Thursday, June 9, 2011

I am Habiba, You are Habiba, We are ALL Habiba

Habiba is a young mother living in Madrid.  Due to financial issues she has been living with her 15 month old daughter at the Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia or IMMF (roughly translated it means Madrid’s Family and Children’s Institute in English-Thank you for the translation  Amor Maternal).

On May 31 Habiba dropped her daughter off at the IMMF daycare center as usual.  Shortly there after that she was informed that she could no longer live at the IMMF Institute because she no longer had a child. 

It is alleged that the Institute took Habiba's 15 month old daughter away because Habiba was practicing extended breastfeeding.  It has been reported that the IMMF deemed the breastfeeding relationship between Habiba and her daughter as "chaotic" and "harmful" and also said it would make it more difficult to put the child for adoption if the need to do so were to arise.

I first heard of Habiba's plight from my friends Tanya when she posted a link to a press release that was in Spanish on Instinctual Mamas.  She gave a rough overview of what was happening and promised to translate the entire press release soon.  Ironically I was curled up on the couch with my 12 month old daughter nursing at the time that I read this.  I looked down at her and waves of emotion flooded through me.  I envisioned someone taking her away and telling me that our breastfeeding relationship was "chaotic" and "harmful".  I imagined the fear and confusion she would feel to not only be alone and in a strange place with strange people she did not know but to not have the comfort that nursing provides to help ease the stress.

Tanya did indeed translate the press release and posted it on her blog, Rockin Mama (click the link to read her full post on this).  She gave me permission to repost the translation here:

The Press Release Goes something like this: (roughly translated)

Four days ago, the Madrid Institute for Minors and Families (IMMF), decided to separate a little girl from her mother for not complying with the objectives of  a psychotherapy program and "maternal abilities" that imply to abandon  extended breastfeeding and breastfeeding on demand because it is considered "chaotic" and "harmful for every boy and girl".  With these considerations all lacking scientific or legal facts, they force mothers to take medication to cease milk production.  

According to the Spanish Association of Pediatricians, breastfeeding should be on demand and it can be extended as long as both child an mother wish.  No legal action has been taken to separate mother and child, and the mother has not been allowed to say goodbye nor has she been told where her daughter will be taken causing a grave defenselessness on both.  Habiba is engorged and on the brink of mastitis and with a broken heart with pain, with barely any sleep or bite to eat. This woman has been evaluated by a psychiatrist  and she does not show any signs of  mental illness, drug consumption or anything that would justify making her victim of such aggression.

They threw Habiba on the streets the same moment they took her daughter telling her she had no more room there because the resources they offer are for mothers and children and she did not have a child anymore. A humanitarian foundation has decided to help this mother donating legal support as well as shelter . We are deeply concerned by Habiba's pain and it pains us to imagine the circumstances this 15 month old child might be in, separated from her mother in an abrupt fashion most likely with no one explaining anything to her.

We consider Habiba and her child's case as a serious violation of human rights as well as children's rights. The damage is already done but if mother and child are reunited immediately it can be repaired because of this we urge you to write to write and protest to IMMF management, asking for the immediate return of the child to her mother

As I was preparing to write my own blog post on this PhD in Parenting reposted a guest blog originally posted by Amor Maternal on Habiba's story as well.  The post is called Spanish government authorities removed 15 month old nursling from mother’s care due to her refusal to wean her child by force.  I am always intimidated when bloggers I love and admire post on the same things I want to post on and often abandon such posts but I feel the more people who spread the word about Habiba the better her chances of having her daughter returned to her.  Definitely check out the blog above, it has a lot of details about the case in it.

I learned from Amor Maternal's blog that Habiba is currently being cared for by Fundación Raíces, which is a humanitarian organization.  They are providing her with psychiatric evaluations, legal services, healthcare and financial aid.

The IMMF has since said that Habiba's daughter was removed from her care not because of extended breastfeeding but because Habiba was a "violent person" but no one has been able to find any records of this anywhere.
Dr. Ibone Olza, one of the phyciatrists evaluating Hibaba was quoted  (from Amor Maternal's blog post) as saying:
“Based on Habiba’s thorough psychiatric evaluation I have reached the conclusion that this woman does not suffer from psychiatric disorders nor does she have a drug habit. In my opinion, she is a very capable, loving woman who is now suffering enormously from having been abruptly separated from her child.”

Habiba has not only suffered unimaginable emotional distress from this but she is also dealing with issues of engorgement and was close to developing mastitis when Dr. Olza stepped in to help her.

Habiba has only been allowed ONE 60 minute visit with her daughter since her daughter was abruptly ripped from her care and that was after NINE days of no contact.  She was forbidden to nurse her daughter in that ONE visit.  Amor Maternal reported that the IMMF did eventually take half a liter of breastmilk that Habiba was able to pump after pleads from Dr. Olza and many others but there are no guarantee's that the milk was ever given to the poor baby.

The accounts from Habiba and Dr. Olza on how the 15 month old girl acted during Habiba's ONE and only visit are just heart wrenching to read.  At many points I could no longer see the screen as my vision was so blurred with the tears. 

The little girl was reported to be listless and unconnected, she didn't even make eye contact with her mother.  No doubt living in a very underfunded and understaffed children's home in Madrid has already had adverse effects on her soul.  How the IMMF can justify continuing the separation is beyond me.  Habiba has been declared fit and loving and capable of taking care of her little girl.  Yet the IMMF has deemed the baby better off in a children's home that only  has 2 caregivers at night to tend to the needs of 42 children ages 6 and under.  I have 4 kids age 5 and under and I often have problems when more than 1 child awakes at night!

I know this sounds like MADNESS!  It sounds like the perfect plot line for a Lifetime movie.  Alas, it is all too true and there is a little girl out there stuck in a children's home lost wondering where her mommy is.  I can't imagine what is going through her mind right now "Why did mommy leave?"  "Who are all these strangers?" and the one thing that may provide some comfort for her, nursing, has been denied.

It has been alleged this is not an isolated incident and that many moms have been ordered to immediately cease and terminate their nursing relationship by the IMMF.

Most of the information currently out there on Habiba's fight are in Spanish, there are many Spanish links to her case.  So far, the only links I know of in English are the links above from Rockin Mama and Amor Maternal via PhD in Parenting.

I will leave you with the final plea in Amor Maternal's guest post:
If this story has touched your heart, if you wish to help in any way, please share this post. If you have a blog, please re-publish this information, if you know anyone in the press, anywhere in the world who could help in any way, please do contact them.

And a plea of my own- Please share my blog post, Rockin Mama's Post, and Phd in Parenting guest post from Amor Maternal with everyone you know.  Ask them to pass it on too.  Call your local TV news stations (or email them if you are like me and too embarrassed/self conscious to call).  We need to spread the word internationally.
If you speak another language please consider translating the information.   There is an abundance of information in Spanish, a few limited pieces in English and someone translated the original press release into French but that is is.

If you write a blog on Habiba's story please share a link in the comments so I can share your blog and post it on FB.  The more we repost these blogs the more people will be reached.

Please join the Worldwide Mothers support Habiba! IMMF Give her baby back on FB and sign the official petition which can be found in Spanish and in English

Save the photo above to your computer and set it as your default/profile picture on all of your social media accounts.  Tell people to ask you why that's your picture.  Share Habiba's story, knowledge is power.  SHARE! SHARE! SHARE!

This could be me.  This could be you.  We are all Habiba!

this choked up mama,


  1. Thank you so much for your support, Christy!

    Kind regards,


  2. thank you for providing such an informative article in English! I wanted to write a blog the moment I heard about it but I do not speak Spanish so I had to wait for some information to be translated first.

  3. Hi, I've blogged about this too. I don't blog much anymore but this was too important not to!


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