When Breast Isn't Just Best -- It's the Law
Should women face legal consequences if they don't breastfeed their children?
The health benefits of breastfeeding are well established, with the World Health Organization recommending breastfeeding through age 2. But government officials in one country want to go beyond simply recommending nursing to their citizens.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), some officials want to require breastfeeding under the law.
The UAE is debating a new Child Rights Law that includes a clause requiring mothers to breastfeed their children until the age of 2. Supporters of the breastfeeding clause in the Islamic country argue that nursing is beneficial for children’s health, improves mother-child bonding and is endorsed in the Quran, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
“This is the right of every child for two years,” Sultan Al Sammahi, a member of UAE’s Federal National Council told Haaretz. He said women who couldn’t breastfeed would be provided with wet nurses.
The newspaper also reported that, under the law, men could sue their wives for refusing to breastfeed.
International breastfeeding advocates aren’t exactly on board with the cause. One La Leche League member told Haaretz that the breastfeeding “relationship… cannot be legislated.”
Here in the US, a number of moms–including those who breastfed their children and those who didn’t–told me they were glad a similar measure isn’t on tap for this country.
“I don’t know what the culture is like in the UAE, but I know I wouldn’t want my government instructing me on how to take care of my child,” New York mom Kim Malone Gooley said.
Mommyish blogger Carrie Murphy wrote that mandating breastfeeding is “offensive and ridiculous” though she also noted that she’s “slightly appreciative that the UAE wants to support breastfeeding on a state level.”
“I’d argue that here in the United States, society doesn’t truly support breastfeeding, even with all the pro-lactation propaganda we’re seemingly bombarded with as women,” she wrote.
The idea of a breastfeeding law ignited a firestorm of criticism in the US several years ago after supermodel Gisele Bundchen told Harper’s Bazaar UK that women, worldwide, should be required to breastfeed their children for their first six months of life.
At the time, critics derided Bundchen her as sanctimonious and out-of-touch. Bundchen later backpedaled, according to The Huffington Post, writing on her blog that, “My intention in making a comment about the importance of breastfeeding has nothing to do with the law. It comes from my passion and beliefs about children… I think as mothers we are all just trying our best.”
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