Induced Lactation from Islamic Point of View
Breast milk is a natural food that is developed in the body of a mother for her baby. Breast milk is indeed the best food for babies especially in their early stage of infancy. At that stage, the digestive system of a baby is neither fully mature nor ready for solid foods until he is around six months of age. Nutrients in breast milk is the best food during this age because it can be easily digested by babies.
However, due to certain reasons, some mothers face lactation insufficiency. This condition causes them to produce breast milk in daily volumes that do not fully meet the nutritional needs for the consumption of their babies. Various methods are utilised to overcome the problem, such as the use of formula milk and help from the wet nurse.
Another method that was introduced is induced lactation technique. This technique involves hormones injection with the combination of oral medications to stimulate and enhance the production of breast milk.
The use of induced lactation technique involves “tricking” the human body with cues that tell it to produce milk. Surprisingly, this technique is also possible for stimulating lactation in women who have never been pregnant nor given birth before.
Therefore, women who are unable to conceive after several attempts, and then choose to adopt a baby, may undergo induced lactation in order to make breastfeeding possible. In another scenario, a woman who do not wish to get married or to being single by circumstances, may also go for induced lactation if she chooses to adopt a baby on her own.
Among the Muslim community, the use of artificial method to stimulate breast milk raises a few concerns especially regarding the permissibility of induced lactation permissible in Islamic perspective. In this regard, the Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Affairs in their meeting from 13th to 15th October 2011 has ruled that the use of artificial method to stimulate breast milk is permissible. The same permissibility is also granted to women who are neither married and nor pregnant.
Breastfeeding builds a strong bond between the mother and her adoptive children. In Islam, a woman becomes a milk mother to a child after fulfilling a few regular breastfeeding. Breastfeeding a child three to five or more feeds when he is under two years old gives the child similar rights of a birth child. It also makes the infant a mahram with the woman who has breastfed him. A mahram is an unmarriageable kin with whom sexual relations is considered incestuous.
In general, the infant will become mahram with the milk parents and their lineage because a milk kinship is established. However, in the case of induced lactation, where the stimulation is not natural, will it result in the same effect as natural breastfeeding?
There are deliberations within the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence pertaining to the issue involving non-married and non-pregnant woman that produces breast milk and give breastfeeds. According to al-Kasani from the school of Hanafi, al-Dusuqi from the school of Maliki, Imam al-Syafi‘i the founder of the school of Syafi’i, and Ibn Qudamah from the school of Hanbali, there is no doubt that when a woman who has never been pregnant before, yet has breast milk, and breastfeeds a baby (in a certain amount), then the baby becomes her child.
Thus, if the woman breastfeeds a baby with the help of induced lactation, the baby becomes hers due to milk kinship. However, another question arises regarding the relationship between the husband and the baby that is breastfed by his wife. This is because the husband has no part in creating the breast milk supply.
According to the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence, the husband is the “owner” of the breast milk, because it is formed as a result of intercourse between the husband and wife which subsequently leads to pregnancy and birth.
Therefore, in the case of induced lactation, where the wife has never been pregnant before, the husband is not considered as the “owner” of the breast milk because he has no role in creating the supply. Consequently, the husband is not considered as the milk father of the baby that is breastfed by his wife through this method.
Nevertheless, the husband is still considered a mahram with the baby, but the mahram status is not due to the lineage factor, rather through marriage with the milk mother. His relationship with the baby is similar to the relationship between a step-father and step-daughter. Therefore, other than himself, the relatives from his lineage (except for his children with the milk mother), are non-mahram to the baby that is breastfed by his wife.
In summary, Islam emphasises a clear distinction regarding who is considered a mahram and who is not. This is because, there are code of ethics that need to be kept in mind when it involves interaction between mahrams and non-mahrams especially in terms of decency and aurah (any part of the body that is prohibited from being revealed to the non-mahram).
Induced lactation has a unique effect especially when it concerns the status of mahram and non-mahram. The Muslim community needs to be informed on this matter. For a more detailed reading, it is highly recommended to refer to a published research entitled “Ta’sil Fiqhi (Fiqh Foundation) for a Husband’s Status with the Breastfed Child with his Wife through Synthetic Hormone Injection”.