An expat mum weighs in on breastfeeding in Bangkok.
I was lucky enough to have the safe and quick delivery of my third child here in Bangkok in March last year. Prior to that I had still been breastfeeding my second child, until she was 20 months old, and stopped feeding when I fell pregnant with the third. Toddlers don’t need feeding all the time so it was really just an evening and nighttime thing. For me, it kept up her immunity whilst providing nutrients in this brand-new city/country/continent we were living in.
However, as many have experienced, newborn babies are completely different. They need feeding constantly until they find their groove, then it’s still pretty regular. I guess I didn’t know what the dos and don’ts were in town. I don’t think I could recall a time that I’d seen anyone feeding their babies, other than my closest friends and that was either in homes, or local cafes at a push. Who would I offend? Would I be disgracing myself in the eyes of the Thais? Would I be embarrassing my other children by feeding in public?
I was worried that I’d just have to stay indoors, hide myself away and hold tight until my baby was a bit older… but here’s the problem. I am a proud breastfeeding mum. I appreciate, on every level, that it’s not for everyone, and for some women, it’s simply not possible. I’ve been incredibly lucky and all my children have taken well to it (after the first few days and weeks of pure agony). So, hiding away wasn’t really an option for me.
I spoke to people, researched and explored what breastfeeding really meant in Thailand, and how it was received.
According to UNICEF, in Thailand only 12% of mothers exclusively breastfeed their children in the first 6 months of life compared with UK that starts at around 73% in the first few weeks of life but drops down to 1% by 6 months. This is due to a range of factors here in Bangkok, and certainly varied according to one’s background and nationality. A glaring issue seemed to be a lack of support from the healthcare system, having spoken to friends and expats in the same boat, and a lack of postnatal support elsewhere in society.
It’s a shame that breastfeeding is not the norm and that numbers have fallen in recent years but there are groups and organisations such as The Bangkok Breastfeeding Café, Breastfeeding Bangkok and BAMBI’s Bumps and Babies group working to help both the local and expat community have a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding experience with their babies (as well as offer other post natal support). Hopefully with more support from the hospitals, and continual work conducted with the hospitals by the organized groups formed outside the healthcare system, and from mums talking to one another, anyone choosing to breastfeed their baby should feel fully supported and understood.