Both of my children were breastfeed beyond two years. This was my choice. I felt it was the best thing for both mother and child.
What if breastfeeding wasn’t a choice but was mandated by law?
A new law enacted by the Federal National Council (FNC) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) mandates breastfeeding for the first two years of a child’s life. This law dubbed the Child Rights Law is “the country’s first comprehensive child protection and rights legislation,” according to Haaretz.
FNC members argued that breastfeeding was a “duty” and every infant should be entitled to be nursed as it was beneficial for health and built a strong bond between mother and child.
A few members said it was also laid out in the Quran.
“This is the right of every child for two years,” said Sultan Al Sammahi, a committee member. He added that wet nurses would be provided for mothers who were unable to breastfeed.
Studies had established a clear link between breastfeeding and child development, Al Sammahi said.
The law would also give husbands the right to sue their wives if they did not breastfeed!
Much of the basis of the law is in the Koran. The National explains:
While FNC members said breastfeeding was embedded in Islam, an Islamic scholar, Sheikh Sediq Al Mansouri, said it was not mandatory.
A verse in Surat Al Baqarah in the Quran states: “Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period].”
Mr Al Mansouri explained: “The reason Allah has stated two years in the verse is that it is the preferred period of time.
“If the child is breastfed less than two years he might be harmed, and if more the mother might be harmed.
“Allah’s foresight is to seek the interest of the mother and the child, and the verse is clear – to whomever wishes.”
I really don’t see how the mother is harmed by extending breastfeeding beyond two years.
Although this law aims to protect children, and I agree every child deserves and has the right to be breastfed, giving fathers legal recourse is NOT the way to go. It is not clear yet how the law will be enforced, but mothers could be punished. Not breastfeeding will become a criminal activity
Marie-Claire Bakker, a member of the La Leche League and cultural ethnologist, sums up my thoughts exactly on this UAE breastfeeding law:
“At this vulnerable time, to think of criminalising a new mother who, for whatever reason, is struggling with breastfeeding is not helpful,” she said. “She needs informed support, not threats.”
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