Qatar’s Ministry of Health is drafting a law on breastfeeding, which is challenging misconceptions that breastfeeding is bad for a woman’s body. The ministry reports roughly 29 percent of Qatari women exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first six months of their lives. It wants that number dramatically higher. Globally, about 37 percent of mothers breastfeed through the first six months, while 50 percent of US women go that route, according to a 2016 report by the World Health Organization.

The Health Ministry’s proposed law would ban advertisements for baby formula and forbid doctors from giving out samples or participating in medical conferences sponsored by infant milk companies. It would also prevent doctors from prescribing formula unless under extreme circumstances – if it passes Qatar’s Cabinet. But the effort to boost breastfeeding rates is not just about cracking down on formula use. Public perceptions around breastfeeding must also change if the law is going to be truly effective.  

A study by the Sidra Medical and Research Center in Doha found many Qatari mothers believe drinking water after childbirth is bad for recovery, leading to an inadequate breastmilk supply. Researchers hope to counter that and other myths to spark a national conversation. At 1930GMT, we take a look at how Qatar is changing the conversation around maternal-child health, and the implications for a growing number of Qatar’s working women.

On this episode of The Stream, we'll speak to:

Dr. Mohamud Verjee @dashing4u2
Associate Professor, Family Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine

Dr. Amal Abu Bakr @HMC_Qatar
Lead Lactation Consultant, Hamad Women’s Hospital

Farhana Habib @sidra
Head of PR, Sidra Medical and Research Center

Victoria Scott @Toryscott
Editor at large, Doha News

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