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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. Imagine what the result might have been if they had used species- appropriate milk, like mouse milk.

Yet others have found that breast milk prevents meningitis and hib. The Journal of Epidemiology said that the longer the child was breastfed, the greater the degree of protection from hib: "For each week of breast feeding, the protection improved."

Tropical Pediatrics found that breast milk contained significant antibodies to whooping cough, hib, strep B infection, and meningitis. They concluded:
"Samples may indicate a protective role for breast milk against the four infections of early childhood."

In a study in Brazil, breast milk was found to protect against rotavirus, with formula-fed babies being six times more likely to get rotavirus, and another report in the Lancet found that measles fatalities in Rwanda were reduced by one-third in breast fed infants.

Breast feeding also has emotional benefits and provides for the child’s emotional needs. Breast fed children grow up more emotionally secure and tend to have less behavior disorders than bottle fed children.

The Archives of Disease in Childhood wrote, “Our findings suggest that longer duration of breastfeeding (at all or exclusively) is associated with having fewer parent-rated behavioral problems in term children.”

So to purposefully deny a breast feeding baby his or her right to breast feed is a violation of the baby's and the mother’s rights.

The IMMF said that Habiba wanted to continue breast feeding and they don’t allow it in their center but they deny that is the reason why they took custody of her baby, stating that she had a lack of family support and very little money.
However, the shelter was set up for the purpose of helping disadvantaged families and the residents have financial problems and various family problems including sexual abuse and it is supposed to be their job to assist such families. Since Habiba no longer has her child she has been forced to leave the center even though she is homeless.

Habiba now has the assistance of a legal organization who is looking after her. She is only allowed to see her baby one hour a week, is suffering from painful engorgement of the breasts and both mother and baby are distressed.
Even the prosecutors say there is little evidence for the removal of the child and "few explanations".

“We want to make a more informed decision before we consider returning the child”, said prosecutor Pilar Rodriguez.

Habiba’s baby is being looked after with 41 other children up to 6 years old, with only two carers to look after all of them.

For more details, please see: http://actuable.es/peticiones/immf-give-back-habiba-s-baby

Separada del bebé por querer amamantarlo, 11th June 2011 - http://www.elperiodico.com/es/noticias/sociedad/separada-del-bebe-por-querer-amamantarlo-1039210
Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT), JAMA. 2001;285(4):413-420. doi:10.1001/jama.285.4.413 - http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/285/4/413.full
WHO: Exclusive Breastfeeding - http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/
ANTIPOLIOMYELITIC ACTIVITY OF HUMAN AND BOVINE COLOSTRUM AND MILK, Pediatrics Vol. 29 No. 1 January 1, 1962 - http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/29/1/105.abstract
Protective effect of breastfeeding on invasive Haemophilus influenzae infection: a case-control study in Swedish preschool children. Journal of Epidemiology, 1997, 26: 443-450 - http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/2/443.abstract
Tropical Pediatrics, 1989, 4: 226-232 - http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=6656827
Breastfeeding, nutritional status and other prognostic factors for dehydration among young children with diarrhoea: a case control study. Bull WHO 1992;70:467-75.
Lepage P. Munyakazi C, Hennart P. Breast feeding and hospital mortality in children from Rwanda. Lancet 1981;i:40911.
Breast-fed babies grow better behaved, Yahoo Health - http://uk.health.lifestyle.yahoo.net/breastfed-babies-become-better-behaved-children.htm
Hakahsson, A. et al. Apoptosis induced by a human milk protein. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 92:8064-8068, 1995

Reviewed June 13, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

Add a Comment3 Comments

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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