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Donor human milk for Muslim infants in the UK
  1. T C Williams1,
  2. M Z Butt2,
  3. S M Mohinuddin3,4,
  4. A L Ogilvy-Stuart5,
  5. M Clarke6,
  6. G A Weaver7,
  7. M S Shafi2
  1. 1Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2Muslim Council of Britain, London, UK
  3. 3Neonatal Transfer Service, Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK
  4. 4School of Health Sciences, City University, London, UK
  5. 5Neonatal Unit, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK
  6. 6Department of Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK
  7. 7United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking, The Milk Bank, Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Williams, Neonatal Unit, Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 51 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh, EH16 4SA, UK; Thomas.Williams{at}

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Donor human milk (DHM) is currently used in neonatal units (NNUs) for feeding preterm infants when own mother's milk is not available or insufficient. In 2014, the latest Cochrane review1 showed that in preterm and low birthweight infants, feeding with formula compared with DHM results in a higher risk of developing necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). As the incidence of NEC increases in relation to the other complications of preterm birth,2 there is growing interest in the use of DHM, as evidenced by an expansion in the number of milk banks worldwide (currently >500 in 44 countries).3 In the UK, it is estimated that 75% of neonatal intensive care units4 use DHM for the feeding of infants, most commonly for those at high risk of NEC.

However, one part of the world where the use of DHM is not growing is in countries with predominantly Muslim population. Here, the introduction of anonymised DHM has been challenged by the Islamic concept of milk kinship. The sharing of human milk, historically in the form of a wet nurse, creates kinship ties and thus marriage prohibitions between the family of the donor and recipient.5 Surveys have shown that these beliefs may also affect the acceptability of DHM to Muslim parents …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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