New mums in the United Arab Emirates must breastfeed their baby for at least two years, according to a new Emirati law.
And if they don’t, or can’t, their husband may be able to punish or sue them.
The country’s Federal National Council has added a clause to their Child Rights Law that enshrines every child’s legal right to be breastfed up to the age of 2, and makes it a duty – and not an option – for any woman able to do so.
The Council say their decision is backed up by research showing that breastfeeding is beneficial for a child’s future health and will also help to nurture the bond between mother and baby.
They also suggest that if mothers neglect their breastfeeding duties, they could be punished.
If a mother is unable to breastfeed for an unavoidable biological reason, the Council do concede that the state should support her by providing a wet nurse – but it was not explained who would judge whether or not a woman could breastfeed, or how this wet-nursing system would work.
Unsurprisingly, some mothers’ groups have voiced their concern at the new laws.
‘New mothers are extremely vulnerable and need more support, encouragement and education,’ says a spokesperson for Out of the Blues, a Dubai-based group who work to support for new mums with postnatal depression. ‘It is our opinion 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.’
What do you think? If breastfeeding is best for a baby’s health, is that a good enough reason to make it compulsory?