Vol 2 -Issue 3 Breastfeeding

Are there any foods mothers should avoid while breastfeeding?

  1. Most babies are unaffected by the variety in mothers food, but if you feel your baby is fussy, after you eat a particular food, avoid that food. Some of such foods include: chocolate, spices, citrus fruits, the gassy veggies, and fruits with laxative effect (cherries, prunes, etc.).
  2. Too much caffeine can also affect baby’s sleep patterns. Also, if your baby has food allergy, he may be reacting to foods you eat. It’s usually something you have eaten between two and six hours prior to feeding. The most common culprits include cow milk products, soy wheat, egg, nuts, and corn.
  3. It is important to talk to your doctor, before you omit any foods from your diet, as it may cause a nutritional imbalance in your body.
  4. Cola drinks can dramatically reduce breast milk production in some mothers.

How much calcium do nursing moms need?

The calcium recommendation for nursing women is 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day. It is alright to get more than the recommended dietary requirement, as long as your total daily intake is less than 2,500 mg. Try to get your calcium through food, instead of a vitamin supplement – your body will absorb it more.

One eight-ounce glass of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. You can also get approximately 300 mg of calcium from each of the following sources:

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of yoghurt
  • 1 ½ cup (4 ounces) of ice cream or frozen yoghurt
  • 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese
  • 2 cups of cottage cheese
  • 1 cup of calcium-fortified (or fortified soy milk) milk
  • 2 slices of calcium-fortified bread
  • 5 oranges

How to tell if a breastfed baby is getting enough milk?

A woman’s own doubt about her milk supply is why most mothers stop breastfeeding within the first two weeks after birth. Even though you are giving enough milk to your baby, you may feel unsure.

Most newborns want to nurse eight to fifteen times a day, after the first three or four days of life. Feed your baby as often as he needs it. Some signs indicating that your baby is getting enough milk are:

  1. The baby nursing at least eight times in 24 hours for the first two to three weeks.
  2. Your breasts are being emptied and feel softer after nursing.
  3. Your baby has good colour and firm skin that bounces right back if pinched.
  4. Your baby is growing in both length and circumference.
  5. The baby wets at least eight diapers in a 24-hour period.
  6. You can hear her swallowing, while nursing.
  7. She’s passing yellowy-mustard stools or frequent dark stools.

Islam’s stance on breastfeeding

Quran states: “The mothers should suckle their children for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling.” (Al-Baqarah 2:233)

Dr. Ghulam Murtaza Malik, in his commentary ‘Noor alhuda’ explains that Allah (swt) has commanded Muslim women to nurse their children for the complete period of two years provided some health limitation prevents them to do so. There is medical evidence to believe that lactation also prevents women from developing breast cancer.

Besides mother’s milk is the best form of nutrition for a baby. Even formula milk manufacturers have to date not been able to produce an exact match. Mother’s milk is a miracle of Allah (swt) in itself.

Boys and Girls as Different Learners

Vol 2 -Issue 3  Boys & Girls as different learners

A common myth that lingers is that boys are better equipped for scientific genius than girls. And brain-imaging technology has proven that the brains of men and women are certainly different. Even Sandra Witelson, a neuroscientist famous for her study of Albert Einstein’s brain, explained that besides the brain, men and women have dramatic differences in their eyes, noses, and ears that feed information to their brains. Yu Xie, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, rationed that social conditions, which come into play with biological factors, enhance these differences. All in all, copious theories state the gender disparity.

However, the latest research upends the concept of male superiority in science skills. This is good news for parents, who want their daughters to become top-tier tenured science professors, researchers, engineers, etc. As parents, we need to understand and appreciate the disparity in the anatomy of the brains of our sons and daughters. This will assist us in knowing, what fundamental steps need to be taken to enhance our child’s inclination towards a particular subject be it our son or daughter. Both can be achievers, provided parents understand their gender uniqueness and especially cater to their rudimentary learning needs.

  • Amanda Ripley in her impressive article published in March, 2005, issue of “Time” explained that men’s brains are about 10% bigger than women’s brains. This difference in size is merely the same as the fact that men are approximately 8% taller than women. Size difference does not predict intellectual performance, as was once thought. Boys and girls have repeatedly performed equally well on IQ tests.
  • Men do their thinking in more focused regions of the brain, whether solving a math problem, reading a book or feeling angry or sad. Women appear to have more connections between the two brain hemispheres, so they use more parts of their brain to accomplish certain tasks. This might explain, why they tend to recover better from a stroke, since the healthy parts of their mind compensate for the injured regions.
  • Women have stronger connections between the amygdala (a deeply located part of the brain) and regions that process language and other functions. This may explain, why women can openly express their emotions, while men compartmentalize their worries and carry on. Even as toddlers, most of the little girls begin to chatter quite early and effortlessly, as compared to boys.
  • According to psychiatrist Jay Giedd who has been compiling one of the world’s largest libraries of brain growth, a girl’s brain size peaks around age 11 1/2. For the boys, the peak comes at age 14 1/2.
  • Specifically some of the brain regions involved in mechanical reasoning, visual targeting, and spatial reasoning appear to mature four to eight years earlier in boys. The parts that handle verbal fluency, handwriting, and recognizing familiar faces mature several years earlier in girls.
  • The most surprising differences lie outside the brain. “If you have a man and woman looking at the same landscape, they see totally different things,” states Leonard Sax, a physician, psychologist, and author of “Why Gender Matters”. Women can see colours and textures men cannot see, hear things men cannot hear, and smell things men cannot smell.
  • Male retina of the eye is likely to consist of more cells designed to detect motion, while female retina has more cells built to gather information on colour and texture. Now, we understand, why our little boys are fond of moving toys, such as trucks, etc. and our girls favour richly textured dolls and other colourful stuff.
  • Likewise, women’s ears are more sensitive to some noises. Baby girls hear certain ranges of sound better. And the divergence gets even bigger in adults.
  • A study published in the journal “Nature Neuroscience” in 2002 revealed that women of childbearing age were many times more sensitive to several smells upon repeated exposure than men.

Humble solutions by experts:

After thorough study, Leonard Sax of Maryland is convinced that boys and girls are innately different, and that their environment must be changed so that the differences do not become limitations. Sometimes, solutions are simple. In co-ed schools, boys, who do not hear as good as girls, do lag behind in academic performance. To solve the problem, they can simply be moved into the front row of the classroom. However, often solutions to other problems are more complex, especially, in cases involving attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder, etc.

According to the National Centre for Education Statistics, until the fourth grade in the US, boys and girls hardly show any significant differences on their math tests. Moving into their adolescence, girls score about 7% lower on the math section of SAT. For this reason, Sax offers segregated classrooms for our early and adolescent learners. According to his theory, co-ed has caused more harm than benefit. Teachers handle boys and girls in a similar manner, not understanding that their brains are maturing at different speeds. This poses two critical hurdles in the way of smooth academic progress: a) failure and  b) aversion to a particular subject (languages, social science, etc., in the case of boys, and math and analytical subjects in the case of girls).

This research aids us as parents to respect the diversity of our children. It also reminds us, how uniquely Allah (swt) has created males and females. They are not in competition but play complimentary roles to make one winning team. Allah (swt) states: “Verily, We have created man in the best stature.” (At-Tin 95:4) Although different in many ways, our boys and girls are special, and, as a principle, must never be compared with one another.

Allah (swt) also states: “… He creates what He wills. He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He wills, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He wills.” (As-Shura 42:49) Casting aspersions, such as, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” or “Why can’t you be smart like your brother?” only counts for hiding our own parental inefficiencies and disrespects the individuality of our children.

If consistent instruction is imparted in line with the genders’ own pace of mental development, may be we will some day have a female version of Einstien and a male version of the Bronte sisters.

The Battle of Moms

Vol 2 -Issue 3 Battle of Moms

“Oh! You work full time?”

“Yes, I am a project manager for the Children’s Memorial Hospital.”

“You are missing out on your child’s most precious moments: his first step, his first words…”

“Actually, when I hear them, they are the first for me, I am not missing out. By working, I am providing better economic conditions for him.”

“That is just an excuse; you can cut down on luxuries to spend time with your child.”

This is a typical tug of war conversation between a working mom and a non-working mom (in the traditional sense, because I think that the term ‘non-working mom’ is an oxymoron). At the impending birth of my son, I suffered through countless hours of back and forth debate, whether I should quit my job or not. Eventually, I decided that my working would provide more opportunities for Bilal, my son, in the increasingly competitive world. Now, facing the birth of my second child, I am a work-from-home mom. This change of circumstances led me to analyze, which mother is better.

Basically, moms can be categorized into five groups:

  1. Working moms due to necessity;
  2. Working moms due to boredom or a feeling of inadequacy for letting go of their high profile careers;
  3. Work-from-home moms who, utilizing technology, work from their homes, and take care of their children 24/7 as well;
  4. Stay-at-home moms, who believe that they are the only ones able to provide the best care for their children and;
  5. Stay-at-home moms, with busy social lives, they hire nannies to take care of their children.

Most working moms (WM) feel that stay-at-home moms (SHM) are dull – they cannot cut it out in the big, bad corporate world and spend most of their time in beauty parlors and gyms. Conversely, most (SHM) moms feel that (WM) are robbing their children – they give their best to the workplace and have no time left for being good mothers.

The Quran (Luqman 31:14) instructs children to be good to their parents. There is also a Hadeeth in Sahih Al-Bukhari, where Abu Hurairah (rta) narrates: “A man came to the Prophet (sa) and said: ‘O Prophet! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Your mother.’ The man said: ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Your mother.’ The man further said: ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Your mother.’ The man asked for the fourth time: ‘Who is next?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Your father.'”

The logical deduction would be that a mother sacrifices much more for her child. What does ‘sacrifice’ entail? Does it mean spending 24/7 with your children, even though all you do is scream at them? Or does it mean spending quality time with them? How are we to decide? According to Heidi Murkoff, author of children’s guides, the answer is simple – the real parenting expert is YOU. Only you can decide, what is best for your child.

Ralph Gardner (New York writes: “Motherhood, for all its joys, has become a flash point for envy, resentment, and guilt. ‘Everybody struggles, and everybody envies what the other has,’ says the (SHM) of a 9- and a 14-year-old. ‘The (WM) wishes she had more free time to be available to her child, and may be have a coffee after the drop-off. And the (SHM) would maybe like to have something that’s a reflection of her as an individual – a label that says she’s a capable, creative person, who knows about more than just baby formula or after-school programs.'”

Keeping this in mind, every mom should understand that her counterpart (WM or SHM) is making the best of a situation not completely in her control. For example, if one mother quits her job, her family cannot survive, as her paycheck pays the school fees and food bills. What about a (SHM), whose husband is an ambassador, she has hired a nanny to take care of her four-year-old, because she has to plan special events and elaborate dinners, a must for her husband’s career. Should she hire a special events coordinator and spend time with her child instead? The real question is – what do you do, when you spend time with your children? Do you read to them, talk, and listen to them? Or do you just yell at them, your favorite word being ‘no’? Before you go pointing fingers at others, be sure you are giving your 110% to your children.

As kids grow up, they look to their parents as role models. I loved to tell my friends and teachers that my mom was a physician – I got envious looks. But, truth be told, I envied my friend’s life – her mom was at home, when she came from school. She had hot chocolate-chip cookies for breakfast, and her mom was always around to listen to her. She told me she would have loved to afford swimming and ice-skating lessons and to have her mom show her, how all the hospital equipment works. Most of all, she would have loved the prestige of having a mom that people respect! I guess there are pros and cons to everything; it is how you face them that make the experience positive.

Every mom needs her personal time. The (WM) gets it at work – the achievement that she is a viable human being. The (SHM) usually volunteers at charity events, helps at school, and thus makes a difference in the community. The new work from home mom (WHM), a creation of the Information Superhighway, I think has it all. She is empowered, she calls the shots, how much work she does and when she does it; quality time for family as well. We should learn to appreciate each other’s qualities. Those of us blessed with being able to spend more time with our kids – let’s cherish this opportunity, instead of wasting it on useless criticism.