Category: Marriage (Nikah)
Fatwa#: 39021
Asked Country: South Africa

Answered Date: Aug 28,2017

Title: Can a Muslim woman donate her milk to a milk bank?

Question

 

We need clarification of and guidance for the use of Breast Milk for other babies than for the mother’s child.

South Africa has Milk Banks in all the major cities. Mothers who have excess milk, more than their child needs, donate their milk to a bank. This milk is then used for babies born to mothers who do not have breast milk or cannot breast feed their baby or medical reasons or are unable to breast feed their babies because of problems with their breast (inverted nipples).

Please clarify the following:

 

  1. Is the use of breast milk for a child, whose mother cannot breast feed, from a bank where the mother who produced the milk is unknown (like blood donations) ?
  2. Can the breast milk of a woman be given to a known baby whose mother cannot breast feed?
  3. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the breast. This is very concentrated breast milk containing very rich nutrients and antibodies. Very little of this is produced, as the baby does not need very much, bearing in mind that the stomach of a new born baby is the size of a small marble. Premature babies are very vulnerable to infections as their immune system has not developed as yet. The more premature the baby, the worse the situation. Milk for babies that is commercially available does not contain all the nutrients and antibodies that the premature baby needs. Breast milk from the breast milk bank is used to feed these children. It serves the purpose of nutrition for the premature baby and for protecting the baby from infections due to the antibodies that are present in breast milk. There are alternative nutrient supplements that can be used but no alternative for the antibodies that breast milk has to protect the baby from infection. Can milk from breast milk banks be used as “medication’’ to grow the baby and protect the baby at the same time?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

According to Shari ‘at, breast feeding results in the establishment of foster relationships which prohibit marriage between all such people who would normally not be allowed to marry due to their biological relationships 1. For instance,

  • it is impermissible for a foster parent to marry the foster child
  • it is impermissible for the foster parent to marry the child’s ascendants or descendants
  • it is impermissible for children who are breastfed by the same women to marry one another

It is necessary for the foster parent and foster child to be aware of each other’s identities so as to be able to observe the Shar’i restrictions 2.

In order to understand the potential Shar’i ramifications of donating to, or receiving milk from a Milk Bank, the procedure of how these Banks process their milk must be taken into consideration. Of particular concern to us is the manner of how these banks store donated milk. There is generally either one of two methods that are employed by milk banks for storing donated milk:

  1. The first method involves pooling the milk of several donors together into one storage vessel 3.

According to Imam Muhammad, if the mixed milk of multiple women is administered to a child, foster relations will be established for each and every donating woman in the manner described above. This method poses a problem from a Shar’i perspective due to the difficulty of identifying the particular women to whom the milk came from. In such a case, the recipient does not know the identity of his foster mothers.

  1. The second method involves pooling the milk from each milk donor individually. In this case the milk of different women is not mixed 4. In such a case it is easier to establish the identity of the foster mother.

However, both these methods still pose a problem from a Shar’i perspective due to the fact that most milk banks do not notify the donors as to who is the recipient of their milk 5.

Due to the above stated reasons, it will not be permissible to donate or receive milk from a milk bank unless the identities of both the donor and recipient are known

In the case of a dire need, such as a child being in need of milk donations for medical reasons, it will be advisable to request the milk banks (i.e the banks that employ the second method), to provide the identities of the donors as they do keep such records 6.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Shibly bin Mizan

Student Darul Iftaa
Toronto, Canada 

Checked and Approved by

Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­P. S We did not address the issue of the validity of a nikah in the likelihood of foster relationship without any Shar’i proof.

________________ 

الدر المختار وحاشية ابن عابدين (رد المحتار) (3/ 218)

(ومخلوط بماء أو دواء أو لبن أخرى أو لبن شاة إذا غلب لبن المرأة وكذا إذا استويا) إجماعا لعدم الأولوية جوهرة، وعلق محمد الحرمة بالمرأتين مطلقا، قيل: وهو الأصح

•---------------------------------•

[رد المحتار]

 (قوله وعلق محمد إلخ) مقابل لما أفاده كلام المصنف من أنه لو كان لبن إحدى المرأتين غالبا تعلق التحريم به فقط، ولو استويا تعلق بهما (قوله مطلقا) أي تساويا أو غلب أحدهما لأن الجنس لا يغلب الجنس ح (قوله قيل وهو الأصح) قال في البحر: وهو رواية أبي حنيفة، قال في الغاية: وهو أظهر وأحوط، وفي شرح المجمع: قيل إنه الأصح. اهـ. وفي الشرنبلالية: ورجح بعض المشايخ قول محمد، وإليه مال صاحب الهداية لتأخيره دليل محمد كما في الفتح. اهـ. ح (قوله مطلقا) أي سواء كان غالبا أو مغلوبا عند الإمام

 

الدر المختار وحاشية ابن عابدين (رد المحتار) (3/ 212)

والواجب على النساء أن لا يرضعن كل صبي من غير ضرورة، وإذا أرضعن فليحفظن ذلك وليشهرنه ويكتبنه احتياطا اهـ 

 

3) “Each Pool (which usually includes human milk from 3 to 5 donor mothers) is thoroughly mixed to ensure an even distribution of human milk components.’’ [https://www.hmbana.org/milk-processing]

 

4) “Milk from a single donor is pooled prior to pasteurisation, but milk from different donors is never pooled.”  [http://milkmatters.org/using-donor-milk/]

5) “Donors will never meet the babies they help, or even know their names, but they do know that their milk is perhaps the greatest gift they can give these babies”.[ http://milkmatters.org/using-donor-milk/]

6) http://milkmatters.org/donating-milk/becoming-a-milk-donor/

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