I read recently that the United Arab Emirates has introduced a new law that requires mothers to breastfeed for two years. Those who don't could be sued by their husbands. If a mother can't nurse for health reasons, she will have to use a wet nurse.
I'm not usually the type to get up in arms over political decisions, but words can't express how much I disagree with this. Why is it that as soon as a woman has a baby—actually, as soon as she gets pregnant—her body suddenly becomes public property?
I can't tell you how many times in the past few years, through two pregnancies and having two infants, that I was told how to act, what to do or what not to do by people who don't even know me or have a vested interest in me or my family. "It's wrong to drink any alcohol when you are pregnant," a random stranger at a work event once advised me. (I was drinking sparkling water...did she think I was going to lunge across the table for the wine bottle? I admit that I did have the odd glass of wine during both pregnancies, but only very occasionally and always in moderation). "Your baby's feet are cold—she needs socks," another woman said to me while I was grocery shopping. (Hello...it's not wintertime, and she just pulls them off immediately, so what's the point?). The constant commentary used to drive me crazy; now, I've accepted that receiving unsolicited advice is part of being a mom.
But being told—in fact, legislated—how to feed your child? That's just not okay with me.
As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, I tried really hard to nurse my first baby, but it just wasn't working. Giving it up was the best thing I could have done: I instantly had more time instead of being chained to a breast pump 24/7, felt better and bonded better with my baby. Even with my second—whom I ended up nursing for 14 months—there were times when I felt like I was nothing more than a food delivery system, constantly on call and spending hours alone with her in dark rooms to calm her down enough to nurse. And while I ultimately enjoyed bonding with her in this way, it took me a long time to get past the pain and discomfort (which became a whole new ballgame when she got her first teeth!) as well as the worry of being the only food source (what if I can't get her to latch? Is she getting enough?).
The last thing we need, in the world of parenting, is yet another way to propagate the "mom guilt" that is so very prevalent already. We need to trust mothers to make good choices for themselves and their children. Because if we don't trust them to feed and nurture their babies as they see fit, then what, exactly, do we trust them with?