Do Children Have the Right To Be Breastfed?

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do children have the right to be breastfed“Breastfeeding should be a duty and not an option for able mothers.”

That’s the sentiment behind a clause to the Child Rights law that was passed yesterday by the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates. The clause makes breastfeeding mandatory in the country under the premise that it is the right of all children to be breastfed.

If you’re a mom, you’re certainly familiar with the raging breast versus bottle feeding debate.

You’ve heard “breast is best” more times than you can count, and you’ve seen moms on both sides criticize, judge, and even attack one another based on whether or not they’ve ever purchased formula.

Having exclusively breastfed my son for the first year, I am deeply familiar with both the benefits and challenges of nursing.

I’ve felt both the pain of a shallow latch and the freedom of leaving the house without bottles. I’ve experienced both the frustration of breastfeeding a distracted baby in public and the peace of breastfeeding him in the dim quiet of the nursery.

So my reaction to the news of this clause—one that will likely punish moms who don’t (can’t?) breastfeed their babies—is based in the reality of my own experience only a few short months ago.

I agree that children have rights that need to be protected.

I agree that in many cases breastfeeding provides benefits, both physical and emotional, that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

But—and this is a really important but—I believe that when we take away a mom’s right to decide what is best for her baby and her family, we ultimately harm both mother and child.

What about moms who physically cannot breastfeed? What about babies who simply will not latch? And what about moms who are so stressed out from the “breast is best” message that they can’t be the kind of mothers they want to be and breastfeed at the same time?

Here’s what I say: Give moms the facts they need to make informed decisions. Provide them with all the resources and support available. Answer their questions with honesty and gentleness. And then step back and actually let them care for their infants. Let them be mothers.

Do children have the right to be breastfed? I say children have the right to have happy and well-supported moms, end of story.

What do you think of the UAE’s mandatory breastfeeding clause?

image via milan6 on