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As a staunch proponent of breastfeeding, I should be happy when the Makassar Province in Indonesia decided to draft a breastfeeding bill, right?
WRONG! I was ambiguous about it, because from the title of the legislation, it sounds that the bill is aimed towards mothers instead of the public facilities and health workers. The title of the legislation itself sounds vague: "Peraturan Daerah Air Susu Ibu". At a first glance, the title seems to "encourage" (force) mothers to breastfeed their babies... but does it imply that mothers are to be punished for not breastfeeding? It's unclear, but many interprets the law that it puts mothers in a disadvantaged position.
Vague Title, Absent Content
I tried to google about it but couldn't find anything with enough information of the bill. The Kompas article about the bill is unclear: it writes about legislating Early Latch-On and restrict distribution of infant formula. If it's the case, why not make the title of the bill clearer, such as, "Protection of Breastfeeding Rights Bill" or "Regulations of Infant Formula Distribution", since all the debate on this bill revolves around the interpretation and assumptions of the bill content based on the title. Maybe the provincial government is too scared to intimidate the big pharmaceuticals and infant formula company, and hence they put the title without any mention of "infant formula". If the bill and its deliberation are put in the internet in a transparent manner, people can focus on discussing the content instead of beating around the bush. And the title of the bill should reflect the content clearly.
Say No to Punishing Mothers
If indeed the legislation mandates breastfeeding obligation onto the mothers' shoulder only, and punishing mothers for not breastfeeding, then it is a big shame. There are two main reasons:
1. Such law would not help to increase breastfeeding rate in Indonesia because breastfeeding is not solely based on the mothers decision and ability. It is largely a result of various factors in the environment, starting from the marriage and family level, personal level such as psychological health of both mother and baby and availability of lactation consultant, to a more macro level such as public health education, stigmatization of breast display in public, domestication of women. So far, those others factors have not been addressed. In short, inability to breastfeed is not the mother's fault. It's the environment's fault.
2. Based on the aforementioned diverse factors, conditions of mothers are not uniform, and i think law shouldn't be applied in a situation with a multiple layer of problems. The legislation should work outside-in, addressing macro level issues first with the aim and hope it will reach into the micro level. If there ever need for punishment, it should be aimed at the surrounding factors that affect mothers ability to breastfeed, but not to punish the mothers themselves.
In short, stop criminalizing women and mothers! Instead, support us!
Protect Mothers, Create Conducive Environment for Breastfeeding
I argue that breastfeeding rate will never increase unless the following problems are tackled first, working from macro level:
1. Public health education on breastfeeding should stop in only giving out empty rhetorics such as "Breast is best" and "benefits of breastfeeding". There should be more emphasis on public education on the "How" factor: How to breastfeed, how to maintain milk supply, how to find support.
2. Legislation should be there to protect mothers' right, and NOT to punish mother for not breastfeeding. Give incentives to public places to provide breastfeeding facilities. Punish offices who prevents mothers to pump during working hours or not giving facilities for breastfeeding / pumping. Ensure that mothers right to breastfeeding ANYWHERE (including in Metro Mini) is protected and people who forbid mothers to do so should be punished. Protect breastfeeding mothers from the legal recourse of law pornographic law. Protect the rights of mothers who are working: from domestic helper, blue collar workers, to office workers.
3. Increase availability of Lactation Consultants, a new professional health field that is on the rise in developed countries. Imagine, Indonesia with 200 million population only has 10 certified LCs and mostly are located in Jakarta, while Singapore with 4 million people has 40 LCs and even that, Singapore things they don't have enough LCs! Include Lactation science in medical school, give scholarship to doctors and nurses for lactation consultant training, send them to the rural area.
4. Again, mothers should not be blamed for their inability to breastfeed. The blame should fall to the health workers for their conspiracy with infant formula company to give disinformation to new mothers, or to the health department for not providing enough LCs, the blame should fall to the media for publishing advertisement idealising infant formula, the blame should fall to greedy and stingy employer - and there's no law available to defend the mother's rights while working, the blame should fall to the male-oriented public rules that prevents mothers and baby to roam around freely in public space and breastfeed.
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