In a age where parenting styles seem to be ever evolving and changing, a country has finally passed definitive legislation that requires all babies born in the United Arab Emirates be breastfed for the first two years of their lives. Any mother who fails to meet this requirement can be sued by their husbands.
The basis of this law comes from the medical findings that suggest breast milk offers many health benefits for both mothers and their children. Mothers who breastfeed as less likely to develop osteoporosis and breast, uterine or ovarian cancers. It is also easier for these mothers to lose the weight gained during pregnancy. For children, breast feeding has been shown to increase resistance to diseases and infections, including juvenile diabetes and heart disease. Breastfeeding is also an important part of Islam which states that mothers have the responsibility to nourish their children from their bodies for a period of two years.
Under the new law, mothers who find themselves personally unable to nurse their children are not exempt. If a mother finds herself unable to breastfeed for health reasons, the family will be appointed a wet nurse.
While the new law in the UAE seems simple enough, many questions about logistics of the law (and beyond) have been raised by mothers’ support groups. One support group, Out Of The Blues, voiced their concerns about the new law including that, “while encouraging women to breastfeed is a laudable aim, it is by supporting those who can and want to breastfeed, and not by punishing those who can’t, that we will reap the benefits we all want to see in our society.”
In recent years breastfeeding seems to have become an increasingly hot button issue. In 2012, New York City Mayor Bloomberg introduced the “Latch On NYC” program wherein hospitals were encouraged to make it difficult for new mothers to obtain formula when leaving the hospital. Instead, they had to listen to a lecture on staff discouraging formula feeding unless absolutely necessary.
With childhood obesity and disease rates continually on the rise, would something as seemingly natural as breastfeeding be one of the keys to reverse these trends? Is the United Arab Emirates on the right path with their new legislation? Or is forcing mothers to breastfeed with the threat of being sued by their own husbands for disobeying going too far?