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15-Month-Old Baby Removed from Mother Because She Breast Feeds

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A 22-year-old mother from Madrid has had her daughter removed from her care because she was breast feeding her at the age of 15 months. The mother, known as Habiba (an assumed name to protect her identity), moved to a young mother’s home four months ago. It was the home’s policy not to allow babies to be breast fed and they asked her to stop. When she refused, the Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia (Madrilean Institute for the Minor and the Family - IMMF) seized the baby.

All shelters in Spain prohibit breast feeding because they consider it "damaging" to the child and medications are routinely given to dry up the milk supply; it is thought to make it easier in case the child is adopted out.

The policies of these centers violate a number of UN resolutions including the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and the 12 subsequent WHA resolutions, the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, UNICEF’s Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative and the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding.

The World Health Organization said that all children should be breast fed to two years of age or beyond to ensure their health: "Review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond."

Breast milk protects against infectious diseases, chronic illness, allergies and even cancer. For instance, one study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that breast feeding reduced gastrointestinal illness and eczema: "Our experimental intervention increased the duration and degree (exclusivity) of breastfeeding and decreased the risk of gastrointestinal tract infection and atopic eczema in the first year of life."

Another study found that cancer cells were killed when they had breast milk dropped on them and one written by Albert Sabin, inventor of the oral polio vaccine, found that human breast milk cured polio in 84 percent of infected mice.

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Just to let all the readers know that Habiba and her baby Alma have been reunited. Habiba is in a new shelter and is hoping to get a job. She got the baby back because she agreed to attend some kind of parenting course or counselling. It is unclear to me whether this also includes giving up breast feeding or if she still has a supply after 3 weeks of not having her baby. The prosecutor also said that the IMMF had said one of the reasons for the removal of the child was a lack of social support, however, they couldn't find evidence of that since there were numerous social networking sites supporting her and a petition of 20,000 signatures calling for the return of her baby.
Some breast feeding experts from the Spanish Academy of Pediatrics also said that to separate an infant from its mother could cause serious harm to the infant.


This is lovely proof that petitions work :)

June 22, 2011 - 4:44pm

Thanks, it is appalling. When I first heard about it, I couldn't even read the reports as I knew I would get too upset. I had to prepare myself for a day or two before I read them.

I too am a breast feeding mother, well, my son has weaned now, he self-weaned at 3 years and 10 months by his choice so I kept thinking if I had been in Spain and needed help from the authorities, would they take my son?

I have signed the petition for Habiba to be reunited with her baby and I hope everyone else will too.

June 14, 2011 - 3:29pm

I was appalled just by reading the title! Thank you for alerting us to this, and for helping explain to readers why this event is so tragic. Breastfeeding is such a natural and healthy way for children to grow, and for mothers and young children (note I didn't just say "babies") to bond. This is a sad story, but hopefully the fact that it's getting press is a testimony to people's outcry against the system.

June 13, 2011 - 11:52pm
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