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