The United Arab Emirates' Federal National Council has just passed a comprehensive Child's Rights Law which includes, among other things, the requirement that mothers breastfeed their babies until the age of 2.
Before we dissect this new law in the Emirates, let me first say that the United States isn't exactly known for its family-friendly policies, so perhaps we should not be the ones throwing the first stone. Still, what the????
The thought behind the legislation is that every child has the right to be breastfed, and the law will also increase that all-important bonding with your infant. Because nothing encourages positive bonding like legal threats! Your husband can turn you in for not b-fing, as well as anyone who thinks you are shirking your motherly duties. Which is such a great way to relax and just let nature happen, don't ya' think? Putting aside moms who are unable to breastfeed, babies who have health issues and cannot be nursed, and all of those distracting issues, let's talk logistics for just one minute. Is the UAE going to make every mom nice and comfortable and able to nurse wherever and whenever? Well, they're trying.
Unlike the United States, the Emirates are requiring workplaces to have a nursery on-site so working moms can have access to their babies. How fab would it be to drop in and nurse your baby during your work day? So fab. Of course, the problem is that the law is in place, and while nurseries at work have increased dramatically in the UAE, not every job site is equipped. I would also guess that not every boss is accommodating because some people are jerks. That state of affairs is not limited to the Emirates.
Additionally, if a mother cannot breastfeed (ummm, and who's making that call?) she can hire a wet nurse. No word on who will pay for that wet nurse, but hey, as long as that baby gets the breastmilk, that's priceless. Ahem.
Clearly this law is fraught. While breastfeeding is best for a babies' nutrition, it is not always possible. Having had a preemie who "failed to thrive" while breastfeeding, this law is terrifying. Will babies die because women are too afraid to ask for formula? Will formula be contraband?
Most importantly, why do women need to be told what to do to the tune of getting tossed in the slammer if you simply do not want to do it? Which is the crux of the issue here: Controlling women and their personal choices while hiding behind the cry of "it's for the children!" This is also, sadly, not limited to the UAE.