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Madrid: 15 Month Old Removed from Mother Because She Refused to Wean

Madrid: 15 Month Old Removed from Mother Because She Refused to Wean

A Moroccan mother, known as Habiba, is living a nightmare in Spain. Because she was in a difficult financial situation, Habiba had moved into a women’s shelter in Madrid with her 15 month old daughter. The shelter is run by the Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia (IMMF), which is responsible for the welfare of children and for promoting policies that protect families. According to an article by Jesusa Ricoy Olariaga, Habiba’s daughter was taken away without her consent on May 31, 2011 because she refused to forcibly wean her baby.

This incident was first made known by Dr. Ibone Olza, who works for the organization “El Parto es Nuestro” (Birth is ours). According to the article by Olariaga:

Apparently this [sic] shelters have a psychoterapy[sic]/maternal habilities program that involves taking medication to stop the milk production, as breastfeeding is considered “chaotic” and “damaging” and also because it will make more difficult putting the child for adoption if this need arises.

Habiba refused to wean her daughter and she claims, as a result, her daughter was taken away while she was in the facility’s day care center. Habiba was not informed in advance, she was not given the opportunity to say goodbye, nor was she told where they were taking her baby.

According to ABC Madrid (in Spanish), the official reason given for the baby being taken away is “mental instability” and not having the minimum skills required to care for her child. Habiba disputes this and insists that she was separated from her daughter due to her refusal to stop breastfeeding. According to Louma Sader Bujana, other women have since come forward with stories of being forced to wean under threat of their children being taken away.

Louma Sader Bujana, who writes the blog Amor Maternal, has reported extensively on the events that have taken place since the baby’s removal from her mother’s care. She reported on the opinion of psychiatrists and psychologists who evaluated Habiba. Those professionals came to the conclusion that “she is a sensible and loving mother, with a healthy attachment to her child.” They went on to explain that the separation is highly stressful for the baby and that it would lead to both physical and psychological distress if the mother and baby were not reunited immediately.

According to the article on Amor Maternal, Habiba is suffering emotionally and physically (engorged breasts, leading to possible mastitis) from the separation, as is her baby. Habiba was given a brief opportunity to see her child yesterday (more than a week after their separation). She remarked that her child was very thin, not being properly cared for, had dark circles under her eyes, and started crying as soon as she picked her up. However, she was too weak to even keep crying. She felt that she “didn’t seem like my daughter, she looked like a dead child, a doll.” Apparently there are only two caregivers at night for the 42 children under the age of six at this shelter, leading to concerns that the children are not being sufficiently cared for and nurtured in this environment.

Habiba now has legal representation in her quest to be reunited with her daughter as soon as possible. Dr. Olza, the psychiatrist who evaluated her, published an urgent request today for people in Madrid to go and protest in front of the IMMF building at Calle Gran Via 14.

People who are interested in supporting Habiba’s reunification with her daughter can check out the following pages:

Related stories:

Are breastfeeding bans just a way to keep women in the home?

Mom Loses Custody of Kids for Having Breast Cancer

Breastfeeding Lawyer Mom Bullied by TSA Agents

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Image credit: Louma Sader Bujana,

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4:10PM PDT on Oct 12, 2011

This is insane!

10:04PM PDT on Sep 27, 2011

How sad!!! I breastfed my oldest until she was 18 months and my other 2 until they were around 13 months old. I would have nursed the until 2 but they all weaned themselves!! Breastfeeding is the best for baby and mom and very healthy emotionally! I feel so bad for this mom and baby! I will be keeping them in my prayers.

12:19AM PDT on Sep 3, 2011

wow this is child abuse and one of the stupidest things i've ever heard. they just did the baby a lot of psychological damage by separating her from her mother...and also physical damage, considering that nursing builds the baby's immune system. 15 months isn't old at all...

6:12AM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Babies should never be separated from their mother.

8:22AM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Our daughter had heart problems (many open heart surgeries) and a stroke when she was little. The hospital would not allow mothers to stay overnight unless they were breastfeeding. Do you think I breastfed this child until she was four? You're darn tootin' I did! Through the years, she was at death's door many times, but actually had a baby and stayed alive, thanks to a heart transplant, until she was 25. My point is, when the going gets rough, breastfeeding can be a great comfort to mother and child. Taking her child away because she refused to abruptly wean her child? That goes against everything we know about raising happy, healthy babies and children. The people in charge have no love or human compassion.

8:24PM PDT on Aug 2, 2011

It's just plain wrong. It isn't my or your decision to make -- this shelter should be supporting women and their children. It is the mother's decision when she should wean her child -- creates "chaos"? The child, as described, sounds like it is failing to thrive, about to die -- that will be a conundrum for the authorities, if that happens.

11:56PM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

I can't believe this woman has been separated from her baby...regardless of why, it is just wrong!

2:45PM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

Why do so many people have problems with breastfeeding? First it may offend someone because breasts are involved, never mind that breasts were originally meant for that. Then it's chaotic and damaging. Honestly.

10:09PM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

There appears to be a particularly virulent strain of insanity pervading the world today, and much of it seems to be targeting women! At least, I hope it's insanity and not normal human nature at work. What's going on?

My heart aches for this woman and her child; and for women (and men) the world over who are having to deal with unspeakable atrocities every day of their lives.

Sign petitions people; and project light and love out into the universe every day, because everything boils down to just energy, positive and negative, and we need a lot more of the positive variety out there!

12:35PM PDT on Jun 17, 2011

there are other reports that say she was in the shelter because she escaped an abusive relationship....going from one a$$hole to another is NO way to live! who's butt do i need to kick?

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