Women have been fighting to have equal rights or at least a semblance of sameness as men for centuries. A new law passed in the United Arab Emirates is a giant step backwards in the fight for equality. According to a new law, women must breastfeed their babies or face punishment. Actually, they must breastfeed for a full two years following the child’s birth. If you are a woman who has ever tried to do such a thing, you can understand why this is a major setback.
We have all heard the glowing reports about how awesome breastfeeding is. While we all know that is great to give a newborn the best shot at life via a mother’s breast milk, there are times it is not always quite so easy. Most doctors advise women to breastfeed for at least 6 months, but often prefer a solid year. To declare a law that a woman must breastfeed a child for 2 years is asinine. If you have never been around a 2-year-old you may not realize a child of this age walks, talks and has a mouth full of teeth. While many women appreciate the bonding experience breastfeeding brings, that experience is a little different when you can carry on a conversation with the child who just walked up and asked for a drink.
There are plenty of other factors that the law ignores. Women who are breastfeeding will need to watch what they eat to make sure the child remains healthy. The women will also be “on duty” around the clock for an entire 2 years. Not to say that breastfeeding is bad, but for some, it is huge burden to try and keep up with life and other children with a child attached to the breast.
Another aspect of the law ignores the fact that some women cannot breastfeed. If there is some health reason that is identified by a doctor, a woman can get a free pass, but a wet nurse will be brought in. Now you are dealing with another new set of problems. Wet nurses will need to be paid. Who is going to pay them? Will the nurse live in the family home and be available around the clock? And just what kind of background will the wet nurse have?
For the most part, breastfeeding advocates are condemning the law. There are too many variables and it is ridiculous a woman could actually be punished for choosing not to breastfeed. In fact, husbands can actually sue wives who don’t breastfeed a child. A breastfeeding advocate group in the United States has also spoken out against the law, “At this vulnerable time, to think of criminalizing a new mother who, for whatever reason, is struggling with breastfeeding is not helpful ... She needs informed support, not threats.”
Yes, I know. I totally get why women should breastfeed, but the fact of the matter is it is a woman’s body. Being forced to breastfeed or accept punishment is throwing the world back into the dark ages. When did it become okay for a group of individuals to decide what a woman does with her boobs? A group in the UAB, Out of the Blues, is a support group aimed at helping women deal with the emotional upheaval that is common after having a baby. They also point out the danger of criminalizing a woman for making a choice about what to do with her own body, “As many of the new mothers we encounter are already under significant pressure, we are concerned that enacting a law that leaves mothers facing potential punishment could be a step too far.”
It is one thing to lecture and encourage moms to breastfeed, but making it a law is going way too far. Hopefully no other governments get the same idea.