Religious leaders mull conditions for ‘breast milk bank’

Religious leaders mull conditions for ‘breast milk bank’

ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
Religious leaders mull conditions for ‘breast milk bank’

A ‘breast milk bank’ will first be established in İzmir, according to the Health Ministry.

The Health Ministry is seeking the opinion of the Religious Affairs Directorate, as well as Jewish and Christian community leaders, to determine whether there is any religious objection to supplying breast milk to babies who cannot receive it from their own mothers.

Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu said they had received positive response so far from the Religious Affairs Directorate and were expecting responses from the Christian and Jewish communities.

The directorate has delivered positive response on the issue despite an Islamic injunction that bans marriage between non-related people that were breastfed by the same woman, he said.

Müezzinoğlu underlined the importance of breast milk for babies as it is almost irreplaceable, while answering reporters’ questions about a project to open a “breast milk bank.”

“Providing breast milk to babies who cannot access it is the Health Ministry’s responsibility. We want to achieve this,” he added. The directorate’s opinion was that the project would be “useful but has risks that necessitate caution,” the minister said, adding that nobody was saying the project was harmful. “The hesitance on [taking necessary] measures are being discussed now. We will put this project into action on the day we succeed in overcoming hesitance,” said Müezzinoğlu. 

The Jewish and Christian communities have said “they will work on the issue and make a response,” he said. The minister also said they asked for the opinions of religious groups in order to remove any worries on the part of the public, adding that they were aware of the risks in the project and that they would take criticisms very seriously.

As part of the project, breast milk will be supplied to a baby that has the same gender as the baby whose mother provided the milk. Medical examinations will also be conducted, and those who supply and demand the milk will first have to provide permission. The information of the babies who receive breast milk from another mother will also be registered in a family register that both babies will be able to access later in life. Families will be provided information about their breast milk mother and siblings by the “breast milk bank.”

Müezzinoğlu also said the breast milk would be taken from people of different religions but added that there would be no problem on the issue provided the families’ permission is first taken. He also said the measures may differ in time, according to the conditions of the families.

Meanwhile, the Religious Affairs Directorate told the Hürriyet Daily News in a written statement that mothers who supply the breast milk to the bank should not deprive their own babies of the breast milk. 

In addition to the measures cited by the health minister, the directorate said the breast milk should not be sold to babies in need and that mothers who provide it should be paid only the costs of the money they have spent to provided it. The directorate also said the babies who have a chance to receive their mother’s milk should not be included in the system. 

A breast milk bank will be opened in the Aegean province of İzmir on March 8, the minister said.