فَحَقُّ أُمِّكَ، فَأَنْ تَعْلَمَ أَنَّهَا حَمَلَتكَ حَيْثُ لا يَحْمِلُ أَحَدٌ أَحَدًا وَأَطْعَمَتكَ مِنْ ثَمَرَةِ قَلْبها مَا لا يُطْعِمُ أَحَدٌ أَحَدًا، وَأَنَّهَا وَقَتكَ بسَمْعِهَا وبَصَرِهَا ويَدِهَا وَرِجْلها وَشَعْرِهَا وبَشَرِهَا وَجَمِيعِ جَوَارِحِهَا مُسْتَبشِرَةً بذَلِكَ، فَرِحَةً مُوَابلَةً، مُحْتَمِلَةً لِمَا فِيهِ مَكْرُوهُها وأَلَمُها وثِقْلُها وَغَمُّهَا حَتَّى دَفَعَتهَا عَنْكَ يَدُ القُدْرَةِ وَأَخرَجَتكَ إلَى الأَرضِ فَرَضِيَتْ أَنْ تَشْبَعَ وتجوعُ هِيَ، وَتَكْسُوكَ وَتعْرَى، وَتُرْوِيكَ وَتَظْمَأُ، وَتُظِلُّكَ وتَضْحَى، وَتُنَعِّمَكَ ببُؤْسِهَا، وَتُلَذِّذُكَ بالنَّوْمِ بأَرَقِهَا، وَكَانَ بَطْنُهَا لَكَ وِعَاءً، وَحِجْرُهَا لَكَ حِوَاءً، وثَدْيُهَا لَكَ سِقَاءً، ونَفْسُهَا لَكَ وِقَاءً، تُبَاشِرُ حَرَّ الدُّنيَا وبَرْدِهَا لَكَ وَدُونَكَ، فَتَشْكُرَهَا عَلَى قَدْرِ ذَلِكَ وَلا تَقْدِرُ عَلَيْهِ إلاّ بعَونِ اللَّهِ وَتَوفِيقِهِ.
Then the right of your mother is that you should know that she carried you where no one carries anyone, and she fed you with the fruit of her heart - that which no one feeds anyone, and she protected you with her hearing and sight, and her hands and legs, and her hair and skin and all her other organs. She was highly delighted to do so. She was happy and eager, enduring the harm and the pains, and the heaviness and the grief until the Mighty Hand expelled you out of her and delivered you out to the Earth.
She did not care if she went hungry as long as you ate, and if she was naked as long as you were clothed, and if she was thirsty as long as you drank, and if she was in the sun as long as you were in the shade, and if she was miserable as long as you were happy, and if she was deprived of sleeping as long as you were resting. And her abdomen was your abode, and her lap was your seat, and her breast was your supply of drink, and her soul was your fort. She protected you from the heat and the cold of this world. Then you should thank her for all that. You will not be able to show her gratitude unless through God's help and His granting you success.
The Arabic word ‘Umm’ that is used for mother really means the root and the foundation. It is so widely used to mean mother that its other meanings are overshadowed.
One of the uses of ‘Umm’ in the Qur’an is to refer to a real mother as in the following verse:
وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّ مُوسَى أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِي وَلَا تَحْزَنِي إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ
“So We sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: "Suckle (thy child)…” [The Holy Qur’an, al-Qasas 28:7]
The second use of ‘Umm’ in the Qur’an is to refer to its basic meaning of root and foundation as in the following verse:
هُوَ الَّذِيَ أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ
“He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical.”[The Holy Qur’an, Al-i-Imran 3:7]
The third use of the word ‘Umm’ in the Qur’an is to refer to the greatest of several things or the central one as in the following verse:
لِّتُنذِرَ أُمَّ الْقُرَى وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا
Mecca was the central town in Arabia like the capital cities in the world today. Others say that Mecca is called the mother of cities because the Earth started to expand starting from there, and that Mecca is the first spot created and the first piece of dry land on the Earth. The wives of the Prophet are also considered the mothers of the believers in the Qur’an as we read in the following verse:
النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجُهُ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ
“The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers…” [The Holy Qur’an, al-Ahzab 33:6]
Considering the various meanings mentioned above one can better understand the importance of the rights of the mother.
Now that we have reviewed the meanings of the word ‘Umm’ in Arabic we will consider the various important points that Imam Sajjad expressed regarding the rights of the mother. Imam Sajjad starts his discussion with pregnancy and describes how a mother suffers the hardships of the period of pregnancy and the pains of labor.
This is the type of hardship that no one else is ready to suffer for our sake. This point is clearly stressed in the Holy Qur’an in the following verse:
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ إِحْسَانًا حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا وَحَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلَاثُونَ شَهْرًا حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً قَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَى وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَصْلِحْ لِي فِي ذُرِّيَّتِي إِنِّي تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَإِنِّي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
“We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth. The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months. At length, when he reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, he says, "O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for Thy favor, which Thou has bestowed upon me, and upon both my parents, and that I may work righteousness such as Thou mayest approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to Thee and truly do I bow (to Thee) in Islam."[The Holy Qur’an, al-Ahqaf 46:15]
Moreover, in another verse we read:
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَى وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ
“And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), "Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal.”[The Holy Qur’an, Luqman 31:14]
The period of pregnancy is one of the most difficult times of a mother’s life. She has to put up with many hardships from the time that she gets pregnant. She has to give a lot of her own energy to the fetus that is growing inside her. That is why she gets weak and develops many problems during pregnancy.
As the fetus grows it draws more and more of the materials from the mother’s body. It even affects her bones and her nerves. At times, it even does not let her rest, eat or sleep. Near the end of the period of pregnancy when the baby has grown, it even becomes difficult for the mother to sit up or stand up. However, the mother suffers all these difficulties due to the love she has for the baby that will soon be born: the baby that will smile at his mother once it is born.
Delivery is one of the hardest to bear periods of a mother’s life. There are even mothers who lose their precious life during delivery. A mother is like a carrier who is delivering the most important package with which she is entrusted. She must safely deliver the baby. That is why she must take all necessary precautions to safely deliver her baby. She must be very careful about what she eats, how she moves, where she rests, and her hygiene during the full period of pregnancy.
The duration of the trip for the package that a mother carries is nine months and no less. She must be careful that it is not harmed before reaching its destination. The baby might be harmed at any moment. The baby does not have a spirit until it reaches nearly the age of four months and ten days. Then the baby will push and the mother will be hurt, but she will thank God for her baby being alive. After a long period of hardship and suffering, the baby is born and a new period of life begins for the mother.
During the period of breast-feeding, the mother must spend all her days and nights to fulfill all the needs of the baby. The baby cannot talk during this period. He cannot tell where he is feeling pain. His only language is that of crying, and the mother must recognize all he needs through his crying. The cleansing of the baby is another very difficult task in this period. The mother must also take care of the baby during times of illness.
The Qur’an states that the period of breast-feeding is two years as in the following verse:
وَالْوَالِدَاتُ يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلاَدَهُنَّ حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُتِمَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ
“The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term…” [The Holy Qur’an, al-Baqarah 2:233]
In another verse, the full period of pregnancy and breast-feeding is said to be thirty months:
وَحَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلَاثُونَ شَهْرًا
The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months." [The Holy Qur’an, al-Ahqaf 46:15]
Once we subtract 24 from 30, we get 6. Could the period of pregnancy end after six months? The jurisprudents and interpreters of the Qur’an have stated that the minimum period of pregnancy is six months, and the maximum period of breast-feeding is twenty-four months. It has been recorded that some children have been born after six months of pregnancy. We can also conclude that the sooner the baby is born, the longer it must be breast-fed so that this thirty-month period of development is completed.
Ibn `Abbas has been narrated as saying that whenever a pregnancy lasts for 9 months, the mother should breast-feed the baby for 21 months. However, if the pregnancy lasts for 6 months, then the mother should breast-feed the baby for at least 24 months.3 This is also supported by natural laws since the shortcomings of the period of pregnancy must be compensated for during the period of breast-feeding. Therefore, we notice that a mother performs great sacrifices for her baby during the periods of pregnancy and breast-feeding.
These sacrifices are both physical and emotional. It is interesting to note that the Qur’anic verse Ahqaf 46:15 stresses kindness to both parents, but goes on to mention the sufferings of the mother and the hardships she has to go through on one’s behalf. This is to awaken us, and to make us realize her great rights incumbent upon us. Then it recommends that we thank God and both our parents who are the means by which God’s blessings are delivered to us.
In the verses cited above, we were instructed to be kind to both of our parents. Which of the parents has a greater share in the development of the child? The Qur’an has given a greater share to the mother due to her efforts and role during the period of pregnancy and breast-feeding. Once the sperm unites with the egg to form the initial fetus, the parents have an equal share in the development of the child. However, the mother feeds the fetus in the uterus and carries the baby until she delivers it.
Thus, she has a greater share in the development of the baby. Alexis Carl said: “Both parents have an equal share in the initial development of the cells from which other cells are constructed through successive divisions. However, in addition to providing half of the cell, the mother provides for the protoplasm that encompasses the cell. Thus, she has a greater share in the development of the fetus compared to the father. The man’s duty in the development of the fetus is for a short time. However, the mother supports the fetus for nearly nine months during which it is fed by blood delivered to it from the mother’s uterus.4
The fetus is like a part of the mother when it is in her uterus. All the physical and psychological states of the mother affect the child. The mother’s physical state and what she eats all affect the child. Likewise, her thoughts and temper also affect the child. Should the mother get scared during pregnancy she will get pale. However, the fetus will be more seriously hurt. In Ea’jaze Khorakiha we read: “If a pregnant woman gets so scared that she gets pale and shivers, then there will be certain marks on the child’s skin.”5 A mother’s sadness, anger, getting upset, getting suspicious, getting envious, her animosities and other bad or good traits will affect the child.” 6
Consider the following verse of the Qur’an:
وَالْوَالِدَاتُ يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلاَدَهُنَّ حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُتِمَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ وَعلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ لاَ تُكَلَّفُ نَفْسٌ إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لاَ تُضَآرَّ وَالِدَةٌ بِوَلَدِهَا وَلاَ مَوْلُودٌ لَّهُ بِوَلَدِهِ وَعَلَى الْوَارِثِ مِثْلُ ذَلِكَ فَإِنْ أَرَادَا فِصَالاً عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنْهُمَا وَتَشَاوُرٍ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا وَإِنْ أَرَدتُّمْ أَن تَسْتَرْضِعُواْ أَوْلاَدَكُمْ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا سَلَّمْتُم مَّا آتَيْتُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
“The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child.
Nor father on account of his child, an heir shall be chargeable in the same way. If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (the mother) what ye offered, on equitable terms. But fear God and know that God sees well what ye do.” [The Holy Qur’an, al-Baqarah 2:233]
In this verse the Qur’anic instructions about breast-feeding are outlined. We can summarize them as follows:
1 The right to breast-feed for two years belongs to the mother. It is the mother who takes care of the baby. Although the father has the right of authority over small children, the Qur’an has given the right of breast-feeding to the mother since breast-feeding establishes physical and emotional ties between the child and the mother. In short, “the mother shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years….”
2 The period of breast-feeding does not have to be two whole years unless the father desires to complete the term considering the child’s health. If the mother wants to reduce that period, she can breast-feed for a shorter time.
3 During the breast-feeding period, all the living expenses of the mother including food and clothing are to be paid for by the father of the child even if they get divorced, so that the mother can breast-feed the baby without any worries.
4 Neither the father nor the mother has the right to sacrifice the children’s life in order to resolve their own differences. This would impart an irreversible psychological blow to the child. Men should be careful not to violate the mother’s right to breast-feed their child by taking the baby away during that period. Mothers who are granted this right should not abuse it either.
5 If the father dies during the period of breast-feeding, his inheritors should provide for the living expenses of the breast-feeding mother.
6 It is up to both parents to mutually agree to stop breast-feeding the child whenever they think it proper to do so based on the child’s physical conditions.
7 We can never take away the mother’s right to breast-feed her child unless she refuses to do so herself or there is a problem with her breast-feeding the baby. In such a case, we can hire another woman to breast-feed the child- partially or fully.7 Thus, we see that breast-feeding is the right of the mother. Now let us see how milk is produced in her body.
Consider the following verse:
وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ فِي الأَنْعَامِ لَعِبْرَةً نُّسْقِيكُم مِّمَّا فِي بُطُونِهِ مِن بَيْنِ فَرْثٍ وَدَمٍ لَّبَنًا خَالِصًا سَآئِغًا لِلشَّارِبِينَ
“And verily in cattle (too) will ye find an instructive sign. From what is within their bodies between excretions and blood, We produce, for your drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it.” [The Holy Qur’an, al-Naĥl 16:66]
As this verse states milk is produced from what is within the body between excretions and blood. It has been proven that when food is digested in the stomach and is ready to be absorbed it is spread across a very large surface in the stomach and the intestines where there are millions of tiny veins that extract the useful substances from it. This is absorbed by a sophisticated tree-like structure that starts at the nipples. When the mother eats food, her body extracts its nutrients and delivers it through this network to the fetus in the mother’s uterus.
Once the baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, food can no longer reach it this way. However, the same network directs it towards the nipples. New processing steps are carried out by the mammary glands and a new product called milk is produced for the baby. Milk is something in between excretions and blood. The glands in the breasts use the amino acids stored in the body to build the needed proteins. Some of the nutrients in milk do not exist in blood. They are produced in the glands8 in the breast.
Other nutrients like salt, phosphates, and vitamins enter the milk directly from the blood. Other nutrients like lactose are derived from the blood, but the breasts considerably process them. As you can see milk production is the result of absorption of food nutrients in the blood and its direct contact with the breasts. However, milk does not look like blood nor does it smell like the excretions. Scientists have stated that at least five hundred litres of blood must circulate through the breasts in order to produce one liter of milk.
To produce one litre of blood a lot of food has to go through the intestines.9 Milk nutrients include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, phosphorous, chlorine, iodine, and sulphate as well as oxygen, nitrogen and carbonic acid. It also contains sugar in the form of lactose. Milk has B, P, A and D vitamins.10 That is why the Prophet said:
لَيسَ يُجْزِي مَكانَ الطَّعامِ وَالشَّرابِ إلاّ اللَّبَنَ.
“The only thing that can be substituted for food and water is milk.”11
Milk is a pure and delicious form of food that is suitable for people of all ages. That is why people who get ill are instructed to drink milk. Milk is very effective in the growth of bones and is recommended in case of bone injuries. It may be that the Qur’anic reference to the purity of milk refers to its ability in speeding up bone growth. This is also understood from the jurisprudents’ decrees on breast-feeding.
They say: “If a child is breast-fed by some lady and his bones get strong and he gets chubby then he becomes familiar to her.” They also say: “Fifteen times of consecutive breast-feeding or even a full day and night of consecutive breast-feeding will cause this familiar state.” It can be concluded that even a full day and night period of breast-feeding can result in the strengthening of bones and the growth of the body.12
It should also be said that breast-feeding the newly-born with the initial milk produced in the mother’s breast is extremely important. In books on Islamic jurisprudence we read: “The life of the child depends on this. For this reason it is considered to be an obligatory act to feed the baby with the initial milk produced in the breast right after it is born.”13 It is perhaps for this reason that it was revealed to the mother of Moses to breast-feed him before putting him in the river as we read in the following verse:
وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّ مُوسَى أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ
So We sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: "Suckle (thy child), but when thou hast fears about him, cast him into the river." [The Holy Qur’an, al-Qasas 28:7]
It is through the milk that many of the characteristics of the mother are transferred to the child. Imam Ali hit Muhammad Hanifeh and said: “You have inherited fear from your mother.” The Prophet of God only drank his own mother’s milk and did not accept to be breast-fed by any other woman. Thus, we realize how important breast-feeding is in the development and growth of the child.
All of the mother’s time is spent caring for the child from the moment it is born. Even a moment of neglect of the child by the mother might result in the death of the child. The day and night caring of the child by the mother deprives her of the necessary rest that she needs herself. However, the natural love for the child makes all this bearable. This has been expressed by Imam Sajjad as “she was highly delighted to do so.”
Being loved is one of the essential needs of man. Once born the need for being loved is also born with us. We can say that the need for love ranks third after our need for food and water. Psychologists consider it one of the strongest psychological excitements.
Being loved is not just needed during childhood. Rather it is a need that lasts throughout our life cycle, but is fulfilled in various forms. We can see the manifestations of the need to be loved in children. When not paid enough attention, they hang onto their parents. When other children are loved, they get jealous. In adults, we see that women get jealous of other women who talk to their fiancés or husbands. Young people compete with each other to attract someone to themselves.
Some psychologists believe that children have certain needs that are fulfilled with the sensation of warmth they feel when they are hugged or caressed. Should this need not be fulfilled, there will be bad consequences for the child. One of the scientists who believed in this said: “When children are born they should sleep with their mother and not be sent to a nursery since their need for the warmth of being hugged and caressed will not be fulfilled.”
Some psychologists even think that when for some reason a child’s mother cannot sleep with the child, she should have another mother take care of and caress the baby. That is why nurseries have been established.14
This question has been left unanswered since babies do not talk. However, a few experiments were conducted to discover the answer. In one study, several baby monkeys were given to a fake mother. The baby monkeys had the same reactions they had to their real mothers. The most acceptable fake mother for the baby monkeys was one constructed with a stick wrapped with sponge and rough material.
This one was preferred over another one that was not soft enough for the baby monkey to hug, but produced warm milk for the baby. In these experiments, it was noticed that whenever the baby monkeys faced a stressful situation, they ran to their fake mothers and hugged it. Can we conclude that children need the physical touch of their mother?
A mother prefers the life of the child over her own and even at times some mothers will sacrifice their own lives to save their babies. A mother can stand hardships but cannot stand to hear her baby cry. As Imam Sajjad said: “She did not care if she went hungry as long as you ate, and if she was naked as long as you were clothed…”
A mother loves her baby in two forms. One form is a sense of maternal love like not being able to stand the baby cry. However, she also has an intellectual love for the baby. She takes him to the doctor when he gets ill. The doctor might operate on the child. The mother knows that this operation will cause the child to bleed. She will cry but withstand the operation until the child is cured. If asked why, she would say that she prefers a little damage done to the child to receive the great benefit of becoming healthy.
The position of the mother is so lofty that the Prophet has advised us that in order to go to Heaven we must serve our mothers. This is similar to other traditions in which Heaven has been presented as being under the shade of the swords of those who fight in the way of God. Now let us look at a few traditions in this regard.15 The Prophet of God said:
الجَنَّةُ تَحْتَ أقْدامِ الأُمَّهَاتِ.
“Heaven lies under the feet of mothers.”
Moses the son of Imran asked God for advice three times. God advised him to His own pure Self for all those three times. However, Moses asked for more advice. God advised him regarding his mother twice and advised him regarding his father for the third time.
جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إلى النَّبيِّ صَلّى اللهُ عَليهِ وَآلِهِ فَقَالَ: يا رَسُولَ الله،ِ مَن أبُرّ؟ قَالَ: أمَّكَ. قَالَ: ُثمَّ مَن؟ قال: أُمَّكَ. قال: ثُمَّ مَن؟ قالَ: أُمَّكَ. قالَ: ثُمَّ مَن؟ قال: أباكَ.
A man went to see the Prophet of God and said: “O Prophet of God! Whom shall I treat well?” He said: “Your mother.” The man asked: “Who else?” The Prophet said: “Your mother.” The man asked: “Who else?” Again, the Prophet said: “Your mother.” Again, the man asked: “Who else?” This time the Prophet said: “Your father.”
Thus, we can see that our mothers have a greater right incumbent upon us. We can say that the mother’s share is three times that of the father’s based on the above tradition. Even though the father pays for the expenses of the child, the mother has a greater role in the period of pregnancy, breast-feeding and upbringing of the child. The father just pays for the needs, but it is the mother who is always with the child and never leaves him alone and whole-heartedly attends to him.
A young man went to see the Prophet along with his mother. He wanted to go to the front but his mother would not let him do so. The Prophet said:
عِندَ أُمِّكَ قِرَّ وإنَّ لَكَ مِن الأجْرِ عِندَها مِثلَ ما لَكَ في الجِهادِ.
“Be at the service of your mother since it is not any less of a service than going to the war front.”
In a parallel study, the relationship between dental history and breast milk concentrations of Hg was also examined in 33 lactating women. Results from the animal studies showed that during pregnancy, a primary fetal site of amalgam Hg concentration is the liver, and after delivery the neonatal lamb kidney receives additional amalgam Hg from mother’s milk. In lactating women with aged amalgam fillings, increased Hg excretion in breast milk and urine correlated with the number of fillings or Hg vapor concentration levels in mouth air.
It was concuded that Hg originating from maternal amalgam tooth fillings transfers across the placenta to the fetus, across the mammary gland into milk ingested by the newborn, and ultimately into neonatal body tissues. Comparisons are made to the US minimal risk level recently established for adult Hg exposure. These findings suggest that placement and removal of “silver” tooth fillings in pregnant and lactating humans will subject the fetus and neonate to unnecessary risk of Hg exposure.