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Responsibility to arrange for baby’s breastfeeding

Published: 24/08/2011 10:24:00 AM GMT
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Is the mother obligated to breastfeed her child?

Answered by

Sheikh Muhammad al-Mubârak, professor at al-Imâm University

There is no disagreement among the scholars that it is obligatory to provide for the child’s being breastfed within the timeframe of early childhood allotted for nursing for if the child needs to be breastfed. This is to save the child from harm.

The question remains as to who is responsible to ensure that the child is nursed and to provide for the child’s nursing.

The majority of Shâfi`î and Hanbalî scholars hold the view that the father is solely responsible to ensure that the child is breastfed, and that the mother is not obligated to suckle the child. The father has no power to force the mother to breastfeed her child – regardless of whether she is a slave or a free woman – unless the father truly cannot find someone else to nurse the baby.

There are a few exceptions to this ruling. For instance, if the baby refuses to take any other breast than his mother’s, the mother will be obliged to breastfeed her own baby. Also, in the case where the father cannot afford to hire a wet nurse and the baby also does not have any money from which a wet-nurse can be employed (for instance, by way of inheritance), then the mother will be obligated to suckle her baby.

These scholars derive the ruling that it is the father’s obligation to provide for the nursing of the baby on the basis of the following verse that addresses the father: “And if you find yourselves in difficulties, than another woman shall nurse him.” [Sûrah al-Talâq: 6] If the parents disagree, then this is a difficulty requiring the employment of a wet-nurse.

If the mother requests to breastfeed her own baby for the same wage that would be paid to others, then she will be given preference for the task, whether or not she is married to the father. This is the ruling followed by the majority of scholars.

This is in view of Allah’s saying: “And the mothers should suckle their children for two whole years for him who desires to make complete the time of suckling; and their maintenance and their clothing must be borne by the father according to customary usage.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 233]

Allah also says: “Then if they suckle for you, give them their recompense” [Sûrah al-Talâq: 6]

Also, the mother is given preference, because she has more sympathy for the baby and the mother’s own milk is normally the most suitable for the child.

And Allah knows best.

Source: Islam Today

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