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Islam and Breastfeeding: Religious and Cultural Traditions.

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Islamic religious beliefs and cultural practices in Muslim communities guide women's breastfeeding decisions and are important factors in early infant care and feeding, according to a paper in the recent issue (Volume 1, Number 3) of Breastfeeding Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. ( and the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. The paper is available free online at

Helping Muslim women adopt good infant feeding practices requires an understanding of the differences between the religious basis of breastfeeding and the cultural practices followed by some Muslims. Clinicians can help differentiate between religious beliefs and cultural norms to promote breastfeeding in Muslim communities.

Ulfat Shaikh, MD, MPH, and Omar Ahmed, MD, from the University of California Davis School of Medicine explain that the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, recommends that mothers breastfeed their children for two years if possible and, in fact, states that every infant has the right to be breastfed. If a mother is unable to breastfeed, she and the father can decide together to have a wet nurse feed the child.

"Breastfeeding management is both an art and a science, but for many women it is part of deeply held beliefs about child rearing that stem from their religious teachings. This article will help clinicians understand the religious and cultural basis of Muslim women's views on children and breastfeeding," says Ruth A. Lawrence, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, from the Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The paper, entitled, "Islam and Infant Feeding," describes the importance of privacy and modesty in Muslim culture and suggests that the lack of privacy in hospitals, and especially in neonatal intensive care units might discourage women from breastfeeding. Cultural practices such as substituting honey or water supplements for colostrums could deprive the infant of important nutrients. Similarly, Muslim women who wear veils and have little sun exposure may have low vitamin D levels, putting their breastfed infants at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Breastfeeding Medicine is an authoritative, peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal published quarterly. The Journal publishes original scientific papers, reviews, and case studies on a broad spectrum of topics in lactation medicine. It presents evidence-based research advances and explores the immediate and long-term outcomes of breastfeeding, including the epidemiologic, physiologic, and psychologic benefits of breastfeeding.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Journal of Women's Health, Journal of Gynecologic Surgery, and Pediatric Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 60 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available at
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 8, 2006
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