B for Baby, B for Breast

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I have been wanting to do dis post for a long time, had composed it in my head several times but just didnt get to actually writing it. One reason might have been  the taboo attached to talking abt it publically in our society. But now that my baby has just turned one, i thought i should finally document it for many young mothers who mite b going through a lot that i went through wen K was born.
I am talking about breastfeeding. I am not being immodest by talking abt it, just want to share what i learned the hard way. And no, trust me, this is not and will never be one of the mommy blogs 🙂
Before K was born, i knew i wanted to breastfeed her. After all, we have all read the slogan, “breast is the best.” But i had heard stories of this not being an easy, and for some an impossible, journey, i had bought milk bottles too. You know, just in case.
With K’s birth, the real work started. Breastfeeding does not come as naturally as people would make you believe and no matter how much you have read about it, its completely different when the baby is handed to you to feed for the first time.
Through out the year, i met with people who all thought were experts on the field. Interestingly, none of them had exclusively breastfed their babies for the first 6 months and yet they would advise me things which are completely baseless. But well, people will talk so i just had to listen to them. For guidance of new moms and moms-to-be, i have made a list of problems that you are likely to face if u decide to breastfeed.
1. I dont have enough milk (first six months): The problem is that the women who have become mothers in the past 15 years or so were all bottle fed. Their moms were made to believe that with each generation, women are getting weaker and thus cannot produce enough milk to feed their babies. This means that even if they wanted to nurse their babies, they had to supplement with formula in a bottle. The combination often confused the baby and the baby just chose one over the other. The bottle would usually win as the babies found sucking milk from bottle easier. After having a feed of formula milk, the babies would also sleep longer making the moms think that they indeed do not have enough milk. The baby sleeps longer after formula milk because the formula milk takes longer to digest and thus the baby does not get hungry as quickly as with breast milk. This made the moms feel inadequate! Now those moms have become grand moms and those partially or fully bottle fed babies have become moms. Obviously the kmowledge base had remained the same so now as mothers and mothers in law, they suggest tht all women must start supplementing with formula milk as they do not have enough milk.
Most women, less than 40, are able to provide sufficient milk for their little ones so women should keep in mind that the problem of not having milk is not as common as we think it is. Many women who think they do not have enough milk are actually engorged (have too much milk) or the baby is not latching properly. So if you are one of them, go to a lactation expert and ask whether you need a massage to help opening the blocked ducts or whether your baby is latching properly or not. If you need massage, please hire a professional or it can lead to other infections and more problems for you. I m saying this specifically because i tried to massage myself often with unwashed hands, damaged a lot of tissues and spread bacteria. I ended up getting mastitis which is a very painful disease and a huge hurdle in the path of breastfeeding.
One thing that often makes women supplement with formula milk as it makes them feel inadequate is cluster feeding. Babies have growth spurts in which they grow a lot more than normal. These growth spurts usually last 2-3 days. When the growth spurt is about to begin, the babies stary feeding a lot more than normal. They always seem hungry and feed frantically thus making the mother feel she is not being able to provide enough. This is a stage where most women supplement with formula milk and this is exactly where they go wrong. The more the baby nurses, the more milk is produced and that is why the baby cluster feeds: to help produce more milk during the gtowth spurt. Just let the baby feed and let your body do miraculous things.
2. I do not have enough milk (next six months): now that the the baby is six months, you would have started solids. The baby nurses for shorter periods of time and you are not ‘leaking’ anymore. So that must mean your supply is dropping. No, it does not mean that at all. Breastfeeding has become second to nature for you and your baby: your body now produces just the right amoint of milk and your baby has learned the art of feeding. So less leaking and quick, painless nursing sessions. Further, a lot of hunger is taken care by the newly introduced solids. And as the solids take longer to digest, the baby now sleeps longer too. Just keep in mind, the body will supply milk as per the demand so just relax! I know women who are breastfeeding their 3 year old children and their milk has not dried up yet so the best thing you can do is not get stressed up. You already have a lot to worry about with a teething, crawling baby.
3. It takes too much time: oh yes, that is a fact. It can take 8-10 hours every day in the first few months and then 4-5 hours by the time your baby is a year old. Many women, and their families, think that breastfeeding ties them down so they opt to give forrmula milk in bottle during the day and nurse at night. I do not want to be judgemental here but i call it convenience nursing. During the day when you might have to do your household chores, go to the spa or a coffee morning, you can just hand in a bottle to the baby. At night when you are too tired to get up and make a bottle of milk, you breastfeed. I mean unless you have a genuine problem like going back to work, i would suggest you that you always nurse the baby at least for the first year. It will ensure you have a good supply of milk till the time you and your baby are ready to wean off. If you are a stay at home mom, invest your time in your baby. Trust me, you will not regret it. Your household chores can wait. All over the world, a helper can b hired even if its for just once a week. You can even ask your husband to wash the dishes at night. He might make a face but he will do it for you and the baby. Your husband and your family will all understand that your house cannot b perfect all the time and you cannot serve a 3 course meal twice a day. Try them, they will deal with it better than you think. Of course there will b days when you will feel exhausted and would want your body back, for that try finding a friend who mite b going through the same problem. If you do not know anyone, you can join an online group of bresdtfeeding mommies. Listening to their issues might help you realise that you are not alone and just might motivate you to contibue a lil longer. They will also b helpful wen you will feel neglected by your husband. Trust me, that will b quite frustrating during the first few months wen u will b struggling wid no-sleep routine, post natal depression and an ever hungry baby.
4. How do i nurse in public: well thats difficult without getting eye brows raised whether u are living in pakistan oe abroad. A woman’s breasts have become sexual objects and many ppl dont want to see them as being used for nurturing babies! Wierd, but sadly true. So, if u can, try to nurse the bb at home. If not, try finding a quiet place to nurse where not many ppl wud notice u. If u are visiting someone at their home, ask if u can sit alone in a room, it can b awkward if ppl stare at u while u are nursing. If u are out shopping, try going to malls wid nursing rooms so tht u can nurse cmfrtably without making ppl think u are being immodest. You mite not believe this but even malls in pakistan have nursing rooms. If you live outside pakistan, nursing rooms will be much easier to find and I would also suggest that you invest in a good nursing cover. Trust me, you will not regret!
5. I am gaining weight!: well dont blame breatfeeding for tht, blame whoever told u tht now u can use breastfeeding as an excuse to eat a large pizza, one pint of ice cream and four desi ghee parathas all in one day. You need 600 extra calories eceryday not 6000!
6. I have no one to cook special milk producing food for me: special food? U dont need any special food. Panjiri, zeera/saunf mixture or any other things of the sort are not pprerrquisites of having milk at all but if u have the luxury of someone going thru the pains to prepare them, enjoy them till u can. U just need to eat well and avoid foods tht are not very easily digested and that too only for first few months. U mite also like to note how ur baby reacts wen u eat certain foods. For instance some babies are allergic to nuts, some to dairy products and some to wheat. If ur baby is, u will have to avoid these foods for the time u are nursing ur baby and keep praying ur baby outgrows these allergies.
I went through all sorts of issues from engorgement to mastitis, from people raising eye brows for not supplementing with formula milk to plain exhaustion and tiredness. But in the end its all worth it. Now that K is a year old and i m trying to wean her off, i have realized how much i m going to miss it once she will b completely weaned off. Now that she is so active, the only time wen she really sits in my lap is wen she is nursing! I am so gonna miss these these special bonding sessions with her!

Why, oh why? [Women and Masjid (Pakistani Perspective)]

Growing up in a family like mine, I never realy felt any biases against myself due to my gender. I had the same curfew time and went to the same educational institutes like my brother. I learned to drive pretty much the same time and interesting both of us were taught to offer salah by our grandfather too. In fact, a lot of the times it was my brother who thought I always got the advantage, being a girl, and got away with a lot of things and now wen I think back, I cant really deny that completely 😛

But as I grew older and started going to Pakistan more often (and then later lived there), I realized, things were ‘culturally’ very different from what I had been taught at home and from what I had learned from books. I am not saying that Islam really differs too much between the two genders, but the difference is way too visible in the predominantly so-called Islamic State. You know, as it is said, if you want to understand Islam, look at Islam itself and not Muslims. This saying started to become a reality for me.

Soon, I found out there is not a single masjid nearby where women could go to pray if they wanted to. Funny. Yes, I am a Hanafi and I always knew that Prophet Mohammed (SAW) encouraged women to pray at home but did that mean women are not allowed into the masjid at all? I started digging for answers and interestingly, I found a hadith which says:

Hazrat Abdullah bin Omar (RA) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Do not prevent your women from attending the masjid, even though their houses are better for them” [Sunan Abu Dawood]

Not bad at all! This was all very logical…something I knew already but just didnt know from where it came. Praying at home is better for women but Islamically, men could not prevent women from praying at the masjid. The meaning was straightforward: a masjid is supposd to provide proper facilities for women at masjid and then it is upto the women whether they want to go or not.

Now, talking about fiqh. Hanafis are usually the most strict wen it comes to women praying at the masjid and as it is the predominant fiqh in Pakistan, I really needed to know whether it is something cultural or Hanafis really believe that going to masjid is, in fact, haram for women. I found the following:

Hazrat Aisha (RA) has been reported to have said, “If the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was alive to see what women are doing now, he would surely have prevented them from entering the masjid for prayer just as women of Banu Israel were prevented” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Now the above is simply an opinion by Hazrat Aisha (RA), not a ruling. It is also of common knowledge that Hazrat Omar (RA) prevented women from attending masjid for prayer as part of the law during his reign without making it part of the religion itself. Futher, the fatwa on this matter must be scrutinized far more carefully:

“It is disliked for women to attend congregational prayers in the masjid even for Eid and Juma prayers, and even for old women attending night prayers, according to the more reliable position in Hanafi School, due to the corruption of time.” [Imam al-Haskafi, Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 1/566]

So, again, it is disliked and not considered haram as the common misconception in Pakistan. Further, if you look at the Hanafi rules, you will in fact find various laws regarding how a woman should behave in a masjid if she is having her periods. Now , if according to Pakistani jurists, women are not allowed in the masjid at all, why do we need to talk about wat a women should do if her periods start when she is in the masjid?

And then at times I think, if women are allowed to go freely to markets, lawn exhibitions, fashion shows and social gatherings where men and women intermingle, often (not always obviously) in the most un-Islamic manner, then how can going to masjid be considered haram? Sadly, in a country like Pakistan, even the most religious women often have to miss their prayers because they were either stuck in a traffic jam or were buying essentials at a market. You would be shocked to know that most shopping malls in Pakistan do not even have a prayer room for women and interestingly, most shops remain closed till around 1 in the afternoon.

So what are women supposed to do?

Well, I guess just wat they have been doing so far…prayers can wait!

Coming of age

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So here I am, celebrating my third blogoversary. As I started off from a different blog, I celebrate the day I started blogging rather than the day I started this particular blog.

Anyway, life has changed drastically for me over these past three years and so has my blogging. The reason I started blogging was not something that made me continue blogging. I have repeated quite a lot of times why I started blogging and wat kept me going initially but it changed over time. Soon it was about the number of visitors, the number of subscribers, the number of comments. I dont blog for those reasons anymore. I dont blog for stats any more or to get insane number of comments that I once used to get for the controversial posts that I started doing. I have learned to blog for myself.

But what is it that has kept me hooked to this even then. I mean being the person that I am, I tend to get bored quite easily but why am I still blogging after 3 years. A question that I asked myself today when I saw the Blogoversary badge on my other blog.

And the more I think about it, the more I get convinced that surprisingly, no matter what I might think, the reason is once again pretty much what I started blogging for. It changed in between when I got obsessed with stats. But now, I have come to the point where I started: to talk about things that matter to me, regardless of what they mean for others, regardless of how many people read it, regardless of how many people care to leave comments; I am just happy to have an outlet for my feelings to share with the small but loyal readers’ base and with complete strangers who stumble upon my blog.

At the end of the day, I guess I just want to be heard, even if it is by a small group of people and in doing that I want to be a part of the people who dare to be heard. I dont want to be a celebrity blogger, just someone with a voice.