x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

FNC committee adds breastfeeding clause to UAE’s Child Rights Law

Federal National Council committee members added a clause to the new Child Rights Law requiring new mothers to breast feed their babies.

FNC member Ahmed Al Shamsi, from Ajman, told the debate that breatfeeding should be a duty for mothers. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
FNC member Ahmed Al Shamsi, from Ajman, told the debate that breatfeeding should be a duty for mothers. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // Every child has the right to be breast fed, Federal National Council members say.

The requirement has been added to the new child protection law by the FNC’s Health, Labour and Social Affairs committee.

“This is the right of every child for two years,” said Sultan Al Sammahi, a committee member.

Abandoned and orphaned children should also be covered, he said. “If they do not have a mother or have been neglected, then they should get this right from someone else.”

He said this could be accomplished using wet nurses.

Mr Al Sammahi said breastfeeding was crucial for a child’s development, and referred to studies that had established a link between the two.

He acknowledged that it would be difficult to check that the law was being complied with, but he said if complications arose or it came to light that mothers were neglecting their duties, they could be subject to punishment.

“For instance, with the driving law, you have to have your seatbelt on, but it does not mean that every single person does. If they are caught, then they are fined. It will be the same with this,” he said. “If anything, the law will encourage breastfeeding.”

Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman), another member of the committee, said: “Breast feeding is not just giving a child milk, it is a relationship between a mother and a child.

“Some families leave their children to maids and don’t breast feed. This is part of raising a child, though, this is mandatory.”

He said the intent of the law was that breast feeding should be a duty, not an option, for all able mothers.

“Laws are not all about fines and penalties, some are also humane,” he said.

The committee also added a clause requiring the Government to spread awareness of breastfeeding and its benefits.

To enable working mothers to breast feed, the law will require Government entities to have a nursery on their premises. Although this has been a requirement for several years, it has never been enforced.

For now, Mr Al Shamsi said working mothers should make use of the daily hour when they are entitled to leave work to breast feed.

Although many new mothers breast feed in hospital, those who find it difficult switch to formula when they return home. Most mothers in the UAE stop breast feeding after about six months.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding until six months, followed by breastfeeding and other food until the child is two years old.

The committee members were discussing the new Child Rights Law, formerly known as Wadeema’s Law, the country’s first comprehensive child protection and rights legislation.

Their review continues, and any clauses they insert are subject to change before the law is finally approved by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, along with bylaws explaining how the law will be implemented.

No date has been set for the next debate, but Mr Al Shamsi believes it will be in late January.

osalem@thenational.ae