Many argue that breast is best — but best or not, should it be mandated by law? A new law in the United Arab Emirates says it should.
The Federal National Council’s Child Rights law is a first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates. Aimed at protecting children from abuse and mistreatment, the law is a welcome change. But one clause of the Child Rights law has women up in arms whether they breastfeed or not. New moms in the United Arab Emirates are now required by law to breastfeed for two years.
Mandatory wet nurses for those who can’t breastfeed
When mothers are unable to breastfeed, a wet nurse will be provided. Can you imagine being forced to have another woman breastfeed your child? How will these women be screened? Who’s going to pay them? The law doesn’t appear to take into account the intricacies of any new mom and new baby’s relationship with breastfeeding. Deciding whether or not a woman is medically able to breastfeed — or not — is a complicated decision involving her physical and mental health as well as the baby’s needs. It’s not a one size fits all issue. As for those who simply choose not to nurse? Right now the consequences are unclear. Husbands may be able to sue their wives for not breastfeeding, further complicating an issue that should ultimately be any woman’s personal choice — not an opportunity for a man to exercise control.
No additional provisions or assistance for working moms
Two years is a long time. For working women, it’s extremely difficult to continue breastfeeding for that long. The United Arab Emirates’ Child Rights law mandates breastfeeding without putting into place a support system for the mothers who are ultimately being relegated to nothing more than a source of healthy nutrition. Pumps are expensive. Women aren’t always given a clean, private place to pump or an adequate space to store breast milk. Women aren’t encouraged to nurse in public freely. How are women supposed to commit to a legal ideal of extended breastfeeding without any type of support or incentive?
We already know that breast is best
For almost every baby, breast milk is the healthiest food. But healthiest doesn’t mean that formula is harmful. Women need to be able to make decisions that benefit their lifestyle, parenting choices, mood and health. For some women — and for some babies — the best solution is formula feeding. If any country wants to increase breastfeeding rates, mandatory laws aren’t the answer. Support for women who choose to breastfeed is a natural way to encourage others to follow that path. Best doesn’t mean easiest, and nursing moms need support at home and in the workplace to breastfeed successfully.
Should women be required to breastfeed their newborns?