Attachment parents, activate. We’re betting this story is going to bug you as much as the “F-word” (Ferberizing) does.
Authorities in Spain recently removed a 15-month old girl from her mother. The cause for separation: “Chaotic” breast-feeding, aka nursing on demand.
An official report from Madrid’s social services department criticized “the mother’s habit of breast-feeding on demand and letting the child sleep in bed with her,” according to a story in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
"She uses breast-feeding as a pacifier and a toy, offering her breast any time the girl cries and letting her take it anywhere, no matter the time and context," says an edited version of the report produced by supporters of the 21-year-old mother, known as Habiba.
Authorities argue that there is more to the case, and say other, serious issues led to taking Alma away from her mother. As the Guardian reports:
Social services sources said Habiba was suffering psychological problems, was aggressive, hurled objects at other young mothers, would go weeks without bathing her child, left the baby on its own in potentially dangerous situations and took her out without proper clothes on. She also had a violent relationship with the child's father, who had been sent to jail for attacking her but whom she still wanted to live with. She had recently turned down a bed at a center for victims of domestic violence.
The case has generated plenty of attention, and spurred an international campaign – including Spanish pediatricians and moms' groups in Britain and the U.S. -- to reunite mother and child.
"Habiba's attitude regarding her daughter, possibly even without her being aware of it, do follow the current recommendations on infant feeding," María Carmen Alonso, head of neonatology at Madrid's Doce de Octubre hospital, told the Guardian. Groups such as the World Health Organization and Unicef recommend breast-feeding on demand – exclusively for the first six months and supplemented by other foods up to the age of two or more.
"This baby must be returned to her mother as a matter of urgency and should be able to suckle whenever she wants to," British natural childcare activist Shelia Kitzinger said.
Activists celebrated on Wednesday upon hearing reports that Habiba and baby Alma have, in fact, been reunited. "Tears of joy!" wrote Kristin King on aFacebook page supporting Habiba and Alma, which boasts more than 9,000 fans. Some supporters, however, worried about whether Habiba would be able to resume breast-feeding after a weeks-long separation. Others noted that while this battle may be won, breast-feeding on demand still doesn't have universal acceptance.
We asked TODAY Moms contributor Mayim Bialik, who is a certified lactation educator, to weigh in on the issue, something she has plenty of experience with. Here's what she says:
“I nursed both of my sons until 2 on demand, and while it is exhausting at times, it is rewarding, convenient, and beneficial to mother and baby. Nursing on demand is not a hardship; rather, it is a communication to your child that their need to nurse is valuable and meaningful, and it allows for more flexibility and integration with the outside world, since you never need to regulate and schedule nursing. The notion that breast-feeding on demand is chaotic, troublesome, or abnormal is simply untrue.”
What do you think about Alma and Habiba’s case? Do you think breast-feeding on demand is healthy? Or do you think it’s chaotic? Or maybe a bit of both?