Imagine having your baby taken away from you for almost a month. For breastfeeding her.
Following an international campaign backed by childcare guru Sheila Kitzinger, a Spanish mother has won back custody of her 15-month-old child. Habiba and baby Alma were finally reunited three weeks after a Madrid social services committee temporarily removed the infant, allegedly because the mother "breastfed on demand".
Habiba's lawyer, Juan Ignacio de la Mata, claimed the reunion between mother and child was amazing to witness. "The child wouldn't leave her mother alone and you could see both of them slowly being transformed by the encounter. It was moving and very beautiful."
Habiba, who lived in a publicly funded home for single moms, was reportedly criticized for her breastfeeding habits and for co-sleeping with Alma. However, social services sources deny that Habiba's parenting style had anything to do with the child being removed.
"The report exists and forms part of her file," said De la Mata. "[Social Services'] judgments were made based on absolute ignorance." He claimed the decision to remove Alma had stemmed from Habiba's poor relationship with the home rather than her relationship with the child.
In many countries, a mother has a legal right to defend herself before social services can forcibly remove her child. In Spain, that system is backwards and archaic, with authorities "acting first and the mother having to appeal to get the child back".
It was only after three senior Spanish pediatricians rushed to Habiba's defence, claiming she seemed "more in tune" than Social Services when it came to international guidelines surrounding breastfeeding and sleeping patterns, that Alma was returned to her mother.
As a result of the lobbying, Habiba now has a new home (in an apartment for vulnerable women and children), offers of paid employment and a baby girl she never wants to leave her arms again.
Breastfeeding and co-sleeping is grounds to take away your baby? This has to stop."