Before my son was born it was impressed upon me that breastfeeding was the most natural as a mother, like breathing air. I understood the nutritional value of breastfeeding and I was determined to make sure that my son was breastfed for as long as possible. How hard could it be right? I watched my Mom breastfeed my youngest brother up until he was nearly two and a half years old.
So when Daniel was born I made sure that I had a lactation specialist come see me, made sure that we had the right latch and guess what we struggled. Daniel and I struggled up until he was 5 weeks old and it was purely down to mechanics. Daniel had a slight over bite and after 5 weeks of a very hungry baby I, very reluctantly, gave Daniel his first bottle of formula. And it was like chalk and cheese! All of a sudden he started sleeping through, he gained weight and was all around a much happier little boy. I continued to combo feed until he was 4 months old when he weaned himself and we never looked back!
In late December 2013 rumors started doing their rounds that the UAE was going to make it a law that all mothers have to breastfeed up until their children are 2 years old at the minimum. We brushed off the idea thinking that this was a bit to far fetched and forgot about it. Then in February 2014 it was published that the UAE Federal Government had added a clause to its Child Rights Law, requiring mothers to breastfeed for at least the first two years of their child’s life. And this law immediately raised concerns because it gave husbands the right to sue their wives for not complying with the new law.
The Dubai-based group Out of the Blues (http://www.outoftheblues.support/), which supports mothers with postnatal illness, has warned that the law could criminalize women when they were at their most vulnerable. Any mom who has suffered with baby blues will know how much pressure you already feel to be the perfect parent, can you imagine the stress that this is going to add to an already emotional new mom!
Federal National Council members say the controversial clause making breastfeeding a right was not designed to punish mothers, but to improve the health of children.
My question regarding these new laws is how is the government going to implement the breastfeeding law? Are they going the make it impossible to buy formula by making it available only through prescription? Are they going to implement a strategy whereby if a pediatrician sees that you are not breastfeeding they are obligated to report what they saw to a complaints commission?
As it stands the UAE only offers new mothers 45 days maternity leave (this may differ if you are employed in a Free Zone), while Emirates like Sharjah are trying to make this term longer, I feel that 45 days is not enough time to spend at home especially if you have had a C Section and then still expect moms to breastfeed while working long hours. And then, will the Middle Eastern society become more comfortable with women breastfeeding in Malls and Shopping Centers? Because even though there is no official law against public breastfeeding it is still taboo and a women can be subjected to being kicked out of the area or fined for indecent public exposure.
We all agree that breastfeeding is very important, not only for nutrition, but for the mother child bond but not every woman can breastfeed and not every mom wants to. Should it not be the personal choice of the individual and not a law imposed upon her by a council of government bodies who think they know how to raise her child better than she does?
Or is this one of those moments where we say, “When in Rome?”