Question # 130: Assalaamu alaikum, My question is that what is the maximum limit of period allowed for breast feeding a child in Islam and is there a difference between that for a boy and a girl?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: Although Allah has enjoined breastfeeding for a period of two whole (lunar) years, it is obligatory on mother to breastfeed an infant so long as her child needs it. Although it is permissible to breast feed a child for more than two years, the scholars disagree on whether the rules of breast feeding before two years are the same as those of breast feeding after two years. Lastly, there is no reference in the authentic texts to differentiate between a male and a female child. Also Refer Question # 46: Marriage forbidden among milk siblings (breastfed by the same woman), Question # 407: Number of Breastfeedings to Establish Relationship of Mahram, Question # 233: Relationship of Mahram through Breastfeeding and Question # 426: Start of Weaning Period for Infants.
Long Answer: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has enjoined breastfeeding in the Qur’an: “The mothers shall give suck to their children for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:233)
Further, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And We have enjoined on a person [to be dutiful and good] to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years; give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination” (Soorah Luqman, 31:14)
Further, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship. And she delivers him with hardship. And (the period of) his gestation and the weaning of him is thirty months, till when he attains full strength…” (Soorah Al-Ahqaf, 46:15)
‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) quoted the above verse (46:15) as evidence for regarding the minimum length of pregnancy as being six months. ‘Uthman and a number of the Sahaabah (رضي الله عنهم) agreed with him. Ibn Abi Hatim related from his father that Farwah bin Abi Al-Maghra’ told them that `Ali bin Mushir narrated to them from Dawud bin Abi Hind, who narrated from `Ikrimah that Ibn `Abbas (رضي الله عنه) said, “When a woman delivers after nine months, the baby will only need twenty-one months of suckling. When she delivers after seven months, the baby will need twenty-three months of suckling. When she delivers after six months, the baby will need two full years of suckling…” (Tafseer Ibn Kathir) Nevertheless, “there is no difference of opinion among the fuqaha’ that it is obligatory to breastfeed an infant so long as he needs that and he is at the age for breastfeeding…” (al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah) (Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid)
[Furthermore,] it is permissible to breast feed a child more than two years. The ayah [31:14] puts guidelines but, does not make breast feeding an obligation. Generally, a child needs to be breast fed for two years only; after that period, he no longer depends on it. Scholars do not disagree over the issue of breast feeding after two years, but they disagree on whether the rules of breast feeding before two years are the same as those of breast feeding after two years… The parents are permitted, if they wish, to breastfeed the child for more or less than this period provided that there is no harm caused to them or to the child. (Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar)
Last but not the least, there is no reference in the authentic texts to differentiate between a male and a female child.
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.