Medical Report: Maternal Behavior of Habiba with Her Daughter, Alma

Full Text Shared by:  Adolfo Gomez Papi, Josefa Aguayo Maldonado, M. Carmen Alonso Pallás

We have now reviewed the documentation for the withdrawal of custody of Alma by focusing on the initial report on her mother, Habiba, and on the specific “with her daughter."

The document begins by stating that, "it is hard for Habiba to respond adequately to the needs of Alma and she is not aware of the inadequacy of certain behaviors which can involve risk and neglect". In the next paragraph it is said, "eating patterns and sleep hygiene (Alma’s ) are not adequate” and then the above statements are justified with the following arguments each of which I shall discuss:

"The hours and type of food are chaotic" and " she uses breastfeeding 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 in which this happens (offices, corridors). "

WHO, UNICEF, The American Academy of Pediatrics, experts from the European Union, and the Breastfeeding Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding on demand and exclusively for at least the first 6 months, supplemented with other foods, to 2 years or more.

Because breast milk is the most complete food and the one with more nutrients and probiotic bacteria that provides more defenses during those first two or more years. “On demand” means when the child wants to and for as long as she wants to. But also when a mother breastfeeds her daughter she does not do it just to feed, but also to soothe, to shelter, as pain relief, comfort, etc. Habiba's attitude regarding her daughter, possibly even without her being aware of it, do follow the current recommendations on infant feeding.

"She gives her the pureed food that is already prepared by the shelter, but also other solid foods that are inappropriate for her age (like the ones Habiba eats). Over the weekends when she needs to make the pureed fruit herself, more often she doesn’t and breastfeeds instead."

The recommendations of the WHO and UNICEF and the Committee of Experts of the European Union regarding complementary feeding make it clear, again, that the most complete food for a child of 18 months, such as Alma, is breastmilk. If a baby refuses the fruit and takes the breast instead, it will get a lot more calories, minerals and vitamin defences. The purpose of supplementary feeding is that the baby gets used to eating what their parents eat. This is why so many parents, from the first year, start seating their children at the table with them, offering in this way a great opportunity to become familiar with adult food. Once again, Habiba’s attitude is perfectly adequate and follows current recommendations.

"We attempted to regularize and limit breastfeeding times, but it did not seem possible, so the possibility of stopping breastfeeding was raised..." "...she continued to breastfeed. She was given pacifiers, but she didn’t use them either."

To this point the report is from a completely distorted perspective of breastfeeding and ignores all international recommendations. From here on you decide to intervene: Let’s stop the breastfeeding on demand and should Alma need to be consoled she can do it with a pacifier. It is the first big mistake and, unfortunately, not unique. Luckily, Habiba followed her instinct - she continued to breastfeed Alma and continued to do what was best for her daughter..

"She (Alma) does not have proper sleep patterns. From the first moment Habiba didn’t want the girl to sleep in her cot, and she lies with her in her own bed. She uses the cot to drop off things and toys and on very rare occasions to leave the girl..."

Currently, half of the world's children sleep each night with their parents. Not only has this practice been shown to be unharmful to babies, it has been proved that the sleep pattern of the the mother and child are synchronized when they sleep together allowing the mother to react quickly to any contingency or for any need of the child. The child feels much more safe and secure in contact with her mother’s body and the breast can be accessed easily with the mother barely awake. It is reported that co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed as their parents) promotes breastfeeding on demand. Children who co-sleep every night with their parents do so until they are ready to sleep alone, which usually starts happening from when they are two years old.

"Habiba is very affectionate with Alma, uses physical contact and verbal expression as a means of communication. The child is constantly searching for visual reference from her mother and has been some anxious fear towards the separation."

Although this paragraph of the report praises Habiba’s caring attitude, it ends suggesting that this has negative consequences. Another big mistake caused by ignorance. It is long since J. Bowlby described the different types of attachment relationships between infants and their caregivers. Babies who have been lucky enough to be cared for by a caring mother, ready to satisfy their hunger, thirst, needs, concerns, fears, quickly learn to self regulate through their mother's responses and they develop what is called a secure attachment relationship with her. Adults who have enjoyed a secure attachment relationship with their mother have warmer personalities. Because their mothers have been warm with them they are more stable emotionally, and because their mother has given them emotional stability they tend to have more intimate relationships that are more satisfying. They are more positive, more integrated, have more coherent perspectives about themselves, and against popular belief they are more independent. Babies who have a secure attachment relationship with her mother organize their behavior around her and when their mother is missing, express fear (while in the stage of dependence to their mother). Later on, they will be more autonomous and ultimately more independent.

What Alma manifested in Habiba’s absence confirms that she is developing a secure attachment relationship with her mother and it is the result of her close and loving care, through carrying her constantly, sleeping with her and breatsfeeding her on demand.


The arguments in the report of which we have had access to, not only fail to justify that Habiba’s maternal relationship with her daughter could be harmful, but they actually demonstrate that Alma was perfectly fed, cared for and loved.

The decision to separate Alma from Habiba is harmful for both of them.

For Alma, because she was subjected to excessive stress, the stress of separation for which she is not yet ready, and is deprived of the best food and care she can receive, abruptly cutting off a secure attachment relationship with her mother.

Stress has physical (increased risk of infections, weight loss, etc) and psychological consequences.
The longer the separation, the greater the damage inflicted on Alma.

Such a decision should be reversed as soon as possible to minimize the damage.

To err is human; to rectify is wise.


Tarragona, 13 June 2011
Adolfo Gomez Papi
Physician. Pediatric Service.
University Hospital of Tarragona "Joan XXIII"
Breastfeeding Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics

Seville, June 13, 2011
Josefa Aguayo Maldonado
Chief of the Neonatology Section,
Hospital Virgen del Rocío. Sevilla
Breastfeeding Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics

Madrid, June 13, 2011
M. Carmen Alonso Pallás
Head of Neonatology
Hospital 12 de Octubre. Madrid
Breastfeeding Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics

Related Reading / What You Can Do:

Amor Maternal Post on Habiba and Alma

EL PAÍS (major Spanish newspaper) article "Más apoyos para Habiba"

Spanish Childcare Case Provokes International Campaign [Sheila Kitzinger speaks] 

Spanish Mother and Baby Reunited After Breastfeeding Row

**Sign the Petition in support of Habiba and Alma**

Support Fundación Raíces and if you are Spanish speaking, join the Que el IMMF permita que Habiba amamante a su niña YA group on Facebook. 

Contact the Spanish Embassy in your area. List of Spanish Embassies.

Send a message of support to Salvador Victoria Bolívar, currently commissioner for Family and Social Affairs in Madrid, Spain. Bolívar is newly appointed and supervises Paloma Martin (IMMF Manager)

Fax the IMMF and let them know why you support Habiba and Alma. Fax: 00 34 915803747

Ask your local newspaper or television station to cover this story.


Why Love Matters

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost

The Baby Bond

Our Babies, Ourselves

The Science of Parenting

6/22/11 UPDATE

Dr. Ibone Olza uploaded this photo at 1:00pm EST of Habiba finally reunited with her daughter, Alma.

Fundación Raíces posted an official update on the Facebook group support page, "Que el IMMF permita que Habiba amamante a su niña YA":

They're TOGETHER; HUGGING AND FREE!!! Little Alma recuperates emotionally with her head on her mother's chest, without taking her head off for so much as an instant, as though this whole ordeal had been a bad dream. Habiba is glowing as we had never seen her before. We assure you that everything you've done has been worth it. Alma, Habiba, as well as all the people at Fundación Raíces will be forever greatful for all your support.



  1. So great, but I am worried, would they take the baby again? I know my 13 mo old son needs my constantly even though he is fiercely independent as well. He still nurses and will self it should be! Perhaps Hillary Clinton needs ot say something or help?

  2. "If ever there comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of humankind it will be a force such as the world has never known"

    I don't know who wrote this quote but it is quite fitting!!

  3. look at that chubby arm! This is a well fed child why some one would take her away from her mom? :)

  4. so sad! I cannot imagine someone taking my baby away from me for such an ABSURD reason!

  5. I am crying. Mamas and babies together. A fundamental good.

  6. What will become of their breastfeeding relationship? Will Alma accept the breast again (possibly without milk)? If Habbiba's milk has dried up and she cannot relactate, not only did she have to endure a terrible emotional trauma which will likely leave it's scars, but those b*st*rds will have stolen a lot of precious breastmilk from that baby for what would have been the duration of their breastfeeding relationship. I'm so relieved that baby is back with her mama that I could cry, but she and her mother have been wronged on so many levels and I'll bet they won't see any compensation for that. I can only hope that this terrible story (albeit with a happy ending) will stand as a lesson to those ignorant, uneducated morons who make these sorts of decisions (ie. commit these sorts of crimes) and that a change will be made for the better and no child and mother will have to suffer again like this.

  7. For the record, Habiba is absolutely free now to mother her baby as she wishes (this includes breastfeeding on cue), and Habiba and Alma are, indeed, pursuing/restoring their breastfeeding relationship. ♥

  8. It's a sad day when parenting NORMALLY and responsively is seen as being abnormal, unhealthy, or less favourable to detachment and using plastic props (pacis).

    And, sorry, but PUREES??!! For a baby over 12 months old?! How absurd?!



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