Breastfeeding In Dubai
Dubai is a modern cosmopolitan city and really doesn’t differ much from any other modern urban area. Seventy percent of the population consists of expatriates, and western culture is widely seen. Yet there are rules, both spoken and unspoken as to what is accepted in the local culture. Breastfeeding is a topic that can be confusing and difficult to know what is acceptable when in public and in the working environment. I decided to see what information I could get to exactly find out what a breastfeeding mom will experience, and the answers may surprise you.
Breastfeeding is encouraged and promoted in Dubai where the law has made it mandatory for a mother to breastfeed her infant until two years of age. However, local breastfeeding practices should be followed according to local customs. Mothers dress modestly and are discreet when breastfeeding in public places.
This may come as a surprise to many but breastfeeding is encouraged and accepted in most parts of Dubai. As mentioned below recent laws have made it mandatory that breastfeeding is continued until an infant is two years old. However, despite this, there are a few rules to be followed when breastfeeding in Dubai. It really depends on the place and the occasion. Western-style clothing is accepted in most public places such as beaches, malls, cafes, restaurants, and hotels. However, in a more conservative area such as the souqs or places of worship, it is customary to keep at least covered from the neck to the knee to respect local culture and customs. I will give some tips to make breastfeeding an easier journey while you are living in Dubai.
Here are a few tips that can make breastfeeding a more enjoyable and less stressful experience in Dubai.
- Wearing suitable clothing that makes breastfeeding easier. Being modestly dressed is an important part of the cultural practices in the UAE where expatriates mix with the native population. This can differ from place to place where in some areas the dress code is much less strict. To make your experience more comfortable, there is a wide range of maternity apparel that breastfeeding mothers can use to make it easier to help keep their privacy and to breastfeed their infant in a public place. These include nursing covers, shawls, ponchos or capes, and scarves.
- Wear a sling. A sling can make breastfeeding in a public place very discreet and very convenient. To onlookers, when feeding baby looks like she is sleeping in her sling.
- Choosing the right location. Most of the main malls in Dubai have facilities where moms can breastfeed their babies. They provide a mother and baby room you can lock so you can feed and change your baby. In smaller malls, you could ask in baby shops such as Mothercare or similar where they will facilitate breastfeeding moms. Changing rooms in clothes shops will also provide a space to nurse your baby.
- Eating out. When eating out in a cafe or restaurant find a quiet spot where it is less busy and more discreet for you to breastfeed in peace. Turn away from people when you are trying to latch baby on and turn around again when she is feeding. It’s also a good idea to latch baby on before she gets too hungry as she may become very unsettled and harder to feed if she has become too hungry.
- Linking in with other breastfeeding mothers. Living and/or working in a foreign country can sometimes be a lonely and isolating experience. This can be increased tenfold if you have just had a baby. Find out if there are any ways to meet up with other moms going through a similar experience. There may be local breastfeeding groups in your local community. There is a great facebook Q&A UAE information forum which could put you in touch with some local groups and valuable information on experiences of moms in the UAE. It also gives a list of the local cafes, malls and other public places that are breastfeeding friendly.
- If working, know your rights as a breastfeeding mother. I have mentioned below what regulations are currently in place for breastfeeding mothers in Dubai. Unfortunately, each place of work can differ as to what maternity leave they give to their employees. Know what rights are available to you and discuss this with your employer.
Dubai and UAE laws
In 2014 the ‘Federal National Council’ in the UAE passed a clause in the child rights law to make breastfeeding mandatory for the first two years of a child’s life. A decree was also issued in 2014 that extended the 60 day period of paid maternity leave to 90 days. This legislation also granted mothers a continuous two hours for breastfeeding every day for the first six months after maternity leave. There is also an additional hour for the subsequent six months for one year from the day of giving birth. This is an improvement from the previous provision of one hour.
This length of maternity leave is significantly behind when compared to other countries. The International Labor Organization recommends 18 weeks. A specialist obstetrician and gynecologist working in the UAE believes that going back to work should not be a deterrent to continuing breastfeeding. She feels that a lot of working environments are supportive of women breastfeeding.
There have also been awareness campaigns to promote breastfeeding for at least the first six months postpartum and the number of baby-friendly hospitals are increasing.
Can I breastfeed on an Emirates airline and airport
Emirates airlines do not have a specific breastfeeding policy. However, they can store milk in the refrigerators or chilled compartments and return to mom when needed. When booking a flight, a bassinet can be ordered for babies under two. A baby amenity kit is also provided consisting of baby wipes, a bib, a spoon if your baby has started on solids, and a bassinet liner.
Dubai airports claim to have dedicated baby care rooms where you can attend to your infant in privacy.
What precautions should I take when temperatures are high
Dubai has a hot desert climate with summers lasting from May to early October. They can become very hot and humid with temperatures usually reaching an average of 106 F and have been known to reach as high as 119 F. Winters are generally mild with temperatures on average 77 F even in the coldest months. To make life more comfortable for you and your baby in this hot climate it is a good idea to:
- Stay indoors. On very hot days it’s best to stay indoors. Most indoor areas such as malls, cafes, and restaurants have a/c which will make it much more comfortable for you and baby. Keeping indoors will also ensure your baby is not exposed to sunlight, in particular during the hottest part of the day.
- Make sure to use a parasol or sunshade attached to your baby’s stroller to protect from the suns strong rays. A sun hat with a wide brim and protection to the back of their neck is also necessary. You should also apply high factor sunscreen if your baby is exposed to the sun as their skin is very sensitive to burning.
- Keep hydrated. Breastfeeding means you are losing more fluids than normal, so it’s even more important to make sure you are drinking plenty of water and juices. Water-rich fruits such as watermelon are also a very good choice to keep you hydrated. Signs of dehydration include a dry mouth, headache, irritable and more densely colored urine.
- Make sure baby nurses frequently. Offer frequent baby feeds as they will feed more often, but the feed will often be of a shorter duration. If babies are being offered breastfeeds, they do not need water supplements even in very hot weather. Breastmilk contains mostly water and if offered frequently is sufficient to keep your baby well hydrated. In hot weather, breastmilk can become less energy dense which will encourage your baby to consume more of a higher water content milk. Keep an eye on her usual wet nappies and that her urine does not look too concentrated.
- Wear suitable clothing. In hot weather wear light, breathable clothes that absorb sweat such as cotton. This will also keep baby cool and comfortable. You could also put an absorbable cloth such as a muslin cloth between you and your baby for you both to stay more comfortable.