The surprising fact about breastfeeding in the UK vs USA

I wrote this a while ago, but for some reason it didn’t publish!!!! Breastfeeding week was 1-7 Aug! Whoops. Better late than never!


Did you know last week was breastfeeding week?  The week is dedicated to the celebration of breastfeeding and marks the anniversary of the signing of the innocenti declaration where governments pledge to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.  So this reminded me about a surprising fact I read recently:

Only one in 200 British women (0.5 per cent) are still breastfeeding a year after becoming mothers. The figure is 23 per cent in Germany and 27 per cent in the United States. *

I am British, but live in Virginia, USA and so it is interesting to see these kind of statistics.   I was surprised because I believed it would actually be the other way around.

Why is it that the UK figures are so much lower than the US? It surely can’t be because of returning back to work because maternity leave in the UK is far more generous than the US.  It has to be other cultural factors??  Seeing as I get to see two sides of the coin it got me thinking….

I have breastfed my daughter for the past 7 months and I’ve never had a bad experience with our choice to breastfeed in either country.  However, that doesn’t mean that others haven’t.  Having said that, I have experienced the ‘unsaid’.  Those ‘looks’ of disgust or staring.  Sometimes it’s other people’s actions, not necessarily words that make our experiences as breastfeeding parents challenging.

Breastfeeding in public.  Although there are horror stories of women being harassed for breastfeeding in public in both countries, I have never been harrassed personally.  In fact, in my local mall I regularly nursed in whilst on maternity leavegained media attention over a woman wrongly told by a security guard to go and feed her baby in the family room.  I don’t cover up when I nurse, the only times I have used a cover was when Aviana was in her distracted phase of nursing, but this was in an act of desperation to get my baby to feed, not because I felt uncomfortable nursing in public.  Some babies just won’t nurse covered up, Aviana is one of them.  Breastfeeding mothers should feel comfortable nursing however they wish and wherever they need to feed, covered or not.

In the US I have had the looks of disgust as I nurse.  In the UK I have also had those looks…however, they are far more ‘polite’ in their overtness of disgust, it’s hard to explain the difference, but I can see it!  Mostly, people don’t see me nursing and so just carry on with their day.  That’s the way it should be. Everyone just gets on with their day.

This was the fact that stunned me the most: “More people in the UK believe that smacking is acceptable than believe that breastfeeding in public is okay.” wow! I am going back to the UK in October and taking Aviana with me. She will be 10 months old, very different to a newborn baby. I wonder what reactions I will get there if I nurse her in public compared to when she was just 6 months old, the last time we were there?

Perhaps it’s just an awareness issue or misperceptions? I don’t know….but it sure is interesting. what are your thoughts? What have you experienced as a nursing mother? Or as an observer? Are you surprised by these statistics?

(By the way I respect however you choose to feed your babies and in by no means intend this to be a criticism for formula feeding…I am also fully aware this is a tough subject for women who wanted to breastfeed, but can’t for whatever reason. I have to supplement Aviana with formula as well as breastfeed)


Here is what international breastfeeding week promotes…
Breastfeeding is vital to the healthy growth and development of infants.
It also has important implications for the health of mothers.
WHO and UNICEF recommend:
∙ Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life
∙ Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding
infants. Exclusive breastfeeding – the infant only receives breastmilk
without any additional food or drink, not even water
∙ Breastfeeding on demand
∙ No use of boles, teats or pacifiers
∙ After 6 months, infants should receive
complementary foods with continued
breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond

*According to a study published in the Lancet in January 2016

The first Independence day

Independence Day/4th July – a conflict of emotions for a dual US-UK citizen? I wouldn’t know because I’m a UK citizen, but I live in the US, so I know a bit about it. But my daughter is a dual citizen, so in sure some day she will tell me about that.

In the UK we are not taught at school about the revolutionary war, or much about US history as a matter of fact, we have quite a bit of our own history to get through first ;-p. So much of what I know about it is what I have learned since moving to Virginia. Which turns out to be a great place to live and learn about the war of independence. So whether we decide to stay long enough for Aviana to learn about it at school in the US or not, we will be able to teach her the history. 

So what about the celebrations? Well, much of what I have experienced for 4th July is about getting together with friends and family to eat, typically have a BBQ party (grill out), wear red, white and blue, see a parade or two and watch some fireworks! It’s a lot of fun. Until you bring out the Union Jack flag…..ha! Just kidding. This year we went to the beach, hung out with friends and then went to a friend’s house to hang out at their pool. It was fun! I think we can continue a tradition of celebrating Independence Day for Aviana’s sake. But we must not forget to teach her the British holidays too whilst we are here in the US. Like the Queen’s jubilee and Guy Fawkes night. However, seeing as fireworks are illegal here it won’t be much fun on the 5th November!

Having a dual citizen daughter without one of the parents being one nationality is a bit strange because we should learn the traditions, but we don’t have attachment to them so they probably won’t be genuine? I don’t know, perhaps if we stay here long enough we will learn them, if we left the US tomorrow I’m not sure how much of the American traditions we would take back with us, but I certainly want to try. I think it’s important to create opportunity for Aviana to take some American cultural identity if she wants it. Until she is old enough to make those kind of decisions herself we will offer that opportunity at the least! 

Hope those of you who celebrated had a wonderful holiday! 

Celebrating with a red white and blue French toast – how apt 😝

Birthright citizenship in the US- when your child is American and you’re not

Aviana was born in Virginia USA and we, her parents, are British citizens. A little thing called Birthright citizenship in the US means that she can be a US citizen…or a British citizen, whichever she chooses, or both.

Seeing as our daughter is American I have recently embraced learning more about the USA than I have done in the past four years as a legal resident alien.  It started off with the simple alphabet A to Zeeeeeeee.  Then I progressed to the war of independence, sorry the revolutionary war or whatever you like to call it.  And of course there is the US Constitution.  It is here you can find out more about Birthright citizenship.  Apparently the 14th amendment is a slightly controversial topic over here??!

In 1868, the U.S. ratified the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The first sentence reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The U.S. is a bit of an anomaly in the world when it comes to this issue.  Most of the rest of the world, for example, gives people citizenship based on a concept known as jus sanguinis, literally “by right of blood.”  The modern day controversy around Birthright citizenship comes to the issue of children of illegal immigrants being born in the US.

At the hospital we were given a letter detailing the recording of Aviana’s birth. We then had to apply for a birth certificate and pay something like $12 per copy (BTW it’s worth getting at least two copies because you are without one when you apply for their passport(s)).  The funny thing is her social security number was the first thing to officiate Aviana’s existence in the US!!! Ahhhhh got to be able to pay those taxes right from birth!!! We discovered when we first moved here there is little you can do without a social security number. It’s like you don’t exist without one. Anyway, I digress!

The hardest part of applying for both her US and British passport was the photos! Both countries have slightly different rules. So after I had fed and changed Aviana there is a short window of time that she is an awake happy bunny, I dashed to our local Walgreens pharmacy to get her picture taken. Here they will lay your baby down on the counter with a white sheet background, get up on a step ladder and take a picture with a digital camera. They then have the software to edit out shadows and make the face fit into the right proportions. Walgreens can do the photos for both US and British passports. The size of photos is slightly different so we had to take the British photos home and guillotine them to the right size ourselves. But that wasn’t too hard. 

Aviana was a doll for the man taking the photo. It took several goes to get her to look directly at the camera with her eyes open and arms not flailing! But the last go before she started screaming was the one! Incidentally when applying for a British passport the baby’s eyes do not have to be open.

Applying for the US passport was easy. We made an appointment at our post office and the documents were checked and sent off for a $25 fee. It was so quick and easy (we had all our docs in line and photos done already).

Applying for the British passport was a little more complicated. We had to get the photos of Aviana countersigned by someone of ‘public standing’. Who is also British. Fortunately I work with the military so that wasn’t a problem, it was just finding someone who has known us for two years or more. So you would be screwed if you lived in the US and didn’t know any other Brits in the local vicinity or had just arrived in country. Crazy.

I fly with Aviana back to the UK in mid march and we don’t have either passport yet. Hoping at least one of them arrives very soon otherwise I might be traveling to the Embassy in DC for an emergency one! 

By the way, I should say that neither Chris or I can apply for a green card on the basis that we have an American daughter. It is not until she turns 21 that she could sponsor us for a green card on the basis of her nationality. A lot of people don’t know that. So as soon as my visa runs out and is no longer sponsored by my work we have 30 days to leave the country. Technically Aviana wouldn’t have to leave! It’s all so weird! 

I’m not sure how long we will be living in the US for, but we want Aviana to experience both countries and someday she may choose to live in the other country we are not living in. Very strange to think about that!