It should be compulsory for all mothers to breastfeed for the first six months of their babies lives
Health officials seem to be pretty unanimously in favour of breastfeeding. According to the NHS “Breastfeeding is natural and normal and gives your baby the best start.” There are numerous health benefits but should it be compulsory as suggested by Gisele Bundchen?
Please cast your vote after you've read the arguments.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
All children are entitled to a healthy start in life
The World Health Organisation, a collection of internationally qualified doctors state that breast milk naturally contains all the nutrients that a child could need for the first 6 months of its life [[http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/index.html]]. From iron to zinc, calcium to protein; everything that is vital for a healthy young life can be found in these natural given milk ducts. The Government should make it compulsory for mothers to breast feed to ensure that every child is allowed to benefit from this. Not one child should ever be disadvantaged due to their mother’s selfish choice or lack of effort. To make breast feeding compulsory is the only way to ensure this fairness. If we want equality, this is what we must do.
We cannot say that we are creating fairness among young babies by making breast feeding compulsory. The quality of each mother’s milk will differ. Some mothers may have dietary concerns themselves and therefore their breast milk will not contain all the nutrients their child would need. Therefore children would still be disadvantaged in comparison to those who had healthy mother milk, even if breast feeding were compulsory.
Compulsory breast feeding will reduce the level of child pain.
Breast milk not only contains nutrients, it also contains many of the immunities that the mother has accrued in life. This means that upon being breast fed, the child will begin to become immune to many the things that the mother is immune to. This will prevent the child being sick. Given that babies are weak and are susceptible to illness we should try and reduce their pain by making breast feeding compulsory. This will ensure that the child is ill less often. This is the most human thing to do, to stop child pain and suffering.
Does the prop have peer reviewed evidence of this? As far as my knowledge goes, anything eaten or drunk goes through the stomach, wherein it is broken down by acid and enzymes. Except for a small number of specially adapted parasites, living things cannot survive in the Stomach.
The childs blood may also be incompatible with the mothers immune system. For example, the mother may have A type blood and the child O. In this case the mother's immune system would act against the child, which makes it hard to believe the props claim is actually true.
Compulsory breast feeding will reduce NHS costs
In the wake of a recession and a Government that are insistent on reducing spending, one thing that has become important is cutting costs. What better way of cutting costs that making something free compulsory, that will in the end result in less visits to our already over burdened NHS system? By making it compulsory to pass on immunity to your own children, children will get ill less, not only as children but also as adults. This will result in life long savings on the NHS[[Kramer M et al Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT): A randomized trial in the Republic of Belarus. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, 285 (4): 413-420]].
It could actually result in more costs on the NHS. The pressure that a mother may feel to breast feed with a legal sanction hovering over her head may result in more stress and anxiety, for her and the child. This would then lead to more visits to NHS institutions and individuals. Also, if a baby will not suckle, rather than persistently trying, the mother may seek medical help. If it is compulsory, mothers may feel more and more force behind the argument that breast feeding is the most natural course of action. With this in mind and a child who will not suckle, mothers may feel that they or their child are abnormal in some way. This could lead to many needless appointments to the GP or even hospital.
Compulsory breast feeding will cut benefit levels needed
Since the Labour domination in 1997, a lot has been made in the media of families who gain a lot of resources from the welfare state. Many people cite families that have vast amounts of children in order to gain more and more benefits. However, if we made breast feeding compulsory we could cut the level of benefits given to these families. If all of the nutrients that child needs are being gained for free, then less benefits would be needed in order to keep the child healthy. This would make people question whether or not scrounging off of the benefit system was a good idea with the benefit levels being so reduced. In this way, the child is not harmed.
Firstly, breastfeeding is not a source of free milk. A woman must eat food in order to produce milk. This process is cannot be 100% efficient,( third law of thermodynamics) and will produce a relatively small amount of milk from the food she eats.
Even if breastfeeding was a source of free milk, forcing scrounging mums to breastfeed, then cutting their benefits by the amount the milk cost, will leave them with the same amount of money after their children are fed. So there would be no disincentive against having more children.
Compulsory breast feeding will result in fewer cases of post natal depression
Postnatal depression describes the situation where a mother feels that she has not bonded with her child. Given that this is a natural course for maternal instincts, women then get depressed over the matter and cannot seem to overcome the lack of a bond with their own child. By making breast feeding compulsory, we can reduce the levels of this occurring. Breast feeding is a bond making exercise between a child and a mother. By taking away the choice, by ensuring mothers put every effort into making sure that their child suckles, we can ensure that there are less cases of mothers feeling that they have not bonded with their child.
This is far from the case. Making the most natural and beautiful experience compulsory will only take away the magic involved in it. Mothers will no longer feel that breast feeding is an act of maternal love, an act of bonding, they will begin to see it as a mere duty; something which they must do. Post-natally depressed or not they will feel no beauty in breast feeding. As a result, we may actually find that there are more women that suffer from post natal depression.
Compulsory breast feeding will increase the support available to mothers
If the Government were to make breast feeding compulsory, they would have to look into improving the conditions under which women breast feed. There is a vast amount of stress when trying to breast feed. It is a very tense time, trying to get your own child to accept your milk. In the Infant survey in 2005 [[http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-10851615]] it was found that one of the main reasons why women did not breast feed was because they felt they had a lack of support. If the Government made breast feeding compulsory, they would then have to look at this and put more money into medically trained people in the art of breast feeding and place more money into schemes which aided mothers through this stressful time. Such a move would greatly help mothers and children.
There is no chance of this Government putting money into any of these schemes you mentioned. They are talking of cutting down on every aspect of public spending. Why would they introduce such measures that would cost them more money in the end? Instead, they will use it as a threat to those on benefits. People who do not breast feed will be threatened with their benefits being taken off of them.
Compulsory breast feeding will improve pain relief availability for mothers during breast feeding.
Most women do want to breast feed. It is natural and there is a social stigma attached to women who do not breast feed. However, one of the reasons that the Infant Survey [[http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-10851615]] found that women decide not to breast feed for the whole 6 months is due to pain. As breast feeding passes on what is in the mother’s body to the child, normal methods of pain relief are not appropriate. However, not enough research has been done by pharmaceutical companies into pain relief for breast feeding mothers. If breast feeding were made compulsory, suddenly the pharmaceutical companies would see an opportunity to sell drugs to the NHS and would start to research and develop appropriate pain relief methods for these women. This will result in many women having a more comfortable experience with breast feeding.
Being breastfed by a mother who uses painkillers regularly is worse than being fed milk from a cow.
Convention on the Rights of Children
There is a Convention that specifically deals with the rights of children. This is a legally binding document that most countries in the world have ratified. It therein contains Article 24 which states that a child is to have the highest attainable standard of health. If this is achieved through being breastfed, then this is what the Government shall have to do to comply with the Convention on the Rights of Children. This measure is not only appropriate but it is also proportionate to the dire need for child care and health.
Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of a Child makes specific mention to breast feeding. It makes specific mention of what the appropriate level of action is. Article 24 (2)(e) states that the State should ‘ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents; [[http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm]]. Therefore, the appropriate and proportionate measure to attain child health is not through making breast feeding obligatory but by disseminating information based on the benefits of breast feeding. We should encourage breastfeeding and not make it compulsory.
It is wrong (and illiberal) to legislate how anyone should raise their child.
Governments should not legislate on how people should act. This is social engineering and historically has not had much in the way of success. Furthermore, it poses serious civil liberties questions. Do women not have a right to use their own bodies as they see fit?
Karl Popper, in "The Open Society and its Enemies" put forward the idea that all large scale idealistic social engineering only led to repression (are the police going to strap women who dont want to breastfeed down and hold the baby in place?). He said the only acceptable method known is for peicemeal negative legislation, e.g., legislate to stop people hurting their children if it is neccesary, but dont legislate to make them behave in the way you would like. People arent slaves to the government.
The last point to this is: where does this kind of legislation stop? If you decided that people should be thin, athletic, with good teeth and well spoken, are you going to make it illegal to not excercise, eat sugary snacks and talk with a non-standard accent? (aka, being born in the North)
What do you think?