UAE passes breastfeeding law

Practical Parenting

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Questions of bottle or breast being best won't even come into the equation for new mothers in Abu Dhabi after a new law was passed requiring them to breastfeed their children until the age of two

The Federal National Council's Health, Labour and Social Affairs Committee agreed to a clause in the Child Rights law which makes breastfeeding a "duty, not an option, for able mothers".

The breastfeeding clause was passed by the state's Federal National Council last week. It will be part of a new Child Rights Law, the country’s first comprehensive child protection and rights legislation, which is currently being debated, The National newspaper reported.

A member of the Social Affairs committee, Salem Al Ameri, called breastfeeding until two years of age a "right" as stated in the Quran.

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While an impractical law to enforce, women will be punished for non-compliance with husbands able to sue their wives for not breastfeeding. Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi, is against the ruling, saying “This part of the law can be a burden,” she said. “If the law forced women to breastfeed, this could lead to new court cases.”

And while the law supports the rights of the child, it does not address the rights of the mother.

Spokesperson for the Australian Breastfeeding Association, Nicole Bridges, told Practical Parenting, "Mother's shouldn't be forced to breastfeed, rather they should be supported and encouraged to make the right choices for their family".

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While it is difficult to speculate about other countries and cultures, Bridges thought it was unlikely to raise breastfeeding rates or have a positive impact on families. "You can't simply pass a law forcing mothers to breastfeed. The best way to get new mothers to breastfeed is through education and support".

She also expressed concerns about the possible negative impact on mothers who are not able to breastfeed, saying "Breastfeeding should be a choice, and it is not always the right choice for all families".

Bridges says such a move would never happen in Australia and the UAE is the first government she is aware of having passed such a law and so the results will be interesting to see.

Tell us what you think - will the UAE's breastfeeding law impact negatively on new mothers?

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