Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We Are All Habiba

We are all habiba

Habiba is a Moroccan young mother how lives in Madrid and had her then-15month baby taken away from her without her consent.  The reason? Because she breastfeeds on demand and refuses to stop breastfeeding after 15months of doing so.  Habiba is one of the those less-fortunate immigrants here in Spain and due to this sitation, she lives with her baby in a women's shelter in Madrid.  The shelter is called Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia - IMMF (Madrid Institute of Children and the Family). Habiba had the surprise of her life when she was told that she can no longer stay in the shelter because she no longer has a child.  Her child was taken away from her right after she left the child in a daycare!

Now, anyone in her rightful mind would say this is totally wrong!  This has happened May 31 and I've been reading and following the news about this case.  The moment I read about it, I was enraged.  I felt pain for the mother.  I can't imagine how Habiba is going through, but I know she's hurting tremendously.  I am in utter disbelief with what IMMF has done.  They even try to justify their act by declaring that Habiba is a violent person and refused to undergo psychotherapy and maternal abilities program in the shelter.  Records of her being violent? Zero.  Habiba is not only a breastfeeding mom but an extended-breastfeeding mom.  I can't imagine a mom tenderly chosing to breastfeed her 15month old baby being violent.

These accusation from the shelter was later on disproved by the humanitarian foundation (Fundación Raíces) that took care of Habiba after being disposed by IMMF. 

Dr. Olza, the foundation's psychiatrist declared:
I’m under the impression that [Habiba] is a sensible and loving mother, with a healthy attachment to her child.

It is obvious that this separation is highly stressful for the nursling and I can easily predict oncoming symptoms of psychic distress if the physical and emotional bond with her mother is not immediately restored

Based on Habiba’s thorough psychiatric evaluation I have reached the conclusion that this woman does not suffer from psychiatric disorders nor does she have a drug habit. In my opinion, she is a very capable, loving woman who is now suffering enormously from having been abruptly separated from her child.

As a child psychiatrist, I know that suddenly separating a fifteen month old child from her mother, transfering her to a government facility with no one the child is familiar with present, causes great damage that could have enduring psychological consequences, if not reunited as soon as possible. 
With the absence of her child, Habiba was sufferring not only with emotional stress but physically too.  She couldn't breastfeed her baby thus, she started to get engorged breast - at the brim of getting a mastitis.  Dr. Olza helped Habiba express her milk and was able to take half a liter! Half a liter is a tremendous amount of milk.  I couldn't imagine the pain! I remember expressing milk at the middle of the night because I was already starting to have an engorged breast while my Little Spanish Pinay was asleep.  At the most, I am able to express 120ml - from my engorged breasts. From both of them. And it can already be painful.  Imagine half a liter???

The ridiculousness of IMMF didn't even here.  When the foundation that took care of Habiba tried to send them the "golden liquid" that Habiba has expressed from her breast, they initially refused to take it because breastfeeding is strictly forbidden in all child welfare group homes.  BULL. SHIT. TO. THESE. PEOPLE.

Pfffft. I've known this news for a while but the more I write about it, the more it gets my blood to boiling past 100ºC. 

Madrid has a strong support for breastfeeding.  They have a program called breastfeeding and parent-child bonding program for health professionals promoting breastfeeding.  And the lies of IMMF continued declaring that breastfeeding has nothing to do why they took the child from Habiba.  But hear this:  They said that they took the baby away temporarily and they would evaluate the case.  But they warned Habiba prior to the reevaluation that breastfeeding her child during the one hour weekly visit is forbidden becuase it would be "contrary to the child's institutionalization".  Gosh.  Reason has escaped from this people.

Of course when this story was put to public, it caused a big chaos not only in the breastfeeding community in Spain but all over the world.  Dr. Olza created a group in facebook Que el IMMF permita que Habiba amamante a su niña YA (That IMMF would allow Habiba to breastfeed her child now).  In just over 24 hours, the group grew to 2000 members and currently with 6166 members.  It's continuously growing by the minute. 

After days of separation, Habiba was able to visit her child for only 60minutes. She declared:
My little girl is no longer the child I knew, at first she wouldn’t even look at me… she has lost half a kilo, she looks very thin, this is not proper childcare, she had circles under her eyes, she started crying as soon as I picked her up but then she would stop immediately as if she didn’t have the physical strength to cry any longer, she didn’t seem like my daughter, she looked like a dead child, a doll.
I shed bucket of tears after reading this declaration.  The child was hurt.  In her innocent mind, she couldn't understand why her mother left her. 

According to Dr. Olza, the baby's behavior is expectd:
She wouldn’t look her in the face, she looked at her as though she was a complete stranger, not wanting to go near her, [another possible reaction could have been] the contrary, not wanting to let go of her mother afterwards.

… it was absolutely predictable that the child wouldn’t seem happy upon seeing her mother given the circumstances,” which is something that an untrained observer could [but should not] interpret as “the child not loving her mother, or that [Habiba] was not a good parent.

On the contrary, the fact that she reacted this way is proof that the child has suffered enormously from this deep feeling of abandonment

Thanks to all the support of many sensible people, Habiba and Alma (such a beautiful name for a child.  Alma in spanish means soul), are now together. Alma was given back to Habiba a week ago. But the fight continuous as Habiba, with her economic situation tried to look for a job.  She was able to find one but she now, her baby demands more attention than ever.  After being separated for a long time, Alma has lost confidence and is now scared more than ever that her mother will abandon her again.  The foundation has refused any economical support from the supporters because they'd like Habiba to receive help through finding a job but the situation has becoming complicated.  Habiba is trying to re-establish breastfeeding on demand with her baby once again and this requires more time to spend with the baby.  Habiba even tried to bring the baby to work but with the baby's demand for attention and physical contact, it is almost impossible for Habiba to work.  So this time, the foundation decided to accept donation so Habiba may be allowed to stay with her baby even for just a period of time and re-establish their breastfeeding and mom-child relationship.

The injustice that this institution has done to Habiba is unforgiveable.  I cannot describe the anger I feel against them.  Then agian, I also pity them.  I pity this kind of people who knows nothing about a mother-child relationship.  I don't care about the rules they follow, about their law, their principle in life, about what they care about... whatever angle you see this from, what they've done is unjust, cruel, brutality, excessive, traumatic and harmful.  They probably do not have a soul... that's why they tried to take Habiba's.

Let's stop this cruelty.  May institutions be more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and be more respectful of a child's necessity to be with the mother and the mother's need to be with her child, her soul.

We are all Habiba.  And the fight is not over.  Until the world has come to its senses again about breastfeeding, the fight does not end.

For those who want to follow the whole story click here. There you will find more info and ways to express your support.  For those who understands Spanish, click here and here for the spanish facebook group.


  1. Just a few days ago someone asked me why I still breastfeed...I couldn't believe it, Rainbow is only 8 months.
    I told the person that I will breastfeed untilhe is 2...she replied "you have to stop HIM now..."

    What is going on in the world? When I read your post, I had to read it again, just to be be I didn't miss anything.

    That is wrong... absolutely careless on the part of the authorities. I am happy she is reunited with her baby.

  2. @Salma - I don't know what's going on the world either. I do get comments like that too. That I have to stop breastfeeding my baby because she's 14months already. And the way people would say that is as if I am doing a crime or I am doing wrong to my child. I too am happy that Habiba has been reunited to her child. And I happy that I've another met breastfeeding mom like you :)

  3. This is horrible. Sometimes you wish you could just drown these ignorant group of ding dongs in a big pool of breast milk!

  4. @Chicken Joy I mean, Rachel - you just made my day! I laughed out loud with your comment. Well, yes, all breastfeeding moms unite, let's express milk altogether and drown these dingdongs with breast milk. Wait, this milk is too precious and ding dongs are not worthy of it. Let's hold off on that idea, shall we? :-D

  5. This is terrible! I don't really understand pea brained people to not allow mothers to breast feed their children. I can't even imagine myself being separated from my child. I got shingles (same family as chicken pox) a few weeks ago and was strictly prohibited in going near my daughter. That also meant that I stop breast feeding while I was taking my medicine. The 2 weeks that I was sick was the most depressing for me - not being able to touch my child, cuddle her, breastfeed her, co-sleep with her. It also affected her because she can't sleep well without me beside her.
    Thanks for sharing this story.

  6. This is terrible! I don't really understand pea brained people to not allow mothers to breast feed their children. I can't even imagine myself being separated from my child. I got shingles (same family as chicken pox) a few weeks ago and was strictly prohibited in going near my daughter. That also meant that I stop breast feeding while I was taking my medicine. The 2 weeks that I was sick was the most depressing for me - not being able to touch my child, cuddle her, breastfeed her, co-sleep with her. It also affected her because she can't sleep well without me beside her.
    Thanks for sharing this story.

  7. Akala ko sa Pinas lang to..tsk tsk!

    Though I am not a mom yet, I could feel her misery. Thanks for the story, I'm extending my prayers for her..and for you as well.


  8. I am beyond outraged at this story. What complete idiots these "people" are!!! I breastfed all 3 of mine past 12 months - my youngest til he was 2yrs. I didn't care what anyone thought. The bond moms have with their children are so important. How dare anyone judge me and question me because I breastfeeding?! Oh I am so angry!!! Id better quit before I blow!!!!

  9. Ha ha, I agree with Rachel as well. That would do it...

  10. I felt relieved knowing that mom and child are together now. I just cannot understand those people who want to separate a child from her mother. I cannot imagine myself being separated from my son; for sure I will have separation anxiety. I salute all breastfeeding moms because not all moms were able to that. There are moms who still breastfeed their child even at six years old, I was shocked when I watched it and they really have so much dedication on breastfeeding. I do hope when I have my second child, I can breastfeed her for so long, not only two months.

  11. @Kit - I'm so sorry you had shingles. I hope you are now fully recovered and has re-established breastfeeding. I know...babies being separated from moms is the most unnatural and cruel thing in the world and both suffer tremendously.

    @Andy - minsan worse pa sa ibang bansa kesa sa pinas!

    @Steph - I know how you feel. I was literally shaking with anger the first time I heard the story and every time I hear declarations from that idiotic institution.

    @Michi - I do wish you can breastfeed your second child especially if you are more than willing to do so. Seek support for sure you will find one. I always say breastfeeding is a two-way street. Both the mom and the child should enjoy it. There may be effort from the mom but it shouldn't be a sacrifice because breastfeeding is not a sacrifice it is something beautiful shared between the mom and the child :)

  12. this is heartbreaking. Good actions and deeds are criminalized now. They've already caused the girl and her mother a scar for good. If it was me, I'd never ever forgive them and sue them all..


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