Cover story for Pulse@UM Year 2020 Issue 3: Health at the Crossroads – An Interdisciplinary Approach

Breast Milk Sharing in Ethnically Diverse Malaysia

By Tik Maimunah, Prof Dr Maznah Dahlui and Dr. Nik Daliana Nik Farid

Breastfeeding has well-established health benefits to mothers and infants. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants who are not able to receive breast milk from their own mothers should receive breast milk from others as an alternative. This programme will emphasize the socio-medical and scientific basis of breastfeeding and breast milk sharing from the perspective of religious teaching, in a setting of a multicultural society in Malaysia. Therefore, the project will primarily examine the level of obligation of breastfeeding as well as the permissibility of alternatives to breastfeeding that are found to be beneficial in certain circumstances such as in premature newborn and critically ill condition. However, in a Muslim-majority country and a multiracial background, milk sharing practices remains controversial due to the concept of “milk kinship” in Islam.  This requires in-depth analysis from the Islamic legal principles and maxims. Therefore, these premises of the project will be covered by the sub-programme one. 

Meanwhile, the scientific basis of the influence of breast milk on growth and development of the newborn also needs an empirical evidence to reinforce its acceptance, practice and sharing. Hence, scientific evidence on the nutritional aspects especially in protein composition and immuno-protective components of the breast milk will be investigated in sub-programme two. This would hopefully provide important insights on whether the profiles of biomolecules in human milk differ from the first to the second year of lactation, as well as their roles in the development of the infant’s immune system and growth. 

Our IIRG team joined the Gift of Love event in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week
The event organized by The Breastfeeding Advocates Network (TBAN) on 4th August 2019.

In order to translate the outcomes from the two sub-programmes at the level of the community, recommendation and implementation of the practices will require further analysis especially on the perception and acceptance en masse. The scope of this objective will come under the investigation of the sub-programme three. 

Overall, the findings obtained from this study will be important in giving a new insight into the perspective of breast milk sharing in Malaysia especially in developing a policy that address the ethical and safety issues while ensuring that strict guidelines are adhered and according to the teachings of Islam.

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