Friday, 17 June 2011

Habiba y Alma

It has recently come to my attention that a 15 month old baby in Spain has been forcibly removed from her mother's care because she did not follow the protocols set up in the government-run Mother and Child Home with regards to feeding her child. She refused to stop breastfeeding her toddler, and as a result, her child was taken away from her.

As the mother to a breastfeeding toddler (my baby is now 12 months old, so not far off from baby Alma), I am heartbroken for this family. They have suffered so much, and continue to suffer, and for no reason! The WHO and even the Spanish government have stated that breastfeeding children up until the age of 2 is NECESSARY and HEALTHY, and yet this mother is being penalised for her behaviour in the most horrific way possible.

For those interested, here is a timeline of the recent events:

May 30, 2011. The Minor and Family Institute of Madrid, Spain (IMMF - Instituto MadrileƱo del Menor y la Familia), dependent of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, separated the child from her mother without explanation or notice, and the mother was evicted from the shelter. The IMMF claims that Habiba’s parenting practices (which included on-cue breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and “being affectionate”) were chaotic and harmful to her child. There is no medical report attached to the case worker’s files. The case workers consider Habiba ‘a bit immature’ and with a ‘certain degree of instability’ but no psychological exams have been done to Habiba while in the shelter. Pediatric reports or general medical reports had not been conducted either. This is compatible with the law for protection of minors, that gives IMMF the faculty to remove children without a court order and has a very broad definition of what constitutes a ‘situation of risk’ for a child.

June 1st, 2011. Habiba seeks the help of Fundacion Raices, a Madrid-based human rights advocacy organization that assists immigrants, youth, and families. That same day, Raices contacts Dr. Ibone Olza, a child psychiatrist, writer, professor, researcher, advocate and lactation specialist. Habiba undergoes several medical examinations and Dr. Olza concludes the mother is mentally healthy and has no prior history of mental illness or drug abuse.



June 2nd, 2011. A precautionary measure is presented in Family Court asking that the child is immediately given to her mother, or in it’s defect, that measures are taken to help restore the bond, such as visitation, communication and breastfeeding. The precautionary measure includes medical reports conducted by independent physicians

June 5, 2011. The Ombudsman receives hundreds of letter about the case and decides to investigate it, further issuing a report. The report considers that Habiba’s rights have been respected by the Community of Madrid, but that mother and child have a strong emotional bond and their relationship should be allowed to be as broad as possible.[2]



June 7, 2011. The District Attorney's Office interviews Habiba and announces the DA will contest the decision made by IMMF to separate mother and daughter.[3]

June 14, 2011. Dr. Carmen Pallas, head of the NICU of a hospital in Madrid, Dr. Adolfo Gomez from the University Hospital of Tarragona, and Josefa Aguayo of the Virgen del Rocio hospital in Seville, all members of the Breastfeeding Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, issued a statement disputing the IMMF’s position.[4] “The arguments in the report of which we have had access to, not only fail to justify that Habiba’s maternal relationship with her daughter could be harmful, but they actually demonstrate that Alma was perfectly fed, cared for and loved. The decision to separate Alma from Habiba is harmful for both of them.”

June 16, 2011. Ombudsman releases a letter asking for mother and child to be urgently reunited, due to the child’s mental and physical health. [5]

June 16, 2011. Habiba is allowed to see her daughter, with supervision. While visiting. Alma begins rooting for the breast. As she is about to latch, a supervisor energetically yells ‘NO’, preventing Habiba from nursing her baby.


If you would like to do something to help, PLEASE contact your local Spanish embassy. Get in touch with national papers, radio stations, and other news outlets. Join the Facebook group, Worldwide Mothers support Habiba! IMMF Give her baby back.

And, if you are so inclined, please pray.

1 comment:

Heidi Bone said...

Thank you for posting the timeline. I may just use your blog as a means to inform our local newspaper.