Family Matters

Breast-Feeding: Not Just for Women?

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I grew up hearing from my dad that a woman can do anything a man can do. Now, as a parent, I try to impart that same wisdom to my own two girls. Still, biologically, there are some things gals can do that guys can’t — breast-feed, for one. Yet in September, Europe’s highest court ruled that Spanish dads are entitled to “breast-feeding leave.”

For the first nine months of a baby’s life, moms and dads now may leave work for an hour or cut their workday 30 minutes short, according to London’s Daily Telegraph. It’s not fair to extend breast-feeding benefits only to women, said the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg, calling it “unjustified discrimination on grounds of sex.” (More on 5 Little-Known Truths About American Sex Lives)

Do the Europeans know something that we Americans don’t about anatomy? Hardly. Rather, the ruling is intended to make the early infancy period less stressful for both mom and dad. Even though it’s called breast-feeding leave, the court ruled it should really be thought of as “time purely devoted to the child.” How refreshing.

The E.U. court was ruling on a Spanish law that permits fathers to request breast-feeding leave only in cases where the mother works full-time. Spanish dad Pedro Manuel Roca Alvarez, who challenged the law, cried foul after his application for leave was tossed out because the mother of his child was self-employed.

The Luxembourg court sided with him on the grounds that elevating mom’s breast-feeding status over dad’s “is liable to … keep men in a role subsidiary to that of women in relation to the exercise of their parental duties.” (More on 5 Pregnancy Taboos Explained (or Debunked))

Equal roles for moms and dads in child-rearing? It’s next to impossible to imagine such a ruling occurring in the U.S. This wouldn’t be the first time, especially in terms of how we raise our kids, that the U.S. might do well to take a cue from its European brethren.

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