may have to totally concentrate on your baby and her needs and devote your time completely to her feeding and other needs. Allah has made doing this easier for us Alhamdulillah by lifting the obligation of praying at this time so that we can devote our time to our baby’s needs. So for a short time, leave the less important things and concentrate on the job at hand and soon, you will be able to balance more things insha Allah.
Sleep when your baby sleeps and leave the things such as cleaning till you are on your feet a bit more, or ask friends and family to help.
When things settle down more, you can write down the most important things that need to be done and try and do them throughout the day.
Seek help and advice and do your research
Find out about Islamic rulings regarding any issues you face. There is no shortage of information in our times Alhamdulillah. And it is very advisable for sisters to be informed about childbirth, pain relief options and their implications etc. It is also useful to read up about breastfeeding and what to expect of your baby in the first weeks and months of life. If you get the things you think you’ll need before the birth of your baby then insha Allah this will save you and your husband a lot of running around afterwards.
You may need to be shown how to breast-feed correctly. So seek help from the women in your family and your Muslim sisters or even the midwife. Sometimes this is the only way to learn how to do it properly and avoid pain and problems later.
Getting advice from our mothers and friends who are mothers is very important because they usually have tips and advice that books cannot teach us. Many sisters like to stay with their mothers in the early weeks. This way they can get as much help and advice as possible and the whole family can spend quality time with the baby! In the past and in many cultures today, extended families live together which can make things easier.
Being around good people will have a good impact on your mood and Emaan.
The Internet has many medical websites or websites with parent and baby information, which you could look up instantly if you need advice or information quickly about any issues that come up.
Be mindful of your husband’s rights
Books by non-Muslims and magazines are always giving women excuses to behave badly! Hormones are blamed for everything unreasonable a woman does. Hormones and other pressures do have an effect and the good husband will realize this and also be understanding. But Islam teaches us Sabr – Patience and perseverance in the face of adversity and trying situations. So even at this time when you should put your needs and the needs of your baby first, your husband’s rights should not be neglected. The coming of your child is a happy time for him too and one of changes and insha Allah your husband will be helping you as much as he can and this will be a time for your family unit to grow even closer insha Allah. Perhaps he can take time off work at this stage. Seek his help and explain to him how you feel so that he can help you as much as possible and make du’a for him. Things that seem obvious to you may not be to him so explain, so that he can empathize. Enjoy your time with your new family and insha Allah, you will see that very soon as things settle down you will get more organized and your day will have more structure insha Allah and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without the precious little one in your lives.
It’s obvious but you must discuss and consult with him any decisions that need to be made. Remember to be thankful to your husband for all the help and support he will have given you through childbirth and before that. Unthankfulness is one of the bad traits that often surface in women at times of pressure, so look at this as your test.
Your good behaviour towards your husband will not go unrewarded insha Allah. Remember the hadeeth, in which Asmaa bint Yazeed ibn as Sakan (radiallahu anha) came to the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) and said:
“Oh Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you. I have come to you on behalf of the women. We have believed in you. We do not go out and we remain in your homes. We are your source of physical pleasure. We carry your children. A man goes out to pray jumu’ah and jamaa’ah and follows the janazah. And if you go out fo Hajj, or ‘Umrah, or Jihaad, we look after your wealth. We wash your clothing. We raise your children. Shall we not share in the reward?”
The Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam) turned to his companions and said: “Have you ever heard anything a woman has said better than what she has said?”
Then he said to her: “Understand oh woman, and inform the other women. Indeed a woman’s perfection of her relationship with her husband, her seeking his pleasure, and doing that which he approves of is equivalent to all of that.” Asmaa left exclaiming “La ilaaha illa Allah!”[xi]
Enjoy your baby
Enjoying the company of your child is also a blessing from Allah. Look at the story of Musa’s mother in the Qur’an and see how the separation of mother and child is such a test. It is one of the most moving stories mentioned in the Qur’an. Her son is born in the year when Pharaoh has decreed the killing of every newborn son of Bani Isra’eel. She knows that soon Pharaoh’s men will come and kill her child. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, the meaning of which is:
“So we sent this inspiration to the mother of Musa: ‘Suckle your child, but when you fear for him, then cast him into the river and fear not, nor grieve. Verily! We shall bring him back to you and shall make him one of our Messengers.”
Then the household of Pharaoh picked him up, that he might become for them an enemy and a cause of grief. For indeed, Pharaoh, Haman and all their men were sinners.
And the wife of Pharaoh said: A comfort of the eye for me and for you. Kill him not, perhaps he may be of benefit to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceived not (what they were doing)!
And the heart of the mother of Musa became empty. She was very near to disclosing his case, had we not strengthened her heart, so that she might remain a firm believer.
And she said to Musa’s sister: “Follow him.” So she watched him from a far place secretly, while they perceived not.
And We had already forbidden other foster suckling mothers for him, until she (Musa’s sister) said: “Shall I direct you to a household who will rear him for you, and will look after him in a good manner?”
Thus did We restore him to his mother, that her eye might be comforted, that she might not grieve and that she might know that the promise of Allah is true: but most of them know not.” (Surah Al-Qasas, aayaat 7-13)
Look how much Allah cared for this great mother, He knew her pain and her feelings and He returned her child to her in the most unexpected way, so we must realize that Allah is All-Hearing All-Merciful, He knows the plight of the caller when he calls and remember how Allah has helped mothers throughout the ages and how He mentions many mothers in the Qur’an: Mariam and her mother, Musa’s mother, Ishaaq’s mother Sara, the mother of Yahya. (‘alaihimus salaam).
So enjoy your new baby’s company because these days will pass- never to return. At the different stages of our lives: the beginning of parenthood and at every stage, we will find lessons to reflect upon, signs from Allah that make us thankful and in awe of Him. From the development of your baby throughout the nine months and in seeing him grow and flower every single day there are signs for you and we can see how helpless we too were and how Alhamdulillah Allah gave us parents and allowed us to grow. There are so many lessons and benefits for us if only we look and think. Remember that Allah the Almighty is more merciful to us than the mother is to her child, and He is Arham urRaahimeem (The Most Merciful of those who have mercy), so draw near to Him and make Him the One upon whom you place your trust.
[i] Verified to be authentic by al-Albani (Sahih ul-Jami no. 4133, and ‘Irwa ul-Ghalil no. 1166)
[ii] Reported by Ibn Majah (No.1270) and others and its isnaad is ‘hasan’ as occurs in saheehul jaami’ (No.3033)
[iii] Recorded by Ahmad, verified by al-Albani as being aunthentic (as-Sahih no.1048)
[iv] Scholars have stated that it is permissible for the Menstruating woman to recite of the Qur’an and even to hold books with Qur’anic aayat in them or books which have tafseer in them but not the Mushaf. (Book containing only the Qur’an as the majority of its contents.) This is so that they may not forget the Surahs which they have memorised. See Islamic Fataawa Regarding Women (Pgs 86- 89 Sheikh Bin Baaz’s fataawa)
[v] Recorded by Ibn Hibban, Abu Dawud and others from ‘Abdullah bin Ja’far. Verified to be hasan by adh-Dhahabee and others.
[vi] Al-Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 54, Number 477:
[vii] Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.
[viii] See the book “Our Precious Sprouts” (Aflaadhu Akbaadina) by Muhammad al-Jibaly. Pg 153-161 for a dicussion on Breastfeeding and issues related to it.
[ix] Raising children in Islam, Suhaib Hasan, Al-Qur’an Society
[x] Tuhfatul Mawdood 140-145 (See Muhammad al-Jibaly’s book “Our Precious Sprouts” (Aflaadhu Akbaadina) pg 161)
[xi] Adh-Dhahabee related in Siyar A'laam An-Nubalaa