Breastfeeding by law, in Abu Dhabi

breastfeeding muslim islam woman

According to Islam, being breastfed is a right for all children. Now Abu Dhabi has passed a clause in their Child Rights law that requires all women to breastfeed their children – up to the age of two.

Islam has some pretty interesting points of view when it comes to breastfeeding, where it is recommended that a child nurse at least until the age of two.

There are loads of environmental and health benefits to breastfeeding, basically cutting out an entire industry of formula, cow-made or soya products; breastfeeding makes sure your baby gets all the vitamins and micronutrients, some not even known to science. It also helps a woman get make in shape and good spirits after giving birth. Some say it’s worth more than oil, like the author of this book.

But to make it law? What does this do for women’s rights?

The Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi, according to The National, told law makers that men would then be able to sue their women if their wives didn’t breastfeed. But Salem Al Ameri from Abu Dhabi said that being breastfed was a right of all children. Another lawmaker agreed that the required age should be two. That it should be seen as a duty and not an option for women.

The legislation is also working on laws for workplaces to supply nurseries for those women who want to work and who now must breastfeed.

While this law might serve the wealthy locals, it is hard to imagine that given the region’s track record on labor rights that this wonderful idea of a nursery in all workplaces would apply to non-natives.

Despite some Muslim countries such as Morocco being quite conservative, it is not uncommon to see nursing women in public – feeding the child in carefully placed holes in the abaya.

As a breastfeeding mother of two, I admire some aspects of the way Muslim mothers nurse, and support nursing. To make it law, however, takes a very natural act and makes it stressful for the women who want to nurse and who find it hard to do so. Nursing is not easy for first time mothers, so any laws if they were to be passed must also rule out medical conditions, including breast enhancement surgeries, for those who simply cannot.

We’ve covered breastfeeding and Islam in depth on Green Prophet. If you want to follow the topic, read about how Muslim women make adopted babies their own with breastfeeding; Arab countries have some of the highest rates of infant mortality. Read here about how breastfeeding, a fading art, can reduce the odds of death. Or you might be interested to know how to breastfeed your baby in a hijab or other modesty gear. Read here.

Curious to what this means for you in Abu Dhabi, I’d try the La Leche League in Abu Dhabi for more.

Image of breastfeeding Muslim woman from Shutterstock

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7 thoughts on “Breastfeeding by law, in Abu Dhabi”

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  2. Lucy Mauterer says:

    I breastfed my first child until I was five months pregnant with my second. She was 2 1/2 when she weaned. My second child weaned at age 4. I am glad I do not live in a Muslim country because I and I alone am in charge of raising my children. The mother is Empress and Queen and carries all the power with respect to the children and the household. Men, stay out of my way. And do not dare to tell me what I can and cannot do. Not in my domaine.

  3. Hani Selamat says:

    In Islam, breastmilk is the right of every child, but I definitely think it’s wrong to make it the law that mothers must nurse their child until age of 2. Even the prophet Nabi Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not breastfed by his own mother! He was placed with a milk mother who was financially compensated for the service. If there must be a law, then why not a law that fathers must find and compensate a milk mother if the child’s mother is unable or refuses to breastfeed? Why not laws to set up a system to screen/authorize/license milk mothers? This law requiring mothers to breastfeed is just sexist rubbish to add to a woman’s burden and make life more difficult for women, like usual.

    1. Great comment Hani. I like the idea of putting the care of the child into the father’s hands as well.

  4. Paul Ringo says:

    I’m reading a book that includes some details of Native American culture regarding child rearing. Their children were allowed to go to any nursing woman in their village to be nursed any time they wanted. They would be playing outside, stop and go into a tipi for a few minutes of suckling, then go back outside to play with the other children. They were allowed to nurse until they were at least 4 years old even though they were on ‘hard’ food by then. The parents slept apart while a child was nursing so they wouldn’t interrupt the nursing schedule until the child weaned himself.

    It really does take a village to raise a child.

  5. Shannon Gilmour says:

    In the United States, there are laws to protect breastfeeding women from harassment, however it is rare to find a comfortable and private place to nurse. While traveling with my breastfeeding son, I found a huge lack of breastfeeding spaces. In London’s Heathrow airport, the garbage cans were stored in the breastfeeding lounge! However, in many places in Asia, despite having fewer resources, the breastfeeding lounges were well thought out, quiet and relatively clean. The Muslim countries we visited always had private breastfeeding facilities.

  6. Esther Hecht says:

    There are women who would like to breastfeed but are not able to do so because of anatomical or other health problems. I wonder how the law will deal with that.

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