Remember when Gisele Bundchen declared that there ought to be a law forcing all moms to breastfeed? Well, in one country that might actually happen. Lawmakers could pass a bill that would require new mothers to breastfeed their babies for two years, the amount of time recommended by the World Health Organization.
The mandatory breastfeeding law is part of a new, comprehensive Child's Rights Law being debated in the United Arab Emirates. Lawmakers say it's a mother's duty to breastfeed -- and it's the baby's right. They're pointing out the same health and developmental benefits American breastfeeding advocates do. But isn't making breastfeeding a law going too far?
In case you were wondering about women who can't breastfeed, they thought of that. Those women would be provided with a wet nurse. I don't know how they would decide if you've given it enough of a try, though. That could get interesting. And if you choose not to breastfeed? Your husband could sue you. Yeech!
Even members of La Leche League think the law is too much. Member Claire Bakker says breastfeeding is a personal experience: "This relationship and bond cannot be legislated." Quite right.
Okay. So. I will give the lawmakers this -- I agree with their priorities, at least. I think we share some values here, the importance of parent-baby bonding and nutrition. But taking away women's choice in the matter? That's way too intrusive. And it doesn't seem very modern, either.
How are they going to deal with breastfeeding in public? I mean, good luck imposing this breastfeeding law if you're not going to also support that. What, are women supposed to just stay home for the entire two years? LONGER if they have more than one child, as they probably would? That ain't gonna work. I wonder if they've thought that one through. The United Arab Emirates isn't Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, but women are generally expected to cover up quite a bit there.
I feel like I say this all the time, but if we really want to encourage breastfeeding, we have to think about support. Not coercion, not punishments, not criticism. What are the barriers to women breastfeeding? Let's tear them down and make sure every woman who wants to breastfeeding can. That's where it should start.
What do you think of making breastfeeding a law?
Image via Caitlin Regan/Flickr