Freezing Breast Milk to Establish Nursing Relationships

Freezing Breast Milk to Establish Nursing Relationships


Is it permissible to express and freeze breast milk for use later on (when the woman is not producing milk anymore) to establish rida’i relationships with the future offspring of sisters-in-law, siblings, cousins etc.?


In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

Islamically it is permitted that a child is breastfed by any other woman besides his own mother even without a need. Similarly, Islam gives permission to a woman to breastfeed a child that is not her own. This is something that is agreed upon by the scholars.

Allah Most High says:

“And if you decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided you pay (the foster-mother) what you offered, on equitable terms.” (Surah al-Baqarah, V: 233)

The Arabs had a custom of offering their children to wet-nurses, with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) being a classic example of this. He (Allah bless him & and give him peace) was breastfed by Thuwayba, the slave of Abu Lahb, and Sayyida Halima bint Abi Dhu’ayb (Allah be pleased with them both). (See: Sirah Ibn Hisham, 1/132). There are many other examples of this in the books of Sunna.

However, the condition is that the child is breastfed within the specific period designated for it, which is before the age of two and a half years, according to Imam Abu Hanifa and two years, according to his two students (Allah have mercy on them all). The position of his two students, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, is sounder, as mentioned by Imam Tumurtashi in his Tanwir al-Absar. As such, it will not be allowed to breastfeed a child who is above the age of two years, neither will this breastfeeding be of any consequence in terms of marriage and Hijab laws.

Given the above, it seems it will be permitted to freeze breast-milk so that it may be used later on to feed future offspring of one’s self or others. (See: Nizam al-Fatawa, 1/394).

As far as the relationship of fosterage (radha’a) is concerned, almost all of the Fuqaha agree that it is not necessary for a child to suck directly onto a woman’s breast in order for it to be established; rather, drinking a woman’s milk in any way would establish this relationship. Only Imam Ibn Hazm and Layth ibn Sa’d disagreed with this, and the Ulama, by and large, did not accept their viewpoint.

There is a Hadith in the Sahih of Imam Muslim where the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) advised Sahla bint Suhayl (Allah be pleased with her) to suckle Salim (whom she had adopted) in order that the rules of fosterage are established. (Sahih Muslim, no: 1453). Scholars of Hadith and others explain that due to the fact that Salim had attained puberty, Sahla would pour her breast-milk into a utensil and Salim would drink from it. Salim did not directly drink from the breast of Sahla. (See: Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d, 8/271 & al-Isaba, 4/337) As far as how and why the relationship of fosterage was established even after Salim had passed the two-year age limit, that is another issue altogether and was clarified in an earlier answer regarding this Hadith.

Imam Ibn Qudama (Allah have mercy on him), the renowned Hanbali jurist, states in his al-Mugni:

As far as the child drinking from other than a woman’s breast (wujur) is concerned, there are two conflicting narrations related (in the Hanbali School), but the more authentic of the two is that prohibition (of marriage) will be established with it as it is established with direct sucking. This is also the position of Sha’bi, Thawri, people of opinion (hanafis) and Imam Malik (Allah be pleased with them all)…… Our proof is that which Ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) has narrated from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace): “There is no (effective) nursing except that which hardens the bones and grows the flesh.2 Recorded by Imam Abu Dawud. Milk reaches the same place whether it was drank in some other way or by sucking on the breast, with the hardening of bones and growth of flesh taking place in both situations. Thus, both will be equal in establishing prohibition (i.e. the relationship of fosterage). (al-Mughni, 7/537-538)

In conclusion, there appears no Shar’i bar from freezing breast-milk and providing it for future offspring and that this will establish the relationship of fosterage (rada’a). However, this permissibility is conditional to no other unlawful activity taking place, such as mixing the milk of various women and giving it to a child. Contemporary scholars have ruled that it is impermissible to feed a child the milk of various women that was frozen and stored in a milk bank, as that would lead to the confusion is establishing foster relationships. The Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah consisting of many top scholars from across the Muslim world passed a judgement stating that Muslim countries will be prevented from opening such banks, and that it will be unlawful to have a child fed from a milk bank. (See: Qararat wa tawsiyat majma’ al-fiqh al-Islami, P 17)

Moreover, it will not be permitted to trade in a woman’s milk. The jurists (fuqaha) are quite clear on the fact that it is unlawful to purchase and sell parts of a human being. The Qur’an permits the hiring of wet-nurses and compensating them, but there is a fundamental difference between “hiring” a wet-nurse and “trading” in milk. Hence, it will not be permitted to buy or sell milk, whether individually or from a milk bank.

In other words, there are two conditions for the permissibility of freezing breast-milk and feeding it to future offspring:

1) The milk should not be mixed with that of other women in a way that it would create confusion as to whose milk the child has drank. One must be extremely cautious in this regard

2) There must be no payment in return for breast-milk.

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

Question #: 5827
Published: 27/12/2005

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