Sunday, 19 June 2011


This case has now reached over 10000 people via Facebook, both in Spain and Internationally. We have many proffesionals supporting us. And on the 15th of June many Spanish consulates around the world received our petitions to reunited this mother and child to prevent any further distress.
Here is a timeline of the story so far:

Madrid, Spain, June 16, 2011. On May 30, 2011, the Minor and Family Institute of Madrid, Spain (IMMF - Instituto MadrileƱo del Menor y la Familia) separated a 15 months old child from her mother because she would not comply with their demand that she wean her daughter. Spanish laws allow the state to remove children without a court order or a medical report. It is a purely administrative process, that parents or guardians can contest in court, after the removal has taken place. The child was removed to a different shelter without explanation or notice, and the mother was evicted from the shelter. The IMMF claims that the mother’s parenting practices (which included on-cue breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and “being affectionate”) were chaotic and harmful to her child.[1] In the case file, there is no medical or professional report as no medical or professional evaluation was conducted on the mother or the child while in the shelter. After leaving the shelter, the mother was examined by independent physicians who have found no sign of mental instability and no prior history of mental illness or drug abuse. The ombudsman released a letter asking that mother and child are urgently reunited, due to the mental and physical health of the child. Despite all of these facts, mother and child are still apart.

The story has generated a swift and passionate response from many members of the populace, but perhaps more so with mothers than anyone else. Social-networking websites like Facebook and Twitter have led to the rapid development of an international movement that has already staged protests in Spanish embassies and consulates around the world. Prestigious personalities have come forward and denounced a legal system they deem unfair for parents and children. The case has also drawn criticism from medical experts and breastfeeding advocates who condemn the government agency for acting in a manner that contradicts what the international community of medical doctors and psychiatrists generally agree to be in the best interests of both mothers and children.

As is common with women staying in shelters, the names of the mother and child are being protected for their security. The alias chosen for purposes of the public campaign for the mother is “Habiba” and that for the child is “Alma.” The mother and child are immigrants from Morocco, who sought shelter at the IMMF in February after escaping from an abusive family situation.


May 30, 2011. The Minor and Family Institute of Madrid, Spain (IMMF - Instituto MadrileƱo del Menor y la Familia), dependent of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, separated the child from her mother 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. There is no medical report attached to the case worker’s files. The case workers consider Habiba ‘a bit immature’ and with a ‘certain degree of instability’ but no psychological exams have been done to Habiba while in the shelter. Pediatric reports or general medical reports had not been conducted either. This is compatible with the law for protection of minors, that gives IMMF the faculty to remove children without a court order and has a very broad definition of what constitutes a ‘situation of risk’ for a child.

June 1st, 2011. Habiba seeks the help of Fundacion Raices, a Madrid-based human rights advocacy organization that assists immigrants, youth, and families. That same day, Raices contacts Dr. Ibone Olza, a child psychiatrist, writer, professor, researcher, advocate and lactation specialist. Habiba undergoes several medical examinations and Dr. Olza concludes the mother is mentally healthy and has no prior history of mental illness or drug abuse.

June 2nd, 2011. A precautionary measure is presented in Family Court asking that the child is immediately given to her mother, or in it’s defect, that measures are taken to help restore the bond, such as visitation, communication and breastfeeding. The precautionary measure includes medical reports conducted by independent physicians

June 5, 2011. The Ombudsman receives hundreds of letter about the case and decides to investigate it, further issuing a report. The report considers that Habiba’s rights have been respected by the Community of Madrid, but that mother and child have a strong emotional bond and their relationship should be allowed to be as broad as possible.[2]

June 7, 2011. The District Attorney's Office interviews Habiba and announces the DA will contest the decision made by IMMF to separate mother and daughter.[3]

June 14, 2011. Dr. Carmen Pallas, head of the NICU of a hospital in Madrid, Dr. Adolfo Gomez from the University Hospital of Tarragona, and Josefa Aguayo of the Virgen del Rocio hospital in Seville, all members of the Breastfeeding Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, issued a statement disputing the IMMF’s position.[4] “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.”

June 15, 2011. demonstrations take place in many embassies and consulates around the world:

June 16, 2011.
Ombudsman releases a letter asking for mother and child to be urgently reunited, due to the child’s mental and physical health. [5]

June 16, 2011. Habiba is allowed to see her daughter, with supervision. While visiting. Alma begins rooting for the breast. As she is about to latch, a supervisor energetically yells ‘NO’, preventing Habiba from nursing her baby.