Saturday, 8 February 2014

Breastfeeding in the news

It's been a (shameful) while since I wrote about one of the topics close to my heart (literally) and the truth is I've probably been too caught up in my midwifery training to focus on it however this story led me to lift my head above the parapet of books on my table and say "What the...?"

Breastfeeding mandatory for two years in United Arab Emirates

The UAE has passed a law making it compulsory for mothers to breastfeed their children until they are two years old, the justification being it is the child's human right to receive breastmilk. If mothers are actually unable to breastfeed then a wet nurse is to be provided. The law doesn't state what are acceptable reasons to not breastfeed however. Also offices are being made to provide nurseries so that mothers can breastfeed while at work. Implications of the law mean that husbands are therefore able to sue their wives if they decide not to breastfeed. It is apparently the mothers duty and not a choice.

Fundamentally I am opposed to this move because it is essentially an attack on a womans autonomy over her own body which is not acceptable. I wholeheartedly believe that breastmilk is the absolutely best thing for a baby. It is normal. And yes, there are inescapable risks to formula feeding which people don't like to hear about but are nevertheless present. Women need to make informed choices about how they choose to feed their babies. But that is it, women need to make the choice. It is her human right to not be forced into any behaviour she does not want to engage in. In any other situation this is essentially slavery.

I can appreciate that the UAE is attempting to improve the health of children, they are clearly sold on the benefits of breastfeeding but it is unfortunately at the cost of women's freedom in a country where many already have little autonomy.

Breastfeeding hasn't done too well generally in the past few months... - Was there ever a breastfeeding golden age? Apparently not according to this article, and it has the historical artefacts to 'prove' it...

And this article notes that nearly half of all new mothers feel tremendous guilt in motherhood and pressure to breastfeed makes it worse. Though my honest opinion is that even if women didn't have breasts and milk grew on trees, mothers would find something to feel guilty about.

I would like to end my mini round up with a heart-warming story about the Pope who, it turns out, is pro-breastfeeding. Who knew?

"If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice,"
Pope Francis, 2014 

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