The boy, or caught between commands.

My son is four months old this Ramadan, which makes me slightly disappointed. Not that he’s here, or that he’s healthy- no, I’m quite grateful for that.  But he’s too young to be weaned, even partially, which means I’m deferring fasting for another year.

I take the Qur’an’s recommendations for nursing rather seriously- two years is not a relic of the past, before the advent of antibiotics, but the World Health Organization’s current recommendation.  Studies on human milk read almost like science fiction- its germ fighting, self-digesting, auto-adjusting capabilities are the tip of the iceberg. No wonder the Qu’an suggests that infants and toddlers receive its benefits, but where does that leave the duty of fasting?

Nursing, so you know, uses up about 500 calories a day. It also uses a good amount of water, and stimulates appetite and thirst. I’ve had a major sweet tooth since I started nursing, as human milk is as sweet as candy. Babies nurse pretty frequently, too- human milk digests quickly, and infant stomachs are small. Some women can nurse and fast, but milk supplies often suffer, and some don’t recover easily. Was that a risk I could take?

I prayed and studied, read up on milk storage in the body and pumping. I examined my son’s nursing habits, and looked into starting solids early. I wondered if my son would take a bottle at all, as he ditched the pacifier the moment I had milk, and won’t take another.  If he were a year older, he’d be nursing less often and eating more solid foods, but that’s no help this year. Not that I was at all eager to get him weaned in any way, but I was looking for a way to make this work.

And I did find a way to make it work. Parents, as Robert can attest to, put aside their own needs and desires a thousand times a day for their children, and there’s no reason why I should be any different. I do have a duty to fast, but my son has a right to the best food in the world for him. And as scholars have stated that a nursing mother can defer fasting, it’s clear that the rights of the Milk Monster trumps my duty to fast at this time.

So, I’m observing Ramadan the way I’m supposed to- with prayers, reading Qur’an- and a hearty lunch. Maybe next year I’ll be fasting along with Robert- but for now, it’s awful hard to fast when you’re doubling as a mess hall.


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