New mothers in the United Arab Emirates are now required by law to breastfeed their babies for two years, according to a clause in the country’s Child Rights law. Mothers who cannot nurse would be provided with a wet nurse by the government. One viewpoint held by the council is that children have the right to be breastfed, according to Islamic teaching; another compared not breastfeeding — just giving your baby formula — to child neglect.
Of course, breastfeeding has numerous benefits for mom and baby. The National newspaper reports that most Emirati moms stop breastfeeding after about six months, which is the recommended time period for exclusively breastfeeding.
Unsurprisingly, the council hotly debated the clause. The UAE’s Minister of Social Affairs, who is a woman, said she was concerned this law would become a “burden” for everyone. For instance, how will the law affect working moms of young children? Current laws in the UAE already allow women to take time to breastfeed. The National newspaper reports that there was an attempt to add additional rights for working women (such as mandating nurseries at workplaces) to the law to no avail.
How will it affect how women exist in public space? Will women who are required by law to breastfeed able to do it — in this largely conservative Muslim country — at shopping malls and parks or are they supposed to be kept at home for two years of their child’s life?
The minister additionally expressed concerns that a husband could sue his wife for not breastfeeding.
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[Image of baby bottle dripping milk via Shutterstock]