Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Malaysian mothers user Facebook to share breast milk


KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11 — From a social networking service for friends, families and even businesses to stay connected, netizens are now milking Facebook’s uses for a more creative objective - to share breast milk.
In Malaysia, a Facebook page for local mothers who are either in need of breast milk or have surplus to donate to others, has been gathering steam in recent times, drawing today over 6,000 “likes” from web users.
The page - “Human Milk 4 Human Babies - Malaysia” - is the Malaysian chapter of a global milk-sharing network on Facebook called the Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) that was founded in 2010 by Emma Kwasnica, a breastfeeding activist living in Vancouver, Canada.
The HM4HB website states that the milk-sharing network is spread across 52 countries, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.
Young mother Nurlailtatul Munira Razmi joined the network three months ago when she stumbled across a Facebook post from a mother who wanted to donate breast milk to premature babies. 
After Nurlailatul Munira was satisfied with the mother’s health status, the 32-year-old school counselor received a coolbox, which contained over 50 cups of breast milk, that was posted from the milk-mother living in Kuantan, Pahang, to her home in Perlis. 
“My son, he’s a premature baby, who depends 100 per cent on a mother’s milk,” Nurlailatul Munira told The Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.
“He needs a lot. I can’t produce much, so I had to look for a milk-mum,” she added. 
Nurlailatul Munira said that she has never met the milk-mother in person, but only chatted to her on Facebook after receiving the breast milk that sustained her four-month-old son from the age of three weeks until three months. 
He is now on formula milk after the doctor gave the green light, Nurlailatul Munira added, noting that the milk-mother had also recently fallen ill.
The HM4HB-Malaysia Facebook page has an online bulletin board that contains the personal particulars and contact details of mothers who wish to donate breast milk or who are looking for donations.
If one is unable to find a match, she can contact the network administrators who will then broadcast messages on the Facebook page.
“The World Health Organisation’s Infant Feeding Recommendation places in order of preference the mother’s own milk and donated breast milk above formula milk in their hierarchy,” Danielle Sweetman, one of the HM4HB-Malaysia administrators, told The Malay Mail Online in an email interview earlier this week.
“This is because breast milk contains a huge range of natural compounds, nutrients, minerals and antibodies, while formula milk contains only a portion of those items, which are chemically manufactured, and no antibodies,” she added.
Sweetman said that most mothers express breast milk and store it in bottles or bags before donating it, though there have been a few cases where the mother nurses the child directly.
Religion, however, appears to be a significant factor in milk-sharing among mothers in Malaysia, a country frequently roiled by racial and religious tensions. 
On the HM4HB-Malaysia online bulletin board, many Muslim mothers say that they are only looking for other Muslim milk-mothers, or that they only wish to breastfeed milk-babies whose mothers also share the same faith. 
Sweetman stressed that according to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), it is “not haram (forbidden) for a Muslim baby to take milk from a non-Muslim mum”, but it is "makruh, which means it is not highly encouraged, but acceptable”.
She noted that pork is “haram” in Islam, but acknowledged that eating pork was not much different from eating other meats in terms of how it would affect breast milk.
“Nutritionally, the consumption of pork would be considered similarly as the consumption of other meats - give or take some calories, nutrients and also preparation of the meat,” said Sweetman.
She also pointed out that in Islam, a child who takes the breast milk of a woman other than his mother is akin to being her actual son.
“The woman’s husband becomes his milk-father, the woman’s children become his milk-siblings, the woman’s family becomes his family and thus they are unable to marry each other, just like blood family,” said Sweetman.
“This implication means it is easier to commit in this familial relationship with people of the same religion because they are aware of the hukum (law) already and don’t need much explaining,” she added.
Administrative coordinator Siti Rokiah Mustaffa said that she had to look for a Muslim milk-mother to breastfeed her one-year-old daughter because of the family-like ties that would be formed between them, but has yet to find one.
“Our religion is quite difficult. If I’m a Muslim, I must look for a Muslim,” the 31-year-old mother, who lives in Selangor, told The Malay Mail Online.
Zarina Mohd Ramly, a 39-year-old assistant manager in corporate care, said that her eight-month-old son was given express breast milk by two Muslim milk-mothers.
“Muslims have certain things that we can’t eat like pork,” she told The Malay Mail Online.
“What you eat is also being brought into the milk of the mother. So we need to make sure,” she added, but noted that it was not an iron rule to avoid non-Muslim milk-mothers.
The HM4HB-Malaysia Facebook page also featured a “very rare” story in 2011 about a Muslim mother who allowed her baby to take breast milk from a non-Muslim milk-mother. 
“The Quran for one, does not mention anything about receiving a non-Muslim mother’s breast milk as haram,” a Muslim woman called Afiza was quoted as saying.
“And to be honest, I am not worried about the diet of Andy’s milk-mother as whatever a mother eats, her milk is still liquid gold according to many sources,” added the mother, whose full name was not given.

No comments: