Petition Closed
Petitioning Manager Paloma Martin and 1 other

Worldwide Mothers support Habiba! IMMF Give her baby back

On May 30, 2011, the Minor and Family Institute of Madrid, Spain (IMMF - Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia) took a child away from her mother because she would not comply with their demand that she abruptly wean her daughter using medication to dry her milk supply.  The child was removed to a different shelter without explanation or notice, and the mother was evicted from the shelter. The IMMF claims that Habiba’s parenting practices (which included on-cue breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and “being affectionate”) were chaotic and harmful to her child.

No legal procedure was or has been followed to separate this mother from her daughter.  She was not allowed to say goodbye to her daughter and she was not told where they were taking the child, provoking feelings of severe helplessness.

Habiba was thrown to the streets in the same moment that her daughter was taken, she was told there was no longer a place for her as the residence was for mothers and she did not have a daughter anymore. A humanitarian aid foundation has given her protection, shelter, sustenance and legal aid.

We consider the case of Habiba and her daughter to be a severe violation of Human Rights and Children’s Rights. The damage is already done, but if mother and daughter can reunite it can be healed. We demand the immediate release of the child to her mother.

Medical Statement Documenting Habiba's Parenting Capacity:


Author Sheila's Kitzinger declaration on the case:
Far from protecting a child, the separation of a breastfed baby from her mother is an act of violence against both the woman and her child (Klaus M, Kennell J. Maternal Infant Bonding, St Louis: Mosby, 1976). It can have long-term psychological and social consequences (Winnicot D. Babies and their Mothers, Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1987). Research into the social origins of depression reveals that a major element in unhappiness is the lack of an intimate, confiding relationship. That starts with the closeness of mother and baby and the spontaneous communication between them (Brown B, Harris T. Social Origins of Depression, London: Tavistock, 1978). This institutional violence also reveals an amazing ignorance of breastfeeding and human psychology.

Baby-led weaning is normal in many countries around the world. It is not just about the mother possessing the baby, but the development of relationships. Anthropological evidence reveals that baby-led weaning is often common in societies where breastfeeding is not medicalised (Kitzinger S. Rediscovering Birth, London: Pinter and Martin, 2011).

This baby must be returned to her mother as a matter of urgency and should be able to suckle whenever she wants to.

Sheila Kitzinger MBE, M Litt, Honorary Professor Thames Valley University, author of 'Breastfeeding Your Baby', 'Understanding Your Crying Baby', 'Rediscovering Birth' and 23 books on birth, breastfeeding and the sociology of motherhood, published in 24 countries.

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Letter to
Manager Paloma Martin
Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia
I am writing to you about Alma, a fifteen month old little girl whose life and health are in serious
danger. Your decision to separate this child from her mother, Habiba, is a serious error, causing immense physical and psychological harm to both mother and child.

Dr. Olza, the psychiatrist who evaluated Habiba, as well as a psychologist, whose name has not
yet been released coincide in their impressions on Habiba:

"I'm under the impression that [Habiba] is a sensible and loving mother, with a healthy
attachment to her child."

"It is obvious that this separation is highly stressful for the nursling and I can easily predict
oncoming symptoms of psychic distress if the physical and emotional bond with her mother is
not immediately restored"

"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."

"As a child psychiatrist, I know that suddenly separating a fifteen month old child from her
mother, transferring her to a government facility with no one the child is familiar with present,
causes great damage that could have enduring psychological consequences, if not reunited as
soon as possible."

This small girl is undergoing unbelievable stress to that age: she has been separated abruptly
and involuntary from her mother, from whom she had never been separated.

Alma has spent too many days without seeing her mother, without knowing anything about her. They have been allowed to be together during a brief hour, and then they were separated again. The girl must be feeling a mortal anguish, an indescribable sinking feeling. That her mother has left her, perhaps that she is dead, that her known world has vanished and has become a hell where there isn't any of the persons that she has known in her short life. Experience of death, abandonment and deep depression.

Her vision of the world will never be the same and hardly she will be able to trust again. The
sudden, abrupt, and therefore, brutal separation, alters all the neuro-hormonal system of the
child. Cortisol (the stress hormone) will go off to astronomical levels. An intense response of
survival will be triggered. If the stress, that is to say, the separation from the mother continues,
later her immunological defenses will lower to minimum levels. Then it will be very probable that
she contracts an infection that, along with her emotional state of deep depression, may have
devastating consequences.

We consider the case of Alma and Habiba to be a severe violation of Human Rights and
Children’s Rights. The damage is already done, but if mother and daughter can reunite it can be

For this reason, we ask that you demand the IMMF allow the immediate release of Alma, to her mother.