Monday, January 13, 2014

Muslim Mothers: Creating New Kinships For "Adopted" Children Through Breastfeeding in Kuwait

When Dr. Anisa A-Jarallah first started volunteering to read stories and promote literature at the orphanage six years ago, she found her calling in life. Her heart was broken by the longing for attention, touch, and care that she could see in the eyes of the children she worked with. “The children are offered excellent medical care; in fact they are tended to by nurses. But the children are given no real emotions, no socializing moments, touch or care in the motherly sense,” says Dr. Anisa. “Lots of people and companies send these kids gifts and toys, but that’s not really what they want or need. They need human contact and relationships. I remember when I went to hug a child to calm him down, and he didn’t know how to react to this gesture. He stiffened up!”

This is why she established the “Kyan Voluntary Team.” Collaborating with the Family Nursery Department (of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor) she helps create programs for volunteer opportunities, cultural activities for the orphans and advocates for and creates awareness about adoption. When asked if there are any specific criteria in the volunteer candidates, she stressed that they “welcome everyone who finds in themselves the capability to love another human being.” 

After the “Color a Life” Campaign Dr. Anisa helped launch last year, adoption rates in Kuwait have improved dramatically. Recent articles (in the Kuwait Times and elsewhere) have highlighted the success of many adoptive families. However some families are hesitant to adopt because of concerns about disruption to the freedom of movement and intimacy shared within their home. Because of “Muhram”, adopted girls would need to cover around their male relatives, and female relatives would need to cover around an adopted boy. The only way to overcome these challenges is by creating a blood kinship with the child.  “The only way to develop a kinship connection or bond,” says Dr Anisa, “is by becoming a “milk mother” or a “milk-sibling” to someone in the family according to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. This means that the person breastfeeding the baby, either the adoptive mother or a woman with first degree kinship to the adoptive parents--- including the mother’s sister, aunt or daughter, daughter in-law, or niece, or the father’s sister, aunt, daughter, daughter in-law, or niece--- provides the baby with 5 fulfilling feeds when the baby is less than 2 years of age. The baby then religiously is considered to have a blood kinship to that family.” 

Dr Anisa is anxious for all adopted infants to have the opportunity of a blood kinship with their adoptive family and to enjoy the advantages of being breastfed. She hopes other adopting mothers will benefit from the experience of mothers who have either found a family member or been able to successfully breastfeed their adopted infant herself. “Some moms who were successful in breastfeeding their adoptive baby had to work hard, for months in advance, to help their body be in the right state to produce the necessary milk by taking hormone treatments under the supervision of a Lactation Specialist or OBGYN. “

Mothers considering breastfeeding an adopted infant in Kuwait or mothers with any other concerns regarding breastfeeding challenges should contact Dr. Alia, an experienced certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Pediatrician committed to helping all moms breastfeed their babies. Her contact info is listed on the BirthKuwait website,

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