For the first time in Bangladesh, a Human Milk Bank – initiative of the Institute of Child and Maternal Health of Bangladesh, hospital of Matuail, Dhaka – has been created to store breast milk for newborns who cannot obtain milk from their mothers.
Breastfeeding mothers who have lost their babies, or who have traces of milk after feeding their babies, can donate breast milk to the bank. The idea is for the bank to operate at no cost: there will be no compensation for donors and recipients will receive the milk for free. However, the launch of the milk bank has been postponed several times, presumably because of the religious feeling of conservative Bangladeshi, mainly staunch Islamists.
Why breast milk is important for newborns
Although breastfeeding is ideal for newborns, the truth is that some babies cannot have their mother's milk. Some may have lost their mothers during childbirth, others may be adopted, and some mothers cannot breastfeed their babies for various reasons.
However, many babies cannot develop their immune system sufficiently without breast milk. Some newborns, who cannot digest cow's milk or formula, end up in intensive care and may die without breast milk. The milk bank will help these newborns get the much needed breast milk.
Although the official launch of the Human Milk Bank was scheduled for December 1, 2019, it was later postponed by objections from some religious people and organizations, who believe the initiative is contrary to Islam.
Why do they oppose the milk bank?
An organization, Tafsir Parishod, warned of the consequences of the unknown “milk brothers” – a situation that, he says, could arise because of the Human Milk Bank.
Islam encourages breastfeeding up to two years, but when babies are breastfed by an adoptive mother, she becomes the child's “mother of milk” – a relationship that has special rights under Islamic law. The nursing child is recognized as a full-fledged brother of the other children of the mother of milk, and marriage between them is prohibited. Conservative Islamists fear, therefore, that the milk bank will make it difficult to identify the “mothers of milk” and the resulting “milk brothers”. If in the future the “milk brothers” get married, that would be considered haram (sin).
Quoting Islamic scriptures. Saiful Islam tweeted:
✒ রক্তের সম্পর্কের ভিত্তিতে যেসব স্বজনেরা (বিয়ের জন্য) হারাম তদ্রুপ দুধপাণের সম্পর্কের ভিত্তিতে তারা হারাম # বুখারী ও # মুসলীম।
✒ তোমাদের জন্য নিষিদ্ধ (বিয়ের জন্য) তোমাদের দুধমাতা ও দুধবোন – সূরা: নিসা -২৩ |
অবিলম্বে হিউম্যান মিল্ক ব্যাংক বন্ধের আহ্বান জানাই ? pic.twitter.com/3gZUSfFyNi
– syful alam001? (@DrSyful) December 23, 2019
Marriage between them is prohibited on the basis of relationships include the mother of milk relations – Bukhari and Muslim (hadith).
It is forbidden (for marriage) your mother of milk and your sister of milk – Surah: Nisa-25 (of the Koran)
I urge to close the Human Milk Bank immediately.
Mamunur Rashid also felt that it would be better not to risk:
যাদের মাঝে বিবাহ হারাম তাদের মাঝে অন্যতম দুধ ভাই বোন। আর মিল্ক ব্যাংক থেকে দুধ পান করা হলে আপনি জানবেন বিবাহ হচ্ছে সেও একই মায়ের দুধ পান করেছেন কিনা। হারামের ঝুকি থেকেই যায়, আর হারামের ঝুকি থাকলে সেইদিকে না যাওয়াই উত্তম
– Mamunur Rashid (@SMM_Rashid) December 25, 2019
The Human Milk Bank is being debated.
What do you think?
Marriage between milk brothers is prohibited. If breast milk leaves the bank, the beneficiary will not know if the person he is going to marry in the future has been fed the same breast milk. There is a risk of haram and it is better to avoid it.
Mohammad Mahmudul Hasan, lawyer of the Supreme Court of the country, has sent a legal notification to the respective authorities against the Human Milk Bank, for legal and religious complications in the donation of milk to others.
However, associate professor Dr. Mujibur Rahman, who directs the human milk donation project, defended the bank in an interview with the Bangla Tribune, and explained that there will be an adequate record for both donors and recipients:
প্রত্যেকের জন্য আলাদা ডাটা, আলাদা আইডি কার্ড রাখা হবে। যিনি দান করবেন এবং যিনি গ্রহণ করবেন, তাদের দুজনের কাছেই পরিচয়পত্র থাকবে। এখানে প্রত্যেক মায়ের দুধ আলাদা কৌটায় রাখা হবে, যেসব শিশুকে আরেক মায়ের দুধ খাওয়ানো হবে, তাদের দুই পক্ষকেই আইডি কার্ড দেওয়া হবে। রেফারেন্স নম্বর-রেজিস্ট্রেশন নম্বর, খাতা ও ভলিউম, এন্ট্রি পৃষ্ঠার নম্বর, সবই তাদের দেওয়া হবে।
There will be separate identification cards and data for donors and recipients of breast milk. Donated milk will not be mixed and kept in separate containers. The identification records of both; reference numbers, registration numbers, entry and volume, everything will be known.
Thus, the issue of future marriages between “milk brothers” should not arise. Dr. Rahman also stated that the milk bank is being created for children in critical care, so its main objective is to save their lives, and Islam has placed the utmost importance in saving human lives.
Get breast milk
Finding breast milk for newborns in Bangladesh is difficult – an overwhelmingly conservative mindset means that most women don't want to breastfeed other people's children.
On Facebook, Tuli Sangeeta told an incident of her childhood in which her neighbor gave birth to twins prematurely. The mother was not breastfeeding yet, one child had already died and the other was in intensive care, so she needed the help of other people to breastfeed her child:
আমার মা পুরো হাসপাতালে ঘুরে ঘুরে অন্য মায়েদের সহায়তা চেয়ে বেরিয়েছেন, যদি একটুখানি মায়ের দুধ পান ছোট্ট বাচ্চাটার জন্য জন্য কেউই খুব একটা রাজী ছিলেন না অন্যদের সন্তানকে একটুখানি বুকের দুধ দিতে !!
অবশেষে দুজন মাকে খুঁজে পাওয়া গিয়েছিলো যারা এক কোলে নিজের কোলে ওই আন্টির সন্তানকে মাতৃস্নেহের ভাগ দিতে রাজী হয়েছিলেন। সারাজীবন এই দুজনের জন্য মনে মনে আনত শ্রদ্ধা পুষে এসেছি।
My mother went to the hospital to find other women who had just given birth. He begged them to give him breast milk to save the remaining newborn from our neighbor.
He finally found two mothers who, after feeding their own newborns, were willing to share their breast milk with the child in intensive care. Throughout my life I have thanked these two mothers with the greatest respect.
Bangladesh has made great progress in reducing the infant mortality rate. However, as it is a very populated country, the number of annual infant deaths remains considerably high compared to developed countries.
Each year in Bangladesh, 62,000 newborns die after birth, half the first day of life and most of the rest within the first month. These deaths are caused by premature births, infections and respiratory complications as a result of childbirth. Every year, 5200 mothers also die during childbirth.
According to the researchers, if a newborn is fed breast milk within one hour of his birth, up to a third of these deaths could be avoided.
The Human Milk Bank of the Institute of Maternal and Child Health of Bangladesh will not be available for all newborns, only for those in intensive care.
In an editorial published in the Daily Sun, Jainab Tabassum Banu Sonali expressed hope that similar milk banks will be established to help working mothers who have difficulty breastfeeding their babies while working full time.
In many Muslim countries there are already human milk banks or support groups, such as Iran, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and many have suggested that their methods – which should not find any objection from a religious perspective – can be investigated and adopted in Bangladesh.