Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Breastfeeding in Saudi Arabia: A Fading Art


I was shocked when I first learned that a large percentage of women in Saudi Arabia do not breastfeed their infants - especially in view of the fact that Islam is very clear in encouraging breastfeeding until a child is two years of age. You might be puzzled like I was at how a country so steeped in culture and traditions like Saudi Arabia could reject this most primal mothering instinct and rebuff the health benefits afforded by this natural and nurturing bodily function related to motherhood.


So what exactly happened in Saudi Arabia to cause this surprising phenomenon? The answer is really very simple - capitalism, propaganda, and greed defeated mother nature. Several decades ago when the big oil boom exploded in KSA in the 1970s, foreign baby formula manufacturers discovered a huge previously untapped marketplace in this desert kingdom. Convincing the powers-that-be of the "redeeming qualities" of breast milk substitution, these purveyors of infant formula launched a relentless brainwashing campaign in Saudi Arabia to convince mothers that their own bodies' milk wasn't adequate for their babies and that processed canned or powdered artificial baby formula was superior. And the women believed them. The result was an unprecedented decline in the percentage of nursing mothers and a frightening increase in the number of infant deaths and children's health problems in the ensuing decades.


Dr. Modia Batterjee and her mother Anne became alarmed at the grim statistics and sprang into action. They opened up the non-profit Al Bidayah Breastfeeding Resource and Women’s Awareness Center in Jeddah - a place which educates, supports, and encourages Saudi women to return to breastfeeding their children. Dr. Batterjee has also recently published a book, A Fading Art: Understanding Breast-Feeding in the Middle East.


Breastfeeding has numerous advantages. Not only is breastfeeding much more economical than buying infant formula, but it is far more healthy for both mother and child. Dr. Batterjee says in her book, "Breastfeeding is critical for child survival, and according to medical research, no better way exists to secure the best start in life... Breastfeeding presents the perfect nourishment for all infants because it contains all the nutrients, antibodies, immune factors, and antioxidants infants require to thrive." Artificial infant formula does not.


A staggering statistic from a 2005 UNICEF report on indicates that a whopping 60% of Muslim children worldwide die before reaching their first birthdays, due to malnutrition and disease. This tragic result is directly related to the decline in mothers who breastfeed their children.


In explaining how she and her daughter came to promote breastfeeding within the Kingdom, Anne wrote in the Beginning of her daughter's book, "In April 1994, an article in the local paper caught my eye. A prominent OB-GYN had written an article about the sad state of affairs of breastfeeding in Saudi Arabia. I was shocked to see that he felt that less than 20 per cent of his patients breastfeed at all, but I knew he was right."


I am proud to say that I myself was quoted in Dr. Batterjee's book as well:

"I personally find it fascinating that it was so easy for Saudi society to jump on the infant formula bandwagon. Sadly, they abandoned the best and most natural form of feeding their babies without even looking back. Every single day I hear the excuse about how slowly things must change here because people need time to get used to the change, for example, the idea of women driving, or of other social reforms. Why is it that infant formula was so readily accepted when there is so much information available about how much better, in so many ways, breastfeeding is for babies and their mothers? I just don't get it! Every single species of mammals on Earth breastfeeds their babies - yet Saudis are so easily convinced that it isn't enough, isn't good enough, and that formula is better? How in the world do they think that civilization ever managed to survive in the thousands of years prior to the introduction of infant formula? It just makes no sense!"



So exactly why were Saudi women so quick to make the switch from feeding their newborns the best possible nourishment of their own milk to the artificial imitation of it? Did Saudi culture and social pressures play a role? Most definitely YES. Could the fact that Saudi hospital policy dictates that all mothers of newborns are not allowed to be released from the hospital after giving birth until the baby is able to drink formula from a bottle have anything to do with it? A resounding YES. Are Saudi women perhaps too pampered, or lazy, or do they view breastfeeding as an inconvenient chore instead of as a loving gift of health and bonding from mother to child? Sadly, maybe some do. Whatever the reasons, one thing is certain: unless Saudi women take this part of motherhood seriously and breastfeeding returns to its rightful place in Saudi Arabia, the disastrous effects will be long-lasting and devastating.


Dr. Batterjee's book, A Fading Art, is available at the Al Bidayah Center in Jeddah, Jarir Bookstore, and also on Amazon.com.


For more information, please see this recent article in the Arab News on The Issue of Breastfeeding, which features Dr. Batterjee and her book and brings the problems facing Saudi Arabia to light because of the decline in breastfeeding.


You can also find out more on the Al Bidayah Center Facebook Group page and the Al Bidayah Breastfeeding Resource and Women's Awareness Center

54 comments:

  1. I had no idea that this was the Case in Saudi although it's got me wondering if the situation is more widespread throughout the Gulf

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  2. A Canadian ReaderAug 11, 2010, 12:17:00 AM

    I am sorry to hear about this trend. Here in North America, there is more and more talk about the benefits of breastfeeding but what I'm constantly hearing is "I tried, but it just doesn't work."

    Breastfeeding *is* natural, but it isn't always easy and women don't have the support to keep trying until they and their babies master the art.

    I breastfed both my children, but if I hadn't been absolutely steadfast in my will to succeed, I too would have given up.

    I warmly support and congratulate people like Dr. Batterjee and her mother for their important work.

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  3. Hi, Suz:
    Seeing the artworks in your breastfeeding post reminds me to alert you to this BBC News link, about Saudi women photographing the Islamic world for public display overseas. Thought it may interest you, with all the lovely pix on your blog:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/world_news_america/8899583.stm

    Best wishes,
    PhilBee, NZ

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  4. A lie, told often enough, will be believed. Mass media has extraordinary powers, unfortunately.

    My goal was to breastfeed my babies for at least one year. Unfortunately, when my daughter was 8 months old, she was in the hospital for 5 days with pneumonia and my milk production went away, but I would have kept going.

    I think the fact that I DID breastfeed for the long kept her alive. The doctors said "one more day" and she would have gone into the ICU.

    Thanks for the info.

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  5. Wow, that was an eye-opener! I never knew about this. Thanks for posting this.

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  6. Just want to say what I witnessed with many Saudi women in my ex husband's family....they let the maids get up with the baby during the night, or when they are tired. Then they say they "lost their milk". Breast feeding has to be done on demand to keep the milk supply coming. Yes, the formula companies market where ever they can. But this culture knows the value of breast feeding through their religion and tradition. I'd say laziness plays a large part in the decline. In terms of taking motherhood seriously, in my experience, more often than not children are more attached to maids than their mothers.

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  7. Very true with the older generation, but many of the young and educated females started to breastfeed again... due to the same forces that made them stop Media :)

    The formula companies were on, and in full effect, and you should hear the "your milk is not enough" said by the new grandmothers of today to their daughters when they breastfeed.

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  8. This is an important topic that I have been planning to post on, especially after the Arab News article. Thanks for bringing this book and the centre to our attention.

    I agree with Qusay that the "mass media", or more narrowly the propaganda within the health industries, has had a major effect on what different generations of women around the world do regarding breastfeeding.

    In Canada there has been the opposite problem: such an emphasis on breast feeding, and strictly following the edicts about not allowing formula and bottle feeding that women who cannot breastfeed (for medical reasons, for example) do not have adequate information and are extraordinarily psychologically stressed by this "failure" that "will handicap their children for life".

    I will address the issue more fully in a post, so I will stop there. Thanks again for bringing these resources to our attention.

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  9. Excellent post Susie! I've noticed and been thinking about this for a while now.

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  10. I think it's a miracle that babies survive at all on formula.

    It is amazing to me that whenever progress is suggested in the Middle east they keep whining about ''baby-steps'' and ''things go slowly here'', but when there is movement into a bad direction change is immediate and almost complete.

    I predict there will be a time in the future when Big Food and Big Pharma will be held responsible for the millions of deaths they've caused. And people will be amazed at the gullibility of people today to just swallow all the crap medications and vaccines which make people sicker instead of better, And the willingness of people to poison themselves and their children based on commercial fairy tales!

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  11. Breastfeeding is hard work. Around here, you hear all about how breastfeeding is easier than formula (not so much!) and how it's a wonderful bonding experience.

    I had supply issues, and as a result my son wanted to nurse constantly. I'm talking hours at a time! It was torture. Plus, it's hard not to be a little resentful of your husband when he's snoring away while you're awake for the billionth time feeding the baby. I stuck with it because it was what was best for my baby.

    When I went back to work when my son was 8 weeks old, I had to supplement with formula because my job only gives me one break in the middle of the day. I would use the breastpump during that break, but my supply dropped drastically. It still makes me sad that I wasn't able to feed my son the way I wanted to because of the fact that breastfeeding is NOT actively supported in the work environment here.

    I'm a teacher, which is still a largely female profession. You'd think that breastfeeding would be very supported, but that wasn't the case at all. I was told by a female administrator that I should pump milk for my baby in the bathroom! Would you eat food that had been prepared next to the toilet?

    Even in the US, we have a long way to go.

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  12. One reason not being mentioned here but that is talked about a lot is that women do not want to have saggy breasts and there are some men who also don't want that and encourage their wives NOT to breastfeed. That is a very sad statement on how some men and women feel about a woman's body.

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  13. Great piece. In college -- way back in the day---The formula companies, Nestle I think, did the same thing in Africa.
    I saw a video of a woman adding half the formula powder required, then adding polluted water in a bottle: many can't read, the water is polluted, formula is expensive.
    Sadly, by the time they realize their baby is dying their milk has dried up! The hospitals supplied women free bottle feeding starter sets. Which of course where donated my the formula companies. It's considered cool to have a bottle, high class.
    There was even a bill board with the picture of a beautiful white woman feeding a fat cute white baby with a bottle. The end results are criminal.

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  14. Hi LondonMuslim - Yes, I believe that this problem is widespread in the entire Bulf region.

    Hi CanadianReader - Thanks so much for your input. I know that breastfeeding is hard work and it does take dedication on the mother's part. In my case, I kept getting clogged up and infections, but I stuck with it. I understand how a woman could easily give up, but putting the baby's welfare first is what's most important.

    Hi Philbee,NZ - I loved that link - thanks so much.

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  15. Hi AngelDarling - The health benefits of breastfeeding over formula for the baby are significant. My daughter wanted to breastfeed my grand-daughter for two years, but at 10 months, that girl weaned herself and refused to nurse any more. My daughter was heart-broken!

    Hi Rajk - You're most welcome.

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  16. Hi Tracey - From what I have seen personally, I also think laziness is a factor. Thanks for your input.

    Hi Qusay - Education is so important and makes a huge difference. Many young Saudi mothers back then only had a 4th grade education. I think what the formula companies did as far as convincing these women that formula was better is scandalous. The Al Bidayah Center is such a wonderful resource for women who need information or have questions about breastfeeding.

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  17. Hi Chiara - That's interesting about what's happening in Canada. Thanks!

    Hi FruitfulFusion - Thank you!

    Hi Aafke-Art - I would love to understand the whys and wherefores of how some things are so readily accepted in KSA while others are not.
    I hope you are right about Big Food and Big Pharma. Adam and I have recently watched several food documentaries and it's so shocking to learn what really goes on before we buy products from the grocery shelves.
    Thanks, Aafke!

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  18. Hi Lindsey - It felt like my son wanted to nurse constantly too, but even when I pumped, he absolutely would not take a bottle! The first couple of months were completely exhausting.
    I think that your adminstrator was wrong in telling you that. Why couldn't you pump in the teachers' lounge? Breastfeeding must be supported and encouraged!

    Hi Wendy - A very sad statement indeed...

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  19. Your soo right.In fact it struck me as REALLY weird that I NEVER saw women breastfeeding...regardless of the fact that Saudi's have a high birth rate and you often see women with several small children...yet then you'd invariably see the baby in the arms of a nanny being fed a bottle. I only on the rare occasion saw women of other Middle Eastern backgrounds nursing in the ladies rooms as its still the norm in the rest of the Middle East. My best friend while in Dhahran was from Jordan with 4 kids and she said she hated going out anywhere with her 6 month old because the local women are SO rude to her when they see shes BFing her baby...she was told once that it was shameful!

    Its VERY weird!

    I hope it changes...I do think the whole nanny/maid thing plays a part...its easier to sleep all day while the nanny/maid gives formula to the baby verses getting up to nurse your baby...

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  20. ...also...a lack of education definetly plays a role! Unfortunately, far to many local women are poorly educated...in comparison to their peers in other countries...the schools arent substandard perse and good educations DO exist...but the culture just keeps many young women from becomming educated (in all fields...from motherhood to simply being aware of whats going on with the world)...and I think its a trend that is going to continue until either a lot more women become educated on ever level or the society changes. Also, far too many women grow up being taken care of by maids, are married at 16 or 17, become moms the following year and the cycle continues...

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  21. ...Wendy...a Saudi friend told me also many local women opt for C-sections because they dont want their "down there" area to be "ruined"...as they are afraid their husbands will get a 2nd wife.

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  22. Hi UmmIbrahim - I agree - the maid/nanny issue definitely affects the mom's commitment to breastfeeding. Thanks for commenting!

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  23. Hi Roni - That is really disgusting about what happened in Africa - wow! I bet it's happened in many places around the globe. Formula should be an option for women who are unable to breastfeed, but it should definitely not be touted as the best choice for all women.

    Hi UmmIbrahim - That is so sad about women opting for C-Sections for that reason... :(
    And I totally agree about education. Thanks!

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  24. Susie, you said it > 'putting the baby's welfare first is what's most important'
    That should always be the case.

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  25. The sadest thing I ever heard about was Saudi women packing their vagina's with salt after childbirth to tighten it. The pressures put upon women are just too much.

    The formula impression was accepted because at that time everything "Western" was considered perfect. That's not the norm anymore.

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  26. i loved your post, since having my baby i am big BF advocate. i was 50/50 on it b4 having my baby but then read it in the holy quran that mother s should BF their kids till the age of 2. that made my mind. i think lack of education plays the most important role here. I ahve read that the sagging of the breast will happen if u Bf or not. so not breastfedeing your baby and missing out on all the health benefits for the baby and the mother just for the physicality of the things doesnt sound good. PLus i think lazziness is the cause too. BF is natural but i takes work and patience.

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  27. Thanks for this blog- I was kinda' wondering about that! The way my mother in law talked, it kinda' sounded this way and my knowledge was more about Nestle in Latin America (like Roni mentioned in Africa). I think I said something along the lines of how they all marketed this stuff really well... lol
    I DIDN'T know that the HOSPITALS make you feed the baby from a bottle!!! That is SHOCKING to me!!
    Thanks for this blog!

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  28. HI, i'm from Canada, and as a previous poster said, there is such pressure put on mothers to breastfeed, that if you don't you get a bit of a backlash. I was determined to breastfeed my two, and fed the first til she was 2 years old, and the second til she was 14 months. Its funny because my mothers generation still has issues with it (as this was the "formula is better" generation in Canada.)
    I was really surprised when I moved to North Africa 6 months ago, that most all the women I know supplement with formula. I thought being a muslim country that breastfeeding only would be the norm. I was told alot by my husbands family that I needed to give my youngest daughter formula. Also at times told to give her unpasterized milk and yogurt mixed with juice... I think its a bit of laziness (they don't have maids here, but large families that help out with the baby), and trying to be "western".

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  29. Excellent post! It is amazing the differing attitudes regarding breast feeding around the world. I believe in the states, a major contributing factor to the rise in breastfeeding has been a concerted effort by the AMA to promote it in hospitals. They still give the coupons for formula, but most birthing units now have breast feeding special nurses come talk to women and help them understand the benefits to mom and baby!
    On the other hand I've had Canadian friends that have had horrible guilt issues because their infant was too ill to breastfeed and the message was so completely negative! Their children were in intensive care, or getting ill from not getting enough milk, and the were made to feel awful or failures because they could not produce enough.
    I have seen studies about the marketing of formula in Africa as well, and it doesn't surprise me that it was effective in other parts of the world. Sad.
    Lizze

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  30. Beautiful illustrations, Susie.

    ”Every single species of mammals on Earth breastfeeds their babies - yet Saudis are so easily convinced that it isn't enough, isn't good enough, and that formula is better? How in the world do they think that civilization ever managed to survive in the thousands of years prior to the introduction of infant formula? It just makes no sense!"...

    ...Are Saudi women perhaps too pampered, or lazy, or do they view breastfeeding as an inconvenient chore instead of as a loving gift of health and bonding from mother to child? Sadly, maybe some do.”



    I read this article a while ago and was horrified by the statistics of a 60% death rate in infants prior to their first birthday.


    Trade i.e. “capitalism,” with the objective of consumption has been around since the first caveman traded some roots and berries for meat or an animal skin. Muhammad and his first wife Khadijah were very successful “capitalists”— traders. Therefore, blaming capitalism is merely an excuse for the abdication of responsibility.

    Many of us who have been exposed to modern capitalism all of our lives as well as the “brain-washing” of the corporations, have managed to have a career as well as a family and still breast fed our babies. In the U. S., where very few people have maids and over 47 % of women work, about 27% of babies are breast fed. Women account for 51 percent of all workers in the high-paying management, professional, and related occupations. While there is still not complete gender equality, there is a great deal of support for working mothers. Here’s one: Working Mother magazine http://www.workingmother.com/?service=vpage/106


    Discrete breast feeding in public is rather common in the west, although still more prevalent among whites than people of color. It seems that in order to appear ‘affluent’ some women chose to not breast feed.

    Today in the U. S. and Europe many companies offer child care facilities so that career women can breast-feed their babies or just spend time with them throughout the day.

    Any woman with half a brain must know that breast feeding is the natural, correct thing to do. If a child is unable to nurse because it is away from the mother, then the woman can express her milk and refrigerate it, ultimately feeding the child via bottle. That way, the milk flow will not stop. If milk production stops, then putting the child on the breast, while using supplemental feeding, will most likely stimulate the flow again. Birth control pills will stop milk production. Any woman who is not able to nurse can engage a wet nurse. (Of course, there are some Saudi/Islamic rules that cover that.)


    Ignorance, selfishness and being lazy are absolutely issues. It is a sad fact that maids do more caring for children in Saudi Arabia and many other Gulf states than do the pampered, lazy mothers. As to breast feeding being designated as “shameful.” It appears that breast feeding, like so many other things, is being aligned with sexuality.


    Rather than an “art,” breast feeding is the obligation of every mother, who can do so, of every species designated to nurture its young in this manner, improving both the health of the child and the mother. What sort of a culture is it that encourages women to produce as many children as possible, then pushes them to reject their instincts, their biology, their gender as well as their responsibility to those children and their community?

    Women are the civilizing force of societies.

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  31. the same phenomena occured in the USA a long time ago. Mothers who breast fed all of a sudden did not...I believe it started in the 60's. That trend continued for some decades and now breastfeeding is a huge thing in the USA and is not looked at badly. In fact, a woman who can breast feed and chooses not too might face a bit of a stigma. Everything has a cycle and Saudi may once again get back to the breast.

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  32. This issue (in the West too) is clouded by the view of women's bodies. Nursing can make the mother's body less available to her husband. Ambivalent/sexualized views of breasts make it unacceptable to nurse a baby even when covered modestly. I was asked on more than one occasion to "do that in the ladies' room." (in the U.S.) My answer after the 3rd time: "Maybe you should go eat your lunch in the ladies' room."

    Snarky, I know, but I said it nicely.

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  33. I am still spechless after reading your post...what is going on in this world?

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  34. Hi Susie,

    Just curious...Are there women such as Breastfeeding Peer Counselors, lactation consultants or organizations such as La Leche League to provide BF education and support to Saudi women?

    I work for the Women Infants & Children Program in Phoenix, AZ. We have found that with providing mothers with basic BF info during their pregnancy and addressing common myths and miconception and fears,more women are not only successfully inititating BF but with continued peer support are choosing to BF longer. We still have a long way to go though as the formula companies keep one-upping their marketing strategies and it is very tough to fight them.

    As some of your other bloggers have testified, BF doesn't come 'naturally' for many women; and, in fact can be difficult. However, most obstacles can be prevented or overcome in the vast majority of cases with caring support of these mothers.

    Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront in Saudi Arabia. I hope more physicians, nurses and health care providers there start putting the health and well-being of mothers and infants ahead of the monetary rewards and gifts many receive from the formula companies to promote their artificial baby milk products.

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  35. Hello Susie,
    In Australia, many women stop breastfeeding before the baby is aged six months(Apparently 75% of women don't breastfeed in Australia beyond this point. This is despite laws which provide women a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of breastfeeding.) I breastfed my now 3 year old daughter for 13 months,initially, finding it very challenging and painful.Fortunately, I had assistance from lactation consultants, who assisted me with the technique, which made it much easier. I ended up being very thankful for persevering.

    I discovered though, that our society doesn't adequately accommodate breastfeeding, even if our laws may be considered progressive, because people's negative attitudes to breastfeeding in public places. It is no surprise that people can feel it is hard to keep going. I know people who are ignorant enough to think that BF in public, even when a scarf is discreetly covering the baby, is disgusting. Although I preferred to be in a quiet, private place to BF, as I felt more relaxed in such places, often, I found that BF rooms can be dirty, smelly add-ons to public toilet facilities. I was shocked to visist large department stores with rooms lacking basic furniture, like a chair to sit on. Some large public buildings don't even have BF rooms. Coupled with general disapproval of breastfeeding in public, this can make some women very hesitant about sticking with it. For me, going out with a small baby required some planning about where decent spots to BF were located.

    I am due in November with baby number 2 and determined to BF again. I will be more assertive about my right to BF this baby where I like, particularly when BF facilities are not provided.

    I think this is a problem affecting many societies, even those which might otherwise be considered fairly progressive.

    Good luck to all mothers everywhere!

    Kristina

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  36. It honestly wouldn't have occurred to me that formula-feeding was becoming the norm. I assumed that was largely in the US, where it's in retreat. Fascinating insights. Thank you for sharing them! Ma'asalama!

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  37. Great post. So sad they thought formula was better.

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  38. Hi, Susie,
    I have been teaching women to breastfeed for 18 years, through La Leche League.
    I have found the more informed the mom-to-be is, the easier it will be for her to breastfeed. Birthing practices also can a devastating impact on the mothers' abilities and decisions to breastfeed.

    Breastfeeding a newborn, a three months, six months, etc all present different challenges and joys. My lactmates and I have the commitment to listen to moms, offering encouragement and suggestions as needed. Many so called problems or failures can be avoided/solved with a little advice.

    When I began to teach, one of the most common worries was the saggy breast bit. This was was the biggest impediment to breastfeed. Now it is hardy mention as a reason for not breastfeeding. I address this myth at the beginning of my class.

    Now moms-to-be are most distressed over their abilities to sustain milk production for the first year and beyond.
    This is a very big change! From not wanting to breastfeed to wanting to breastfeed for a year or more.

    Lizette

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  39. This reminds me of once many years ago, I was at the mall and it was almost salat time. I had to wait it out, so I bought my son and nephew ice cream cones and was about to sit in the "womens" cage (basically a closed in box with some tables) when I noticed a family sitting in the "mens" section and no men. So I decided to do it too. It was a nice cordoned off area- sort of café style with plants etc, in the middle of the mall. So I went to the far end sat with the boys and started nursing my baby. Meanwhile, the call to prayer came, the family left, the stores closed and next thing you know the mens' section filled up with men! So there I am at one end facing the whole length of the section with a baby at my breast! Now, I am very discreet. No one could probably tell, I just looked like I was holding a baby- I had an abaya that had a special opening that wasn't so obvious. So I stayed. And to everyone's credit, no one gave me a second glance, but I am mighty glad the religious police didn't happen by that day!

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  40. This does not surprise me, as I was one of the only women in my generation of my husband's Lebanese family who breast-fed for more than a month or two. (I did it for one year or more for both children). The simple reason was that I was living in the US and did not have a baby sitter or maid to raise my kids. All of my sisters-in-law handed their young infants over to the Filipina maid at about one or two months. And I mean that, from that point on, the maid slept in the nursery and woke up with, fed, changed and generally took over all of the baby care from that point on. My in-laws are fairly affluent, but not abnormally so, so I think this is not uncommon. Therefore, their nursing ended at the point the maid took over completely. My mother-in-law (who is now around 80), nursed all her children for 2 years. I think this generation is not patient enough or has the inclination to stick with it, simply because they do not have to, because of maids and servants. I am, of course, speaking mainly of those who can afford to hire help.

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  41. I'd just like to update from South Africa. Ive been living here for about ten years, even though I have Saudi roots.

    The dimension nobody has introduced here, is the one of HIV/AIDS. Here we have specifically been doing loads of research into methods of reducing Mother To Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS, and for a while, formula feeding was encouraged due to this. However, the pendulum has swung back to exclusive breastfeeding. Every pregnant woman who has access to care, actually is assessed for specific criteria (AFASS) to see whether she will be able safely formula or breastfeed if she is HIV positive. Non-HIV positive mothers are encouraged to breastfeed, demonstrated how, and assisted with breastfeeding postnatally as well. So at least in South Africa the trend is towards breastfeeding, but only because infant mortality rates were so alarming. Sadly enough, only when babies die in large numbers, do policies start to change..

    Personally I feel.. One baby lost is one too many.

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  42. Wendy and others,
    Recently, I have been doing research on breast physiology and sports bras. Anyways, I came across a couple of articles on how breastfeeding not only does NOT contribute to breast ptosis (sagging), but may actually have the opposite affect (help firm the breasts after pregnancy). There are many other benefits to both the mother and infant of breastfeeding, some of which have already been addressed here.

    I haven't had any children yet, so I can't comment from personal experience.

    What I can say is that I used to babysit for a mother who would pump breastmilk on her lunch break. Although I watched her daughter during the day, her daughter was still receiving the benefits of breastmilk from the milk her mother had pumped the day before. The mother tried to save extra breastmilk in case she got ill in the future and would be unable to use that breastmilk to feed her daughter. If I remember correctly, she breastfed until her daughter was 12mths old.

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  43. That's a sad statistic Susie, 60% die before their first birthday?

    It's also sad that the women don't breastfeed their babies. What could be better for a baby than hs or her mother's natural breast milk?

    That being said I will check out that book.

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  44. Salaam!
    First of all just want to say this is a great blog!! I've gone back a few posts and really enjoyed reading about your adventures, perspectives, and opinions! Please check mine out too! www.veiledcouture.blogspot.com.

    I am really shocked to learn that breast feeding has become so uncommon in Saudia. That is so sad to me, being Muslim I know it's something that is strongly encouraged in Islam. And religion to the side, we all know it's medical benefits! I read a statistic that here in the U.S. only about 14% of the population (or right around there) continue to breastfeed their children until they are 2 years old.

    I have one daughter who just turned two. Unfortunately I was only able to nurse her about six months because she had trouble gaining weight and the doctor encouraged me to supplement her diet with formula...once she saw how easy and quick it was to get her milk out of a bottle it was bye bye breast!

    I can remember feeling really deeply saddened when she stopped nursing. Like I had failed her somehow in someway.

    Anyways, it is a pity that corporate greed has robbed mothers of such a special time between them and their young children. But I guess it's to be expected in this world of ever expanding corporatization.

    Keep up the good work, can't wait to read more!

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  45. Interesting post! I thought for sure that people who are often consumed with what the "prophet" did and how he lived would be all for feeding their children the way God equipped them for. Granted the prophet didn't breastfeed, but I'm guessing most women of his day did. Isn't formula innovation that is often frowned upon in Islam?

    I also find it amusing the Saudis took to the formula-is-better ruse so fast when everything else is "baby steps" as you often say.

    So we know they CAN change if they want.

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  46. Breastfeeding until the age of two is disturbing. When the kid is a baby, ok, but once he/she starts to walk and becomes a toddler, I think breastfeeding should end. I know some people here will disagree with me, but it is NOT natural to breastfeed a 2-year-old. In any case, breastfeeding should be a choice for women --Whether or no you do it should be your choice, not something impossed by society. I think it's fine some women choose to not breastfeed and I also think it's fine others decide to do it. I don't buy into the propaganda that you're a bad mother if you choose (not for medical reasons) not to breastfeed.

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  47. Hi Susie--my reply to your post, and readers comments is now up--in 3 Parts:

    Part I, A Recent Saudi Thesis and Book;

    Part II, "Breastfeeding vs Bottle vs Formula";

    and Part III, "Formula Feeding Without Guilt or Shame".

    I hope all will read and comment there, as it is an important topic specifically for Saudi, in light of this post; and because women all over are affected by the dominant infant feeding discourse in their society.

    Thanks again for bring this to our attention! :)

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  48. Hmmm. I think I gave you subtitles only. The main title for all 3 parts is,

    In Saudi and Elsewhere, Breastfeeding is Best--Unless It Isn't

    The 3 can be read independently! :)

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  49. Here, in Oman, hospitals are ‘baby friendly’ and must encourage breast feeding – and women (at least Bedu ) breast feed (discreetly) in public – cross the border and it’s a different world

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  50. Hi Susie, I came across here from Lori's blog. I've added myself as a follower. My husband and I are South AFricans living in Khartoum, Sudan and my blog is about our life here in North Africa. (Every three months we go to SA on holiday where I post about our home, family and life there) Have a wonderful day. Jo (Khartoum)

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  51. I breastfed both my children though it wasn't easy, especially in the beginning. Though, as others stuck to it. I had other women who actually critisized me what I still kept on breastfeeding!! There's not much support out there. I had to just avoid them or when they asked me if I still nursed them, I would say, no. It was no one's business! I tend to let others know that its the best thing you could do to your child and yourself. Depending on everyone's circumstances, it's something wonderful. sf

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  52. Asalam alaikum – 60% is an unrealistically high rate.

    If you check the infant mortality rates, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate, even for 1995 you can see it is far bellow that for even the lowest-ranked arabic country of Yemen, at 78.61 deaths in the first year of live for every 1000 live births.

    Saudi Arabi in 1995 had a rate of 22.17 per 1000 live births, ranking them #78 out of 182 countries. Even the country with the highest infant mortality rate in the world, Angola, in 1995 only had a rate of 137.90 deaths in the first year per 1000 live births (so, less then 15%), and it is a mostly Christian country. These stats are from the UN.

    I was unable to find the 2005 UNICEF report mentioned; if someone has it, please post inshaAllah.

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  53. Found it - http://www.unicef.org/policyanalysis/files/FactsheetInvesting.pdf

    It actually says that about 4.3 million children in OIC countries die from preventable disease and malnutrition by the age of 5, and 60% of THOSE children die in the first year...... NOT 60% of ALL Muslim children.

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  54. hi susie. do you know if in islam if the breasfeeding for 2 years is exclusive? or it has to be supplmented with other foods? im confused abou tthat. my wife "exclusively" breastfeed for 11 months but not sure if we should continue without supplementation.

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