Islamic Beliefs About Milk Kinship and Donor Human Milk in the United States

Pediatrics. 2021 Feb;147(2):e20200441. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-0441.


Milk kinship is an Islamic belief that human milk creates a kinship between the breastfeeding woman and her nonbiological nursing infant (as well as the woman's biological nursing infants) prohibiting future marriages between "milk brothers and sisters." As such, Muslim families in the Western world may be reluctant to use donor human milk from human milk banks given the anonymity and multiplicity of donors. Health care providers for the mother-newborn dyad should be aware of this belief to have respectful, informed conversations with Muslim families and appropriately advocate for healthy newborn feeding. With this article, we outline the basis of milk kinship in Islamic beliefs, explore religious and bioethical interpretations of milk kinship, and provide information for physicians and other health care workers to become more knowledgeable about this practice.

MeSH terms

  • Culturally Competent Care*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Islam* / psychology
  • Milk Banks*
  • Milk, Human*
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Tissue Donors* / ethics
  • Tissue Donors* / psychology
  • United States