Breast is Best!

If there is anywhere that you’d imagine would be breast-feeding friendly, it would be Europe, right? Well, after meeting the husband of the chick who brought La Leche League to Germany today (I feel famous!) and after talking to several of my French friends, it would seem that many mamas in France and Germany breastfeed as little as possible. I got asked twice today alone where Ayo’s food was! I of course pointed to my big guns, giving a wink and the thumbs up sign. I know what you’re thinking, awkwaaard! Talking it over with Tall Mountain, the only reason we could find to explain this phenomenon is that women want to recover their bodies as soon as possible. If that is the reason, I certainly understand that feeling as breastfeeding is most definitely a sacrifice for mama. But then again, both Germany and France have way more generous maternity leave policies than the US has. So, if you aren’t immediately rushed back to work and are able to breastfeed, why wouldn’t you want to give the absolute best to your child even for a few months? Even formula can labels state that “breast is best” for at least 4-6months (I’m not sure anyone has ever disputed that). In fact, I read just today that boys benefit even more than girls from breastfeeding. Woah! Anyway, as awkward as breastfeeding might be in public when you know it’s not really the done thing, you just have to run with it and try your best to carry on with conversation (yes, even when there is a lot of kicking and tugging going on under that cover). Breastfeeding has been totally been great for Ayo on this trip. It not only provides him with protection against many diseases but it is über practical on the go and it provides him with a bit of familiar R&R after being constantly hyper-stimulated with 25 new faces and loud voices.

Why do you think breastfeeding is so unpopular here? I’d love to hear your theories!

13 thoughts on “Breast is Best!

  1. i can’t say i am an expert in any way on breastfeeding in Europe… but, i would venture to say your guess is accurate. women in Europe tend to be more trendy and fit than the average woman (?), so… maybe they feel pressure to get back to where they were pre-baby as soon as possible.

    and it is a serious sacrifice to breastfeed… not on the wallet but on mama that’s for sure!

  2. That must of been a fun moment, discovered that site at the beginning of nursing.
    For me there is not enough information, lots of women I know breastfeed maybe 1-2months and than they say that their baby isn’t getting fat enough so their milk must not be nourishing, and they stop.
    I could of stopped 5 times if I was thinking that way (my doctor even told me once, if your daughter hasn’t gained a certain amount of weight we’ll probably have to give a complement (yeah right!) luckily the PMI is for breastfeeding!
    The reasons I’ve heard is that some find it weird and that they’re scared it hurts, and a bottle a baby will for sure get big were as when you nurse it’s not always the case (la mienne c’est une crevette).
    I’d advise it to everyone!! It’s a sacrifice at the beginning but you learn to love those moments! and yes I agree with you it’s very practical especially when traveling

    1. That was the second thing I thought about – maybe there is not enough education about the incredible benefits..AND that the bottle might get baby sleeping through the night faster.

      1. Yes it’s definetly a lack of eduaction & information in that area
        But I’d say it definetly depends on who you “tombé” ! If I would of been followed by my doctor and wasn’t convinced about wanting to breastfeed than I probably wouldn”t have.
        But as of 5months I was followed by a midwife and she was great and at the hospital at the beginning it wasn’t easy and the nurses really encouraged me and showed me a couple ways to stimulate my baby. So I’d say it really depends of who you meet ! But it’s always been the battle in France, even if it’s getting a little more “normal” not all doctors are “for breastfeeding”.

  3. I think part of the reason might be because of this lady Elisabeth Badinter. USA media was mentioning her a lot after article about AP in TIME magazine.

    I found a good blog post about it
    http://www.mummyinprovence.com/breast-is-not-best-if-you-live-in-france

    What do you think?

    I have no clue what is normal in terms of breastfeeding anymore even in Slovenia. I thought everyone is doing it, but I guess my family and friends never told me the complete truth…

    We all have to admit it, it’s not an easy task, you have to work for it!

  4. Tamara, that blog post is incredible (as is the original article)! (I’m Springpadding it! haha) It states that France has lowest rate of breastfeeding in the Western world. Whaaa?! Apart from that, the idea of the toning probe sounds interesting. 🙂
    I’d love to hear about BF in Slovenia once you get a chance to go back as a mama.
    And yep – it’s no easy task as YOU know full well and it’s not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but it was shocking to find SUCH low numbers.

  5. Could this also have to do with women wanting to be more like man or feeling the social pressure to be more like man? France in that respect is one if the most “progressive” countries with many women at the top of companies. I guess breastfeeding is not very convenient for career driven women and also inconvenient if one wants to keep the same freedoms as the baby’s daddy. I am not sure how it is back home (Germany) these days but I will see the reactions in December 😉

  6. Ok as as Swiss woman and mother I feel I have to intervene 🙂
    Here in Geneva, a woman deciding NOT to breastfeed, at least during the first month after the birth, will just be looked by doctors and nurses like she’s crazy. Everyone will try and convince her to breastfeed. And the social surrounding is also very in favour of breastfeeding – leading to weird situations like one of my friends – breastfeeding was just NOT working and even the doctor at some point said my friend should introduce formula milk (both mom and baby were doing poorly). But my friend held on for six weeks before giving her baby formula milk, and even then, she felt very guilty of doing so. It took her a few more weeks (and a finally less crying baby and less tiredness on her behalf) to admit that in her case, it was maybe the best solution.
    My health insurance even gave me money back because I breastfed for three months in a row – they consider this is amongst the best ways to keep a baby healthy (so less costs for them) I guess !
    So I would NOT make a general statement about Europe with regards to breastfeeding. But I also know that in France, the situation is very different.
    Voilà 🙂

    1. First of all Chris, I LOVE that you took the time to comment. As always, you bring great insight to the debate. I have never been a mama in Europe, so it has been interesting to watch reactions and observe cultural differences in my new profession. I was certainly not trying to make a generalization about Europe – I am the first to say that every country is so very different – my observations are only based on a week of encounters in Germany and France..having said that, those encounters have opened my eyes to a whole group of people who choose not to breastfeed. I also want to say that some women struggle with or hate breastfeeding and some babies do indeed fail to thrive on breast milk. I would never judge these mothers just like they should never parent (in this case breastfeed) based on the opinions and pressures of those around them. It is absolutely a personal choice and admittedly a huge sacrifice. Still, many mothers are able to nurse easily with babies who nurse beautifully but they or their partners are repulsed. I had no idea about this phenomenon and am simply fascinated and shocked by the article mentioned by Tamara above and some of the reactions to me still feeding Ayo in this way. Voilà. 🙂
      PS: It makes total sense that Switzerland would be a little more traditional in this respect. I love that your health insurance recognized the health benefits. That’s so remarkable.

  7. Seattle is the place to be when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding until 2 is the norm and there is no social pressure to cover up. As a breastfeeding mom, who fed all my girls for a year and half plus, it was a nice change from CA (where, much like your observations in Europe) it was not nearly as accepted, supported, or practiced.

    1. Wow, I have learned so much about the culture of breastfeeding both in France and the States since writing this! Your comment brought me back to the post.

      We’ve found that Denver also has a large group of breastfeeding advocates, classes and support groups and it only feels as awkward as you make it to be. Wow, a year and a half – that is really amazing, Diana!

      We’re giving Ayo a taste of his first solids because after sleeping great most nights, he seems to wake up hungry. Breastmilk will still be his main diet for a while but we want to work with his developing motor skills (which are using up more and more calories) and eventually build up to having enough in his tummy without the urgency of stuffing rice cereal down his throat just to bulk him up quickly by that time.

      One thing that helped me to consider feeding Ayo longer is the fact that by say 7 or 8 months, you aren’t feeding around the clock anymore, so it isn’t as restrictive as I thought it was going to be.

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