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!

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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)

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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

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Never give up on a bad day

They say you should never give up on a bad day. Well today was not a bad day, but yesterday, it felt like it was. So should I give up breastfeeding? Here’s what is running through my mind…

What would I’d do with the 2.5hrs a day I currently spend attached to a pump? I could exercise in the morning because I wouldn’t be engorged when I wake up. I could help get Aviana ready for daycare in the morning.

Would I miss escaping to my ice box ‘lactation station’ private room at work? They can’t do anything about the temperature in the room. I am wrapped in a fleece blanket and still cold. I hate it. I want to work from home so I can pump quicker, but it’s not so easy with some of my projects.

I would probably need to stop sending formula coupons to a lovely lady I met through my local infertility support group who has twins just a few weeks younger than Aviana.

What would I use my giant work pumping bag for if it wasn’t carrying my pump?

Will Aviana get sick more often? Chris is ill at the moment and Aviana and I have both stayed well…this has happened before but when he caught the flu which would potentially have been serious.

Will my nipples stop hurting after Aviana has recently learned how to bite me? 

I wouldn’t need to lug my pump everywhere and figure out how to get my milk back from different foreign countries when traveling with work, navigating different customs rules.

I might feel sexy again and not feel like a human milk machine? I could wear bras that I like!! 

BUT…..

I would miss those nursing moments with Aviana that are so precious to me. And it’s not for long. She will only be this young once and this will be my only chance to nurse her before she decides she doesn’t need me anymore. She likes to be an independent girl so I fear it would be sooner than later, and makes it even more precious. 

The past couple of days at work I felt like quitting. And yesterday as I sat nursing Aviana in the middle of the botanical gardens behind a random bush because she still gets easily distracted, as I batted away the mosquitos and tried not to shout in pain when Aviana clenched her gums around my nipple, I wanted to stop there and then. But today? Today was a good day, even though she bit me, even though she got easily distracted, even though I’m sat here pumping late at night in bed whilst Chris is asleep next to me. Because Aviana looked up at me with a cheeky smile as I nursed her and my heart melted. Still, 7 months later and she gets me right there in the heart.

It’s all about my perspective on the day. Today I don’t want to quit. And this, this is why they say ‘don’t quit on a bad day’.

Just one of those days

I don’t know what it was about yesterday but it was just one of those days. You know, the ones where stuff doesn’t go your way?

First of all, my second pump session of the day, which is normally at about the 1030-1100 time of day,  happened late at 1230 because of a series of events at work. I thought my boobs were about to explode. Then, I got carried away with work and the next time I look up, it is 4.40 and I needed to leave by 5pm so I could pick up Aviana from daycare. (I really need a ‘pump alarm’). Then, I made the STUPID decision to make my third pump of the day to wait until I got home. STUPID because….

When I picked up Aviana I remembered I forgot the sweet potatoes for dinner. So I decide to go to the shops (still not pumped yet) then realize I have no device to carry Aviana in on me (stroller, wrap or shopping cart cover thing). So I stop off at home to pick up the stroller and realize the stroller was in the back of my car all along! So head back out to shops (still not pumped). 

All this time Aviana is a grumpy girl for some reason. When I picked her up she was screaming- apparently because one of her baby friends was also screaming. They like to work together and cry at the same time the teacher tells me! 

By the time I get home with Aviana with sweet potatoes, it’s her time for her dinner. Have you heard Aviana’s food alarm? No? I’m surprised because it sounds like an incoming missile rocket warning alarm! It’s instantaneous and loud! So here I am with boobs about to explode and screaming baby! Sounds like a perfect combination right? Well…daycare sent home a spare bottle of formula that I send for ’emergency’, just in case Aviana rejects my high lipase Milk or we can’t pick her up til late and it’s dinner time. Being a Monday I just send a bottle of formula in until I catch up on my milk pumping after the weekend. So. Not wanting to waste the formula I decided I’d try to be clever and pump whilst feeding Aviana her bottle of formula. 

Then chris calls to say he won’t be home for another half hour.

So I warm up the bottle of Formula for Aviana and prepare for my pumping session. Trying to do this with one hand as Aviana is crying. I then step in cat vomit. Not once but twice! My head wants to explode! Then I’ve heated the milk up too warm because I got distracted with cat vomit, so now I’m trying to COOL the milk! I then am also trying to get dinner started and the same time. There are microwaves buzzing, phones ringing, baby crying, bottle warmers pinging. Aghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

Finally, I sit down attached to pump and feed Aviana the bottle. Even though I’m handsfree in the pump I never thought about how to hold her when I have two bottles attached to my boobs! I try sitting her up in front of me, supporting her neck and head, but she doesn’t like that, she wants to recline or lean against something. I don’t blame her! So I try leaning her against my chest between the two bottles attached to my boobs. She starts to play with the tubing and pulls it out. Why did I ever think it was a good idea??!! Even though she is hungry she thinks the pump is way more interesting than her food!!! I stress, my milk stops flowing but I’m still full I can feel it in my boobs still. It’s self perpetuating. 

Fortunately Chris comes home, I shout to him to watch out for cat vomit, counting down for him to come into the bedroom to take Aviana away so I can pump in peace! He’s walks in and just laughs at the sight he sees! Baby with bottle half hanging out of mouth with stressed looking mum and bottles clinging with dear life to her boobs. It was a bit ridiculous. It was a ridiculous day. We all have those days when we wish it was over quick! Yesterday was that kind of day for me. Bye bye yesterday!!!!!!!!

An apt t-shirt for me!!

Pump pump pump pump it up!

I promised I would pump n blog. So here I am. Pumping and blogging…in the disabled restroom. 

Yes. The restroom. 

Unfortunately the person I spoke to back in March who was going to arrange for me to have a space to pump in was out of office today. And their #2 didnt know anything about a new lactation/privacy room.  

The room I was using for the one week I went back to work in March is now under renovation for something else. So I’m making do today. Fortunately the disabled toilet is big enough for me to get a chair in it and sit down. And it’s not too smelly because not many people use it. I’d say it’s actually in pretty good clean condition. The cleaners are great. But this is a very short term solution, I hope.  Turns out a colleague of mine did the same, which horrifies me. I know there are several empty rooms in my building, it’s just a matter of assigning one. But may be the person who said he would have one ready for my return does have one ready and it’s just that no one knows where it is because it is so private!!! Ha!


The things we do for our little loved ones…. someday Aviana I will tell you these fun stories!

Back to work for 1 week only

Eeeeek.  I go back to work next week, but for one week only.  And it won’t be a slow transition either!  I am going back for part of my executive development training program, fortunately this residential course is being held at my office so I don’t have to travel anywhere this time.  BUT it does mean long days as we try to fit our team project work in evenings and the socialising is part of the course too.

So psychologically I am only going back for one week, I’m in a good place with this.  However, physically in the milk bar department, I am not quite ready!  Time has crept up on me.  I have been pumping to get a freezer stash up for the past 6 weeks or so and have managed to store about 22oz.  This should easily see Aviana through the first day!  I will then be pumping whilst at work, fresh and ready for the following day.  This is going to be a new experience for my body, and trying to figure out the logistics and timing of it all.

There are somethings I had forgotten about to get ready for this week….

  • My cat Diesel chewed one of my breast pump tubes, so I need to order a new one in order to double pump;
  • I don’t have a bag to carry my pump in (not a necessity, but definitely a nice to have) or a cooler bag for storing the milk;
  • I have size 27mm large flanges and I want to try the smaller ones – 24mm because my hand pump is smaller and a bit more comfortable, although if I am not careful and not paying attention it is easy for my nipple to not be centred and get sore;
  • I haven’t tried hands free pumping yet…I should probably practice that this week with my hands free ‘bra’! Not the kind of thing to be trying out in a 20 minute break!

Chris and Chris’s dad will be looking after Aviana whilst I am away.  I know they will do a great job, I am not nervous about that.  I am nervous about Aviana taking milk from the bottle.  Chris has been giving her milk from the bottle at night time feeds, and recently we tried it in the morning, but she really fusses over it and it’s a long drawn out process to get her to take more than 1oz in a feed.  She is getting better at taking milk from the nanny, but she is not taking much – an average of 1-1.5oz.  She needs more than that and  I’m nervous about her losing weight.  Especially as she has dropped a night feed recently.

I am also a little nervous about her going on a nursing strike!  What if she decides to like the bottle more than me??!

breastfeeding.jpg

Breastfeeding can be really hard, but it is also quite amazing and I don’t want this to end just yet!

I know things will work out, and she will be fine, but I am a new mummy and I am allowed to feel like this!  I am looking forward to doing something intellectually stimulating, I’m just not sure how compatible it will be with feeding Aviana at 2 or 4 AM!  I wonder just how will my baby brain fair?!