A politician from Venezuela has proposed legislation to improve that country’s breastfeeding rates — not by providing more maternity leave or lactation consultants, but by banning baby bottles.
Raising breastfeeding rates is an honorable goal, and Venezuelan politician Odalis Monzon joins the ranks of those who wish to do so, but her proposed legislation has left folks around the globe scratching their heads.
She doesn’t want to extend maternity leave or ensure that more medical professionals have sufficient training, however. Instead, she wants to ban baby bottles. Not just some, but all — including those that contain and deliver pumped breast milk. Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t have a lot of worldwide support.
Improve breastfeeding rates?
“We want to increase the love (between mother and child) because this has been lost as a result of these transnational companies selling formula,” Monzon said on state television on Thursday. Her desire to raise breastfeeding rates is admirable, but most feel that removing a mother’s choice to bottle feed is not the way to do so.
There are many reasons a mother cannot breastfeed her baby, and it encompasses much more than the exceptions the legislation lays out — namely, in cases of maternal death or when moms have limited breast milk production (determined by the government health ministry).
“It’s a horrible idea,” said Liz, mom of two. “What about mothers who can’t breastfeed because of medications they might need to take? Not only that but there are women who choose not to breastfeed for personal reasons, like rape survivors or just because they don’t feel comfortable. I agree that breastfeeding should be promoted and encouraged, but this is too extreme.”
In addition to mothers who cannot (or choose not to) breastfeed, working moms would totally be left in the dust. Venezuela’s mothers can take up to 26 weeks off after a baby’s birth with 100 percent pay. This of course far exceeds what mothers in the U.S. are entitled to, but this will put these moms back into the workforce when their baby is around six months old — a point where many babies are still exclusively breastfeeding.
Even breastfed babies who have started solids still nurse often. Moms who breastfeed and work outside the home will usually continue to pump until a child is around a year old, at a minimum. And moms often like to pump so they can get out for a bit without their little one. Where does this leave those mothers and their babies?
Most can appreciate where this lawmaker’s heart is because she recognizes that formula companies market to the most vulnerable population — new mothers. However, removing bottles from the grasp of moms doesn’t make sense on so many levels, and can only be seen as an effort for their government to further control a population that is already weary of interference from those who should be protecting them.