Legislation to mandate exclusive breastfeeding?!? Yes, in the United Arab Emirates. A new law has been passed mandating women to breastfeed their babies for 2 years, and if they are unable a wet nurse will be provided for them.
The BBC published an online discussion of many leaders around the world about this topic. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01qh9dk, click on the icon next to the picture.
Of course there are supporters on each side,
- women should not be coerced to do anything with their bodies that they do not choose to do, including breastfeed
- those who feel that it is such an important health issue, it should be mandated. There certainly is enough research to back this up.
I agree with both sides. Law is probably not the best way to promote maternal infant bonding and make women want to breastfeed.
Unfortunately, the discussion left out the important aspect that the birth process plays on initiation of breastfeeding. Numerous research studies show the impact of immediate skin-to-skin. Skin-to-skin contact can unlock the new mothers’ desire to nurture her baby and to breastfeed. Mothers who hold their newborns skin-to-skin after birth have increased maternal behaviors and show more confidence in caring for their babies. Women, with uninterrupted access to their babies, WANT to be with them and they find separation distressing. This closeness fosters a good start to breastfeeding and we see that these mothers have a better breastmilk supply and breastfeed for longer duration. They are more committed to solving any difficulties along the way.
Skin-to-skin holding at the time of birth helps the transition from fetal to newborn life with greater respiratory, temperature, and glucose stability and significantly less crying indicating decreased stress. Being skin-to-skin with mother protects the newborn from the negative effects of separation, supports optimal brain development and facilitates attachment.
Let’s start by making the birth process ideal for all mothers and for infants and see what that does for improving breastfeeding initiation and duration rates.