Wednesday, February 5, 2014

WTF Wednesday: The Breastfeeding Law

Late last week, a story popped up on my facebook newsfeed:

Breastfeeding is Now Required By Law in the United Arab Emirates

What? By law? Well of course I have to read this.

Thankful I did, because it gave me my biggest WTF moment of this past week.
Pic Courtesy

If you haven't read the full article, I definitely advise you to, but for those who want to continue with my opinion on the matter without a pause, here's the rundown:

The Emirates' Federal National Council passed a clause as part of their new Child Rights Law, stating that new moms in the United Arab Emirates must breastfeed their children for a full two years, and any mother not abiding by this law can be sued by their husband. If a woman is unable to breastfeed because of health reasons, a wet nurse will be provided for her child(ren).

I couldn't be happier at this moment to be an American.

I support breastfeeding. I support bottle feeding. As I state numerous times in my book, "Tatted Mom's Guide to NOT Screwing Up Your Kids" I support whatever feeding method nourishes your child while keeping you sane and your little one safe and happy.

I've read the million articles on why "breast is best."

I've read the million articles on how formula nowadays is as close to breast milk as ever before.

I've even read articles that state formula can be better for your baby than breast milk because it gives the
child consistent nutrients instead of nutrients based on how the mother eats (like how a vegan mother's diet produced lower levels of DHA fatty acid in breast milk than mothers who ate meat or how a diet high in trans fat found in highly processed foods can produce breast milk high in trans fat, which is not good for the baby).

So, like I said above, I support breastfeeding, and I support bottle feeding.

I do not support taking away the choice from a mother on how she nourishes her child and making it illegal, to the point her husband can sue her, for her to feed their child a certain way. That's just not right.

And even if a woman does decide to breastfeed her child, she is then mandated, by law, to do it for a full two years? Come on, now.

I've read the benefits of breastfeeding past the one year recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They aren't concrete. There is no exact if you breastfeed for more than one year, you and your child are guaranteed _____ (fill in the blank). There is no exact anything for breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding. It all depends on the mother, the child, the environment, the socioeconomic status of the family, the area of the world they live in, and about a million other factors all added in.

But telling a woman she has to have a child latched on to her breast well past the age where the child can come up to her and say, "Mommy, can I have some milk?" and reach to pull her shirt down? Oh hell no. No woman should be forced into that if they don't want to be.

My children were both breastfed. My children were both bottle fed. Both of my children are in the tops of their classes. Both of my children are talented- one is musical and the other one artistic. One of my kids gets sick frequently, but doesn't stay sick long, whereas the other one rarely gets sick, but when they do, they are knocked out for days.

With that information alone, could you tell me which one of my children was breastfed for 9 months and which one for only 4 months? Neither one of them were breastfed for the recommended year, and certainly not for a full 2 years. So, my kids alone burst the bubbles of people, "experts," and articles that preach how much better exclusively feeding breast milk is than formula on children in the long-term.

So should a government encourage breastfeeding? They should encourage a mother to safely feed her baby the best way possible.

Should a government require and legally mandate breastfeeding? Oh hell no.

Now let's move on to this business of how, if a mother can not medically breastfeed (are there going to be tests for this, and if so, is it just a physical inability to breastfeed, or can emotional or mental factors count, too?) or died while in childbirth, then a wet nurse will be provided by the council, for the family.

I understand that hundreds of years ago, wet nurses were used. Hundreds of years ago, there was no formula, so if a mother couldn't breastfeed, or died while in childbirth, a wet nurse was the difference between that baby living and that baby dying.

That is definitely not the case today.

If I was unable to breastfeed my kids, I would choose formula 100 times over, rather than have someone else come breastfeed my child (does anyone remember Rebecca De Mornay in "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," secretly breastfeeding that kid to steal the woman's family from her? That's all I can think about...). Even if the wet nurse lived with us and was under our roof 24/7, how do I know she's not snorting cocaine when she goes to shower, or is taking shots of liquor while I'm in the shower? My kid then comes to me at the age of 3 and wants tequila and I can't figure out why...

Not going to happen, I'm sorry. I am not going to make my child's nutritional needs contingent on another person that I can't 100% control, when formula exists that I can 100% control.

I understand what the United Arab Emirates is trying to do, I really do. They want to make sure the babies in their country are nutritionally taken care of, and they feel that's best accomplished through breastfeeding.

But even members of the La Leche League, the largest breastfeeding support group in the world, don't support this law. Marie-Claire Bakker, LLL member, stated, "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."

This is so true. I can remember how difficult it was for my milk to let down when I couldn't fully relax or had something on my mind. Could you imagine the pressure a breastfeeding mom in the UAE is now under, knowing if she can't breastfeed, her husband could sue her? My milk would have refused to come down under that pressure, creating an impenetrable force field inside my milk ducts that not even a heating pad, a bottle of beer or a screaming child could help release.

This Breastfeeding Law in the United Arab Emirates definitely gave me my biggest WTF moment of this past week.

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  1. I totally agree. I saw this and just felt sick. Those poor women! Hopefully it will be too difficult to ever actually prosecute anyone about it.