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Paediatr Int Child Health. 2016 Feb;36(1):4-6. doi: 10.1080/20469047.2015.1110336. Epub 2016 Jan 9.

Creating religiously compliant milk banks in the Muslim world: a commentary.

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1 Department of Medical Education , King Khaled University Hospital at King Saud University , Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Human milk banks are vital for providing donor milk to infants for whom there are maternal or postnatal barriers to the mother's own milk. Although more than 35 countries have active milk banks, not one of those is a Muslim country.(1) Despite widespread support for breastfeeding across the Muslim world, religious constraints surrounding milk-sharing have created challenging barriers to the creation of milk banks. The religious objection centres around the Islamic tenet that consuming human milk builds a kinship bond between individuals who have consumed the same woman's milk which prohibits future marriage between the 'milk-brothers and sisters.' While a small-scale, experimental 'milk exchange' programme has been attempted in two Muslim countries (Kuwait and Malaysia), the only proposed milk bank in the Muslim world was a pilot programme in Turkey that was halted because of religious concerns. The problem with milk banking is the step in the process during which the milk from individual donors is pooled and de-identified, making it impossible to trace its origins and acknowledge the newly formed kinship relationship. To meet the need for Muslim children to be able to access human milk while remaining compliant with the prevalent understanding of Islamic doctrine on milk-sharing, we propose a new approach to milk banking that we term the Conditional Identified Milk Banking System (CIMBS). In this new system, both the donor's and recipient's identities are accessible to all parties through a voluntary registry, and the milk-pooling is limited to three milk donors. Based on recent survey data, we believe that there would be receptivity among practicing Muslims and religious leaders to this alternative approach.


Breast milk; Ethics; Human milk banks; Islam; Milk banking; Muslims; NEC; NICU; Preterms

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