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Singapore Fatwa Allows Human Milk Bank

SINGAPORE – Thanks to new ruling from Muslim fatwa committee in Singapore on Thursday, Muslim premature babies will be able to benefit from the newly launched donor human bank milk.

Singapore’s top Muslim scholar, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, said the Fatwa Committee is of the view that “there exists a situation of great difficulty that brings about a need for a solution for premature babies,” Channel News Asia reported on Thursday, August 17.

In Islam, breastfeeding has the effect of making a mahram relationship if the child was fed for five times or more from one woman.

“But based on the information and different combination of factors, our Fatwa Committee says for the purposes of babies who consume milk from the milk bank here from KKH (KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital), we do not think there is any kinship established,” said Ustaz Irwan Hadi who was at the launch of the milk bank on Thursday.

The committee, which falls under the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), said that the ruling followed confirmations that a baby would receive only one feed from each donor.

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“A particular donor’s milk that has been processed will be kept in a bottle with a 50ml capacity,” Dr Fatris explained in the statement.

“This will be split into the day’s feeds for the baby. This means that even if the baby is on full feeding, he or she will probably only get two to three full feeds from the same donor. This means that a premature baby will receive milk from different donors throughout the time in the NICU, without knowing the total amount of milk consumed from each individual donor.”

The statement explained that the biological mother’s milk will be given first if she starts to produce her own milk, with supplies from the milk bank taken only if the baby needs more.

“Based on the information received by the Fatwa Committee from the hospital, each baby will be consuming milk from about 20 donors, throughout his or her stay of about a month at the NICU,” Dr Fatris said.

“With that, Muslim families can confidently allow their babies to benefit from the milk bank and in fact we encourage Muslim mothers to become donors because that will be a wonderful thing also,” Ustaz Irwan said.

Citing figures from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, the committee said that about 6,500 babies are born to Muslim parents every year, out of a total of 42,000 births in Singapore.

Of those, 600 Muslim babies are premature, with most needing treatment in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This is about the same as the national average of 9 per cent of pre-term births.