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By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Breastfeeding Law

Uploaded: Feb 4, 2014
Over the past couple of days there has been a lot of heated discussion about breastfeeding. Women are now required to breastfeed their children until the age of two in the United Arab Emirates.

The articles I read left many
questions unanswered, but the topic definitely grabbed my attention.

Breastfeeding is hard. Not only can it be extremely painful (in the beginning, tongue-tied infants, mastitis) but it can also be extremely exhausting (pumping, waking up to feed at night, feeding on demand 24/7). When I was pregnant with my son I automatically assumed that I would breastfeed, not fully understanding the time, energy, and pain-tolerance that it required.

As I've learned from interacting with other new mothers, breastfeeding experiences vary dramatically. Some women absolutely love it while others experience latch issues, reflux, food allergies or intolerances in their little ones. I don't think passing a law is the best way to increase rates of breastfeeding. I hope with education, support, and encouragement women can make a decision that is best for their families.

What are your thoughts about the new law? Is it a child's right to be breastfed?

Comments

Posted by Laura, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Feb 5, 2014 at 4:46 pm

I think this is absurd-- I truly hope there is more to this story. You are right-- breastfeeding can be challenging for a variety of reasons. It can also be a wonderful experience like it mostly was for me. While we know that nothing really beats the nutritional and health (& maybe even some intangible) benefits of breastmilk and breastfeeding, a mother should be free to make her own decision about whether to breastfeed or use formula-- both are perfectly reasonable options. A mother who is forced to breastfeed against her wishes may come to resent the baby, which would be a terrible outcome for both mama and baby. Thanks for sharing this. I'd like to learn more!


Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Feb 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm

CherylBac is a registered user.

Laura - Thank you for reading and commenting! I'm glad that you had a very positive breastfeeding experience. Over the next couple of weeks I also hope we can learn more about this story.


Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Feb 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm

I breastfed all four of my kids and never imagined doing otherwise. It is obviously a choice and I think that everyone should be free to decide for themselves, although I would strongly encourage breastfeeding for at least 6 months if not 12 months, but beyond that I am not so sure. Once a child has teeth, it can be painful. Two years old seems a little long particularly as two year olds memories can last into adulthood and I am not sure anyone would really want to remember sucking their mother's breast.

I only had problems breastfeeding one of mine, took a few days for him to latch on to the idea that he needed to suck anything, but we got there and never looked back.

I can't imagine the work involved in preparing bottles, making sure that they are sanitized, running out of formula, carrying bottles with you and then needing to make sure they are at the right temperature. Breastmilk is always on hand, always the right temperature, can't be accidentally mixed incorrectly, doesn't need heating, no problem of what to do with the empty bottles, worrying if the nipple is clean or blocked, etc. etc. I loved breastfeeding, the sensation is incredible and staring at your baby while he sucks, cheek to breast is indescribable. There is no work involved and the pain when your baby needs to feed to relieve overfilled breasts would definitely be something I could not deal with. On top of that, it is the best way to get rid of baby weight. I also believe (but not swear on this one) that breastfed babies have fewer food allergies - none of mine ever did.

Mine all still had a bedtime cuddle and breastfed until the age of 12 months even though they were getting most of their nutrition from solid food. I was so sorry to stop but for each of them, it was top and bottom teeth that made me stop.

As I said, it is up to every mother to make the decision for herself, but the easiest option for me was definitely breastfeed every time. Of course, it could be my lazy nature that had something to do with it too.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Community Center,
on Feb 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Wow, passing a law is quite extreme!

I was looking forward to breastfeeding my son. Unfortunately he was born early and had a lot of problems sucking to the extent that he couldn't even take a bottle, let alone get anything from the breast. I struggled with pumping and trying to nurse for 8 weeks, seeing several different lactation consultants before deciding just to pump and bottle feed my baby my breastmilk.

The thing that I wanted to add to the discussion is that it was a terrible experience bottle feeding breastmilk in public around here. People assumed it was formula and were very rude. It was especially hard to deal with since I was doing double duty, pumping and bottle feeding and most definitely not taking some 'easy way out'. Even if it had been formula, it bothered me that anyone would judge that. As others have noted, dealing with bottles and ice packs and so on is a lot of hassle and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

I stuck out the pumping for a year, giving my son exclusively breastmilk until he was getting all his calories from solid food. Would I do it again? I'm not sure. It was really hard work. I had to pump on planes, in cars, everywhere, all the time. Was it worth it? I don't know.

Thanks for your post.


Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:29 pm

CherylBac is a registered user.

Mother of 4 - Thank you for reading and commenting.  Great points about the challenges that come with formula (preparing bottles) and breastfeeding (teeth).  Thank you for sharing your experiences with breastfeeding and all the positives that can come with it. It's great to hear that it was a wonderful experience with all four of your children.

Sarah - Thank you for reading and commenting.  And also thank you for sharing your shory.  I am sorry that your plan to feed from the breast did not work out.  I am so sorry that people were judging you for bottle-feeding your baby.  Your post a great reminder that women can be judged for feeding their baby in public from either the breast or the bottle.


Posted by Mom of 2, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Feb 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I appreciate the supportive and thoughtful comments shared here. Thanks to everyone for being positive about your and others' experiences.

I wanted to add my experience, which is different than Mother of 4's, with the relative ease of bottle vs. breast. With both of my babies, I have had a low milk supply (due to a hormonal abnormality, so despite my best efforts I've only been able to provide about 75% breast milk). Although I have persistently nursed both babies for almost 12 months, it has been very hard work. Always having to be the one to feed the baby, managing my schedule around feedings, pumping at the office, nursing at home while my busy older child wants my attention, thrush, plugged ducts, biting, and more. I am glad I have nursed and am happy for the time with my babies, but it has been hard.

By comparison, bottle feeding (with formula) is a breeze! Anyone can feed the baby, which isn't only convenient but is also very good for bonding with dad and grandparents. You can feed the baby in a wider variety of places -- in the car, in a stroller while waiting in line at an amusement park, etc. You don't actually have to heat the bottles, as I've found that both of my babies are perfectly happy with room temperature (or even cool) bottles.


Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Feb 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm

CherylBac is a registered user.

Mom of 2 - Thank you for reading and commenting. And also thank you for sharing your story. It's wonderful to hear from a mother who fed her little ones with both breast milk and formula. Thank you for pointing out the potential challenges of breastfeeding (low supply, thrush) and the conveniences of formula (feeding by more people and in more places). If you would like to share, I'd love to hear whether or not you felt accepted or judged when feeding your little ones in public (as Sarah discussed).


Posted by Mom of 2, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Happy to share my experiences about public reactions to both. In almost 2 years of breastfeeding in public or with friends (usually with a cover, sometimes without) and feeding formula in public, I never had a negative reaction to either. That doesn\'t mean that people might have been privately thinking judgmental things, I just never heard it. All of my friends and family who I talked to about using both methods were tremendously supportive.

I did read horrible things that people wrote online about feeding formula, and also in some rather dogmatic breastfeeding literature. And I\'ve heard stories from friends that are wretched. One friend\'s sister-in-law is horrible in her judgments and pressures for breastfeeding. And another friend was sitting next to a woman from la leche league on an airplane. The friend said that she had not been breastfed, and the LLL woman said, "oh, just think of what you could have been!" (this friend happens to be very successful)

But in all of my experiences, everyone was great -- and many were, like me, very frustrated by a lot of the obsessive fixation on breastfeeding in the lactation support community. It doesn\'t mean that almost all of us weren\'t doing our best to give our babies a lot of breast milk, just that we were more relaxed about the realities of our lives and bodies.

I did have two women ask me when they just saw me with a baby whether I was breastfeeding. When I said yes, one woman exclaimed at how important it was and what a great mom I was. The other woman, who was probably in her 60s, apologized for asking! Even though I had very happily "yes," she said, "oh, I don\'t know how that came out of my mouth. It is your body and your choice, and I was just trying to make conversation. I really shouldn\'t ask that question!" I reassured her I had not been bothered, and we went on to have a very nice conversation about parenting.


Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 8, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Mom of 2 - Thank you for sharing more of your story. Great to hear that your public feeding experiences were all positive. And wonderful that you had supportive friends and family. Support can make all the difference.

Wow! I'm amazed by your friend's experience on the plane. I think most people would have been furious if a stranger told them that.

Parenting can come with so many crazily high expectations. I'm glad that you found a group of people who help everyone stay realistic.


Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I breastfed five babies/toddlers over the course of 15 years. It was important to me for health and emotional reasons to nourish and nurture my children by breastfeeding. I was also a La Leche League leader, and for many years devoted a lot of time and energy helping other mothers who wanted to breastfeed. That said, no one has the right to force a woman to breastfeed or judge a woman who does not. I have a grown son who works in the United Arab Emirates, thus I have some second hand knowledge of the culture. This legislation is not about promoting breastfeeding, this is about controlling women, giving their husbands power over them, and limiting women's choices. The way to promote breastfeeding is to: provide prenatal education about the benefits of breastfeeding, educate hospital staff in practices that promote breastfeeding, have lactation consultants available 24/7 during the hospital stay and for home visits after mother and baby are discharged, have legal protection so women have the right to breastfeed in public without being arrested for indecent exposure, legislate generous maternity leave, mandate the rights of new mothers to take breaks to pump at work and require the work place to provide a private and clean space to pump. (This last one is particularly near and dear to me as I was one of those working mothers in the early 90s who had no option other than pumping in a bathroom stall or my car). The UAE is an extremely wealthy country. It has the resources to mandate and/or provide all of these services for new mothers, and if the government really cared about the rights of newborns to be breastfed it would do all of the above and more, but promoting breastfeeding is unfortunately not the motivation of this law.


Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 11, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Sally-  Thanks for commenting and for filling in some of the missing pieces of this new law.  I hope the measures you suggest to promote breastfeeding become more accessible to women across the world.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of another community,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 9:54 am

Great post! I do agree with other readers that a law is a bit too harsh. A law in my opinion would place too much stress on already stressed new parents. I do think that breastfeeding should be promoted more in all over the world. I think education, information and positive promotion of breastfeeding would help increase the number of mothers who breastfeed. I myself had an overall positive experience with nursing my son. I can relate with your sentence about how when you were pregnant you just assumed that you would breastfeed. You didn't realize all the time, energy and sacrifice that it would entail. I agree that it was very hard and exhausting at times, however it was totally worth it in my opinion. In conclusion I do not agree with the new law. I think families should decide for themselves if breastfeeding is the right option for them.


Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Elizabeth - Thank you for reading and for commenting. And thank you for sharing your story. I'm glad that breastfeeding was a positive experience for you. I hope the resources you suggest become more accessible to women across the world.


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