A Nursing Mother’s Ramadan Reflections, by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil thought she knew what a challenging fasting day was…until she became a mother and began nursing her baby.

I thought that my hardest Ramadans were the ones I spent in Jordan, as a young student of knowledge. The days were incredibly long, and the blistering summer heat was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I missed the comfort of my mother’s cooking, and the familiar faces of my family and friends. In place of the loved ones I left behind, Allah blessed me with the warm company of new friends. May Allah reward the families who opened their homes to me, especially during Ramadan.
Almost a decade later, I find myself faced with an entirely different set of circumstances. I am married, living in Malaysia and nursing my baby daughter. She is almost one, and I am so grateful that she enjoys eating solids. Fiqh rulings about fasting while breastfeeding have taken a whole new meaning for me. Once, I would have thought it impossible. Nursing mothers like myself often experience a hunger that accompanies nursing a baby. Despite that, I’m realising how much Allah sustains my baby daughter and me, from heartbeat to heartbeat. Is it easy to fast while nursing a baby? Absolutely not. It’s humbling, it’s exhausting, it’s possible, and for now at least, I’ll keep going.

Tips for nursing mums:

1)   Drink plenty of water after iftar, alongside chia seeds soaked overnight.
2)   Have a solid suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and ask Allah to sustain you.
3)   Nap during the day when your baby naps!
4)   Express milk after suhoor or iftar, or both, if you need to.
5)   If you start getting unwell or your milk supply drops enough to impact on your baby’s nourishment, then know that it’s OK to stop fasting. Pay it back later, and look at the rules of fidyah for your school of thought. Some women can fast while nursing, while others can’t. Allah knows.

Extra Worship Is Another Matter

This Ramadan, I haven’t been able to step into a masjid, because my baby daughter doesn’t sleep through the night. Some nights, she can stay asleep for long stretches, and other nights, she wakes up continuously. I’ve made my peace with that. Instead of the luxury of hours of tarawih like in days gone by, I have precious moments of solitude as my daughter sleeps, or plays with her father and grandmother. These are the moments where I close my eyes and remember the power of intention. Every day looking after my baby is a day spent in love and service, for the sake of Allah Most High. Keeping connected to that intention is challenging, even on the best of days. What’s helped me stay present with that intention is listening to the SeekersHub Ramadan Podcasts in between putting her to sleep, feeding her, and playing with her. Mercy, forgiveness, and salvation – we are all in need.
May Allah help us make the most of the days we have left, help us be of service to others, and help us be pleased with His Decree.

Resources for seekers

Can I Pray While Sitting and Nursing so as to Not Miss the Prayer Time?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaikum,

Sometimes when I am nursing my daughter she nurses from before the start of prayer through to the passing of the prayer time. It is hard to unlatch her as she will cry inconsolably.

Can I pray while sitting and nursing so as not to miss the prayer time?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

The basis is that the prayer cannot be delayed passed its time except by way of a genuine excuse which has been affirmed and validated by the jurists (fuqaha). [Ibn Nujaym, al-Bahr al-Ra’iq (2.85)]

Having said that, there are texts in the Hanafi School which would appear to permit the nursing woman to delay the prayer if her child would: (a) cry from hunger and (b) actually suffer real and serious harm from the delay. Harm would be that which is established through expert medical opinion, past relevant experience or clear signs, confirmed with living jurists (not just a local Imam or religious person) who attest to the soundness of the conclusions made. [Zahidi, Qunyat al-Munya (57), as quoted by Lacknawi in his Naf` al-Mufti wa al-Sa’il (181)]

As a matter of fact, Imam Lacknawi lists over ten cases in which the jurists have deemed delaying the prayer as valid, permissible and not sinful, but obviously with the proviso that it is done so soundly and with all of its requisite conditions. [Lacknawi, Naf` al-Mufti wa al-Sa’il (178-182)]

However, the reality is that the prayer need not take more than a few minutes at any given time, and in the vast majority of cases, the child is not going to suffer any medical harm if their feed is delayed for some moments, particularly if they have fed for an extended period of time already. As such, I’d advise striving to pray at the first of the time, asking Allah Most High for facilitation and ease, and then feed, remaining conscious of the prayer times (with alarms, if necessary), so that you can organise and feed around them. I’d also recommend seeking some medical assistance to ensure everything is going as it should.

Please also see: Can I Delay Prayers During Emergency Situations? and: Attending Juma, Praying and Fasting While Training to be a Firefighter

And Allah alone knows best.

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

في البحر الرايق: وَيَجُوزُ تَأْخِيرُ الصَّلَاةِ عَنْ وَقْتِهَا لِعُذْرٍ كَمَا قَالَ الْوَلْوَالِجِيُّ فِي فَتَاوِيهِ الْقَابلَةِ إذَا اشْتَغَلْت بِالصَّلَاةِ تَخَافُ أَنْ يَمُوتَ الْوَلَدُ لَا بَأْسَ بِأَنْ تُؤَخِّرَ الصَّلَاةَ وَتُقْبِلَ عَلَى الْوَلَدِ لِأَنَّ تَأْخِيرَ الصَّلَاةِ عَنْ الْوَقْتِ يَجُوزُ بِعُذْرٍ ا هـ .
وفي نفع المفتي والسائل: فلو كانت امرأة اشتغلت بالصلاة يبكي ولدها بالجوع ويضرّ عليه ضررا غالبا وإن أرضعته يفوت الوقت جاز لها أن ترضعه وتؤخّر الصلاة … كذا في القنية ا هـ .
وفي القنية: لو اشتغلت بالصلاة يبكي ولدها وإن أرضعته يفوت الوقت ترضعه إذا خافت عليه ضررا غالبا ا هـ .

Can a Wife Demand Payment for Nursing Her Child? (Shafi’i)

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

Can a wife demand payment from her husband for breastfeeding their child?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

If a mother wants to breastfeed her child, it is not permissible for the father to prevent her from doing so.

However, it is not considered obligatory for a woman to nurse (breastfeed) her child, unless there is no one else available to do, and no other available options that would preserve the welfare of the child.

An exception mentioned in classical works is the mother’s nursing the child in the immediate period following childbirth, which was thought to be specific to the mother and without which the child would not usually survive. However, the obligation here is with respect to preserving the life of the child, and is not necessarily specific to nursing itself.

In any case, a woman can demand reasonable payment from her husband for breastfeeding their child, commensurate to what one could expect for performing such a task. This is because of the general ruling in the Qur’an: If they nurse your infants, pay them for it [Qur’an; 65.6].

Source: Hashiyat al-Bujayrami

Shuaib Ally

Has the Husband of a Woman Who Nursed Another’s Baby an Emotional Link With This Baby?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

Has the husband of a woman who nursed another’s baby an emotional link with this baby?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Legal scholarship generally concerned itself with issues that were legally regulated. In the case of having another woman nurse one’s child, legal ramifications involved rendering previously possible marriages impermissible. The child, that is, would be considered a son/daughter to the woman who nursed him/her, and likewise to this woman’s husband. This status, however, is only meant to affect marriage and related issues allowing being alone with and looking at them; it does not involve any other obligations such as that of upkeep or inheritance.

Emotional attachment isn’t likewise legally regulated, even for one’s actual children. However, one of the consequences of nursing a child is often emotional attachment, as children tend to develop an emotional attachment to the woman who nursed them. The permissibility of being alone with or looking at one’s nurse mother, for example, could also naturally be expected to lead to that. One could foresee a similar attachment developing among the rest of the family, such as the husband. This, however, is not always the case. It remains a matter better governed by personal and family circumstances, and interacting appropriately and kindly with those one has this type of family attachment to.

Shuaib Ally

Developing a Mahram Relationship Through Nursing in Maliki Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour

Question: Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu

My father was adopted and when he was about 7 yrs old his mother (who adopted him) conceived and she gave my father some of her breast milk with a spoon.

Does this make him her mahram? Will that also mean my uncle is now my mahram?

JazakaaAllahu Khairan

Answer: According to the verse in the Quran in Sura Baqara (2:233), “Mothers shall nurse their children for two complete years.”  The years here refer to lunar years.  From this verse the scholars have deduced that two years is maximum time that nursing can cause the mahram (non-marriageable) relationship.

Some scholars, such as the Maliki scholars, have added two months to the two years. This is based on the principle that “proximity to something will incur the same ruling.”  Two months were deemed as being close enough to the limit to be given their ruling.
Beyond this, nursing will not cause a mahram relationship to occur.  Thus, your father will not be considered to be the mahram of the caretaker who gave him milk when he was seven years old.  Since the mahram relationship did not occur, your “uncle” who is the caretakers son, will not be your mahram.
As a note, the Maliki scholars do not require that milk reach the child directly from the mother’s breast.  If the milk was given through a bottle, syringe, spoon or the like, that will be sufficient. But again, this would have to be before the 2 year and 2 month limit.
And Allah knows best.
[Mukhtasar Khalil]

Should I Use Breast Milk or Formula?

Answered by Ustadha Shaista Maqbool

Question: Is it ok to use powdered breast milk instead of breastfeeding?

Answer: Assalaamu alaikum warahmatu Allah,

Whether a baby should be given breast milk or formula is a decision made between the parents.

Experts agree upon the benefits of breast milk and that it is a superior form of nutrition than formula. Nonetheless, the latter would not require the parents to give their child breast milk, though it would be preferable to do so under normal circumstances for the interests of the child.

Shaista Maqbool

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani