Posted: Apr 07, 2014 9:00 AM
The United Arab Emirates recently passed a clause to make breastfeeding mandatory for two full years after a baby is born. But is this about Baby's rights or another way for men to keep "control" of their wives?
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In the name of children's rights

At the beginning of the month, news broke that the United Arab Emirates' Federal National Council passed its first Child Rights Law. The act includes many articles including providing health care to women during pregnancy and new motherhood and protecting the children from abusive or unfit parents and sex offenders. It even includes punishments for those who sell tobacco products to children and who distribute child pornography on the internet. I see this as a beautiful movement toward progress for the betterment of women's and children's lives. However, there is one portion of the law with which I do not agree — the mandatory breastfeeding clause.

A child's right to breastfeed

According to The National, Sultan Al Sammahi, a member of the committee, said "it was the right of all children to be breastfed up to the age of 2." He went on to say that if mothers were neglecting their breastfeeding duties or if "complications arose" there would be a punishment. Hello!? While breastfeeding is smooth sailing for some, for others it is an exercise rife with complications from sheer supply to mastitis.

While breastfeeding is smooth sailing for some, for others it is an exercise rife with complications from sheer supply to mastitis.

Another committee member, Ahmed Al Shamsi, said the clause was designed to help Mother and Baby form a strong relationship. He added that breastfeeding should not be an option but rather a duty for able mothers. This is all in the name of the baby's health and its rights, of course.

Mariam Al Roumi, the Minister of Social Affairs, objected to the clause, saying it could lead to more court cases as husbands could sue their wives who did not breastfeed their babies. However, Salem Al Ameri contended that breastfeeding is a right for all children, as it states in Islam.

I wholeheartedly believe that breastfeeding a baby is one of the most beneficial things for both the mother and child, and I agree that it does help form a bond. I breastfed both of my children and loved the experience. But I do not think it should be a mandatory practice punishable by law. What about the women who simply cannot breastfeed? The committee suggested that a wet nurse would be provided in cases such as these. But talk about complications — adding a wet nurse brings a whole slew of those along with the simple act of nursing the baby. Would the mother who did not breastfeed be responsible for paying the wet nurse's wages? Who would determine which mothers are "rewarded" a wet nurse and what would those women have to do to prove that they indeed cannot breastfeed?

Breastfeeding complications

Even though the committee members claim this is about the health of the child rather than the mother's rights, I feel it takes away from the sanctity of the act of breastfeeding itself by making it a law. Breastfeeding is truly too complex an issue to try to make it mandatory.

Share with us!^ What do you think? Is mandatory breastfeeding the best practice for the health of a child or taking away a woman's right to choose?

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