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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Adoptive Breastfeeding for Muslim Families

The issue of adoption in Islam is controversial. From my understanding, it is not recommended by Islamic teachings to adopt a child and give him or her a different name from the one given by the biological parents or family. However, there are many children who are brought into this world with unknown parents for many reasons that make it quite difficult to attribute a child to a specific family. Under Islamic law, many children are brought into a family as foster children and given a random name. The children are reared and cared for as family members in childhood, but not given any rights of biological relations or inheritance as an adult. The absence of these rights maintains the privileges of potential marriage within the family and independence from the family in adulthood.
There is one exception to the rule, which is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding an infant or child under the age of two years can improve the child’s adoptive situation because breastfeeding gives the child the rights of birth. The Holy Quran clearly states “Let another woman suckle (the child) on the (mother’s) behalf” (65:6), and the Hadith by Aisha (blessing of Allah upon her) says, “Breastfeeding denies what is denied by birth.” These statements support the notion that other than the birth mother, any lactating woman can be the milk mother of a child and give that child the same birthrights as her own. It is agreed that in order for her to accomplish this she must feed an infant three to five satisfying feeds. A satisfying feed is approximated at around 50 ml of expressed breast milk; as soon as she has completed these three to five feeds, she is considered a milk-mother and has rights to the child just as much as his biological mother. This means the child will be a child to her husband, a sibling to her children, and a relative to all extended family members.
Any woman can breastfeed, whether she has recently delivered a baby or not. It is biologically possible for a woman to lactate or relactate, regardless of her childbearing status. I have experienced this possibility with several adoptive mothers. Some of these mothers were women who had been married for many years and had never conceived a child. Lactation and milk expression took approximately two weeks. To encourage lactation, the mothers began by orally taking 60 mg of Domperidone a day and several cups of brewed Fenugreek while pumping and stimulating their breasts every two to four hours. During the first week, small beads of milk could be seen coming out of the breast; by the end of two weeks, the mothers were able to express 250 ml of breast milk, fulfilling the need for the five feeds to make the children their own. In some instances, as soon as the child was fed the full 250 ml, the mother ceased the medication and stopped pumping as the milk diminished naturally.
Adoptive breastfeeding is a beautiful option for couples who want a child and for a child who needs loving parents. Adoptive breastfeeding is a tool that can be used to improve lives. It forces the biological relationship to be primary to rearing an adopted infant. Through breastfeeding, nature has given women a means to give life, improve circumstances, and correct social problems.