x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Breastfeeding is good, but should it be mandated?

Essa Al Maidoor, director general of the Dubai Health Authority announces plans to mandate health insurance for all residents. For one reader, pre-existing conditions caused his premium to triple in price. Lee Hoagland / The National.
Essa Al Maidoor, director general of the Dubai Health Authority announces plans to mandate health insurance for all residents. For one reader, pre-existing conditions caused his premium to triple in price. Lee Hoagland / The National.

With regard to your editorial, Mothers need clear advice, not laws (December 19), I was unable to breastfeed my two daughters for more than a month or so as my milk dried up. My mother had the same issue when I was an infant.

However, I am healthy and my daughters are healthy and we are bonded more than most mothers and their children. The real issue should be that the mothers do the feedings and not the nanny.

If the UAE would like to assist mothers, they should consider a programme like WIC (Women, Infants and Children) in the US that helps mothers with information and training on nutrition for themselves and their children as well as breastfeeding answers.

The programme also assists mothers in procuring nutritious food if they need financial assistance.

Food in supermarkets are labelled as WIC approved. The programme is informative, educational and rewarding rather than punishing mothers for their uninformed choices.

Patricia Geiger, Abu Dhabi

For the medical benefits that the baby gets, I agree to this. But on the other hand, it should be the choice of the mother, not the right of the child.

Making it a law will mean women cannot go back to work until the child is above breast feeding age or they have to go back and forth between their home and work to make sure this is done. Either way, the onus is on the mother alone.

Aida Al Barwani, Abu Dhabi

Breastfeeding is the right of the child, and if the mother doesn’t want to give a child his/her full needs then she shouldn’t have had a baby. However the government should also be supportive and ensure that maternity leave extends to cover the nursing years.

Name withheld by request

I think this is covered by the phrase: “breast feeding should be a duty, not an option for all ABLE mothers”. Whether enforcing it through law is the correct way is questionable, but the thoughts behind it are surely reasonable.

I am sure that it will be considered that some mothers don’t have enough milk supply. But having to work is no excuse – I started working again when my son was eight weeks old and he was exclusively breastfed for eight months and still nurses at 14 months.

You can rent pumps to pump at the office, if you can’t make it home. This is what I did. Yes, maternity leave can be better but after all, there’s no excuse to not breastfeed if there is no medical reason or supply issues involved.

Katja Khadija Weber Khan, Dubai

The government should work with groups like La Leche League, which promote and support breastfeeding, to help set realistic guidelines about this.

I agree that more flexibility is required – longer maternity breaks, compulsory on-site childcare with the added flexibility of allowing mothers to feed on demand as not all can express (I was unable to with all three of my children).

Most importantly, employers need to be understanding and thoroughly supportive – this is where La Leche League can step in by educating.

Donna Hopkinson, Abu Dhabi

Pre-existing illness affects health law

An essential aspect of Dubai’s health insurance law (Dubai sets deadline for compulsory health insurance, December 18) is coverage for pre-existing conditions without price gouging, especially for those companies/groups with fewer than 10 employees.

For example, my company has fewer than 10 employees, so I’m required to purchase insurance on the individual (non-group) market, even though my company pays for it. Because of my pre-existing conditions, the largest health insurer in the country refused to cover me and when I found cover, the price had tripled – and it excludes my pre-existing condition.

The system in the US, while suffering from some glitches, has it right: set up an exchange where insurance companies compete; enforce mandatory coverage for those with pre-existing conditions; and spread the financial burden of covering those with pre-existing conditions over all insurers proportionate to size.

Name withheld by request

Norway’s example useful in the UAE

As a visiting researcher in civics, it is uplifting to hear of the UAE’s investment in a review of education, health, and the media (Emiratis urged to discuss ‘the UAE’s main national issues’ December 4).

When assessing 60, 000 submissions, I hope the UAE will be guided, at least in secondary education, by previously low-ranked Norway, which in the 1970s focussed on excellence for all and turned its results around by the 1990s. This was not achieved solely by competition but also by indispensable social values in “mainstreaming”, necessitating highly-qualified staff, and low teacher-student ratios. Indicators of successful education are certainly more than just league tables or laptops per classroom.

Steve Liddle, Sharjah