Muslim pre-term babies can benefit from first human milk bank in Singapore: MUIS

Muslim pre-term babies can benefit from first human milk bank in Singapore: MUIS

milk bank
Donated human breast milk at Singapore's first human milk bank at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) will be screened thoroughly to ensure it is free from bacterial contamination. (Photo: Monica Kotwani) 

SINGAPORE: Muslim babies in Singapore will be able to benefit from the newly launched donor human milk bank, after the Fatwa Committee said on Thursday (Aug 17) that the programme is in line with objectives set out under Islamic law, which include emphasising the need for the preservation of human life.

The committee falls under the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS). Singapore’s top Islamic 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."

Explaining the concerns to Channel NewsAsia, Ustaz Irwan Hadi said that if a baby consumes human milk from a wet nurse, is under two years of age and has had five full feeds from the wet nurse, Islamic law provides that the baby has kinship ties with her. This means the baby cannot go on to marry her or her children later in life. 

“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 the Ustaz who was at the launch of the milk bank on Thursday.

That’s because information gathered by the committee showed that the source of milk supply given to pre-term babies will not be limited to one donor for each baby.

“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. 

The Fatwa Committee added that it received a query from KKH in October last year. It said the hospital wanted to get feedback from stakeholders on the setting up of a milk bank, and wanted to know the perspective of Muslim law on this issue.

It also wanted to know if pre-term Muslim babies can benefit from milk processed at the milk bank. 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. 

Source: CNA/mo