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Why dose Breastfeeding in Northern Ireland suck.

(20 Posts)
Dislexual Mon 12-Oct-09 02:42:00

I gave birth start of July and managed to get back to my parents for some help and pampering, they live on the north coast near Portrush.

Incredibly I managed to maintain breastfeeding despite the stares, seriously stupid and embarrassing comments.
Breast-feeding anecdotally appeared to be aligned to social depravation.
I had to explain on several occasions that in England it was usually middle class guardian reading mothers who did it.
And that my choice was based on cutting edge scientific understanding of the antibody advantages within breast milk.
"Oh but he's very small, are you sure he's getting enough"
I also noted that allot of babies over there looked humongous in comparison to my own DS.
I felt guilt and panic as I watched other mothers wheeling around a giant corpulent babys in fortified wheelbarrows that populated the streets of NI.And to acept there look of concern as they peared into my pram at a baby that dident look like a pink baked potato.

I almost felt, at some points that it was seen as akin to abuse.

My own parents were fantastic, although my Dad spent most of august talking to the ceiling. My own mother had attempted at the start of the 70s to feed me with no guidance for 6 weeks befor she got mistitis.I being one of only two other children born in the tropics to forces familys that survived out of 20 born at the same time as me, despite being premature as well. My mother knew the magic of boob juice first hand and saw it help me survive as a baby.

My father tried to voice the view at the start of my stay that according to a times article he had read that breast-feeding wasn?t that amazing. He was soon convinced by the non-sickness and contentment of DS.

To my Aunties shame I even perfected the 'feeding in sling under shawl sight seeing'ability.

And if you have ever breast feed in the back of a car on a Donegal road at 60 miles an hour you will returne with nipples that you can knock nails into wood with.

I was relived to hear some of my relatives managed it, but was amazed to see that it was done with such covertness, that there own MILs were even unaware of it, despite liveing 5 mins, one being a famly of 10.

Trying to track down breast pads in some areas, was imposable.

I told a mate who was a breastfeeding councillor in London about all this she said the breast feeding stats were always brought down by Kilburn. I must add that I feel that since the last time I breast feed ten years ago that altitudes in the UK have got worse rather then better.But not on the scale of NI

What's going on Northern Ireland with the breast-feeding?

herethereandeverywhere Mon 12-Oct-09 08:33:21

Can't exactly explain what's going on but would agree that BF is seen as something which the underclass does. If you're middle class and respectable (leafy East Belfast in my family's case) you feed your babies formula.

I'm not from NI but my husband is. The MIL spent the whole time my SIL was breastfeeding trying to persuade her how much easier it would be to bottlefeed (for babysitting) and asking the stupid questions about whether the baby was getting enough food. She'd say "just do it for another week" every week from when the LO was about 3 weeks old - despite my SIL having no BF problems at all! It was SO undermining when my SIL was doing such a fab job.

I'm now about to have my own baby and the MIL keeps asking me whether I'm going to "do the breastfeeding" saying it'll be just fine to give up after a few weeks. My SIL also spent the whole time hiding under one of those ridiculous covers that look like a multi-coloured apron (even in the comfort of her own home!)

I'm sure it's cultural and I hate to say it but I find it a rather dated and somewhat backward attitude.

Builde Mon 12-Oct-09 10:05:55

That is bizarre because in the UK, bottle feeding is seen as 'common'!

Powdoc Mon 12-Oct-09 10:07:53

I am so sorry that you had a bad experience of breastfeeding in NI. My parents-in-law live in Portrush and I had a very positive experience feeding over there.

I didn't notice any stares and I have to admit that I don't even bother with the shawl business, I just lift my top and get on with it. I did this in cafes, at relatives' houses, etc with no problems at all.

I did notice that everyone used the very quaint euphamism "feeding her yourself" to talk about breastfeeding, which I found a bit odd (sort of implies that the other option is feeding by machine, rather than the two options being breast or bottle!)and a very cumbersome way of avoiding the word 'breast'.

My MIL did also make a big point of talking repeatedly about how great it was that I was still feeding (DD was about 4 1/2 months) and how great it was to be able to go out without faffing with bottles, etc. Maybe she was pre-empting daft comments for me?

I do know that breastfeeding rates in NI are not great, but hopefully I was doing my bit being completely un-selfconscious doing it anywhere. Must be harder if you've grown up internalising some of those messages about breatfeeding being about social deprivation(which I haven't, as I'm not from NI myself and my mother was a very committed breastfeeder. Neither I nor my brother had any bottles - in the 70s when this was quite a rarity).

logrrl Mon 12-Oct-09 12:14:35

hello, couldn't leave this without a comment-I am from a farming community in NI but don't live there. I've spent about a month over there since DS was born and was amazed at the pervasive attitude that BF is difficult, or something that you do for 6 weeks grin although I personally had some very positive experiences.

I was amused at the whole "feeding him yourself" thing, as "breast" is obviously a shameful word wink.

I didn't see one other BF mum despite being out and about a lot, but maybe they were just very good at being discreet. I sat in a shopping centre one day and fed DS with nobody blinking an eye. My 90 year old, very approving (farmer)granda sat beside me as I fed and my Mums friends were just amazed, but very approving, saying they had found it too hard/had to go back to work when baby was 12 weeks etc etc. One auntie did inform me that I could sit in the chilly conservatory to feed DS whilst everyone else sat and chatted and drank tea in the warm kitchen hmm and for some reason I complied.

I have two aunts who are fantastic, committed (in a way I sure as hell haven't seen in Scotland) Health Visitors in different parts of NI and they seemed to veer towards the opinion that it was the educated, more financially secure Mums who BF.

My sister (BF her two til they were 2) and I were just talking about this last week and I would be really interested to know if anyone has done any research into why BF rates are so low in NI (I think it's only 40% even try).

BTW I think I had more raised eyebrows about sling usage than BF (a sure sign of a hippy apparently)and waiting 26 weeks to wean. Paris buns and milk are reportedly a fantastic bedtime snack for the waking in the night baby shock although this was allegedly said in jest....

tiktok Mon 12-Oct-09 12:39:25

www.breastfedbabies.org/default.aspx is a good website that supports bf in NI.

62 per cent of women in NI initiate bf, according to the 2005 UK survey - the lowest initiation rate of the four UK countries and one of the lowest initiation rates in the world (I think the RoI is lower).

Fall-off rates are high.

Dislexual Mon 12-Oct-09 14:45:38

It seems, from the experience of my self other MN posting hear, that hear is yet another NI paradox.

NI culturally, is a massively family orientated place. With a generally more relaxed and positive attitude to kids (I feel) then in England.
But there is a problem with supporting its BfFing mothers.

I bet the information is getting to the mothers, but it is lack of support and general uneasiness towards it is putting a lot of mothers off. The information must be put more mainstream, and at the older generations perhaps.The extended famly still being a strong influence in the make up of socity.

I think Stormot needs to get involved; it will set off a debate at the very least if there is legislation being talked about.
In regards to the sling situation made me smile, I found a shelf of BaBa slings in a TKMAX over there going for a tenner on sale.That was a bit of a result.

I guess that if the educators can persuade people that expensive designer fortified wheelbarrows is not the only way of showing your love for your kids we can get somewhere.

I do wonder if this is affecting the general health of the population, as I can recall from somewhere that that too is pretty pants as well.

FlyingMonkey Mon 12-Oct-09 17:55:07

I was breastfeeding in the park today in Bangor and felt perfectly comfortable. I've also fed in public in Belfast and have never received any negative comments. DS is 7 months and I plan to continue feeding him until he is 12 months. Some of my DH's family have been urging me to wean him onto formula but I just ignore them.

Incidentially, I found that the midwifes and health visitors here really push breastfeeding. At least that was my experience when pregnant and I didn't need any convincing anyway!

TheIggorcist Mon 12-Oct-09 21:16:25

I don't live in NI but it' where I'm from and I return regularly to see family. Have fed in the White House in Portrush! BUT I think because I'm used to being in Scotland (where it would be illegal to stop me bfing - though they can't stop frowns I suppose!) I was confident and it honestly never occurred to me that it wouldn't go down well. Didn't get whole lot of support for it from NIrish mum though, well not at first anyway. I'd expect Scotland and NI to be pretty similar in BF rates as they are similar in lots of things, but it seems not. Shall we campaign??

Prunerz Mon 12-Oct-09 21:21:05

I know it's not NI, but my MIL is from Dublin and said it was seen as lower class because it was what all the women with their 13 children and no money had to do, and possibly also seen as a reason for the high infant mortality back in the day. sad

pooexplosions Mon 12-Oct-09 21:31:10

I live in Ireland, but today I BF'd my 11 day old in the beer aisle in Sainsburys in Newry, NI! Strike one for la leche...grin

I did get a few funny looks, but the small boy was screaming and I hadn't finished my shopping, so whats a girl to do? Thing is, you get used to it, he's my third and I barely even think about it now, I've done it everywhere and anywhere. Yes, people look, but they aren't all negative, some look out of curiosity, or wistfulness, or jealousy, and sometimes disgust, but you just learn to not notice them noticing.

ps lol at "feeding him yourself"! Its my experience that nobody will ever use the term breastfeeding on pain of death, unless they are actually members of a breastfeeding group.... grin

Dislexual Tue 13-Oct-09 00:00:23

That’s very interesting Prunerz about the association of breastfeeding and poverty, its defiantly a theme I noted during conversations with extended family.

I really think the BF campaign in NI is perhaps not taking into account that especially places like Derry/Londonderry (In my experience) that there is a strong matriarchy in the social makes up, and from that, it is the MILs with there memory and a negative association about BF that have a more powerful influence on the current generation of mothers.

This is not being taken into account and it is the MILs generation that should be targeted by the educators.

To all the successful BFer from NI on hear, all power to you! But if your MNers your getting your influence from somewhere other then your family about childrearing. It’s those young mums who maybe aren’t online and are being supported by a well meaning female relative that has not got the up to date information.

I attempted to educate the matriarch of my own family, and was glad to see at the end of my stay she became aware in a cafe of a fretting and unhappy bottle fed baby and looked to the contented DS in my cleavage, she tuted and looked with distain at the bottle fed baby and said 'Poor wee things got no boosums to comfort him'
I felt a bit bad, as the bottle feeding mother was now being oppressed, but it was sort of a step in the right direction.

I’m defo going to look in to this more and see if I can contact the people involved with BF education in NI and point them in the direction of this thread.

'Lets get NI boosum feeding!'

bubble2bubble Tue 13-Oct-09 09:32:39

I think it is slowing changing but definately a long way from being the norm

I have breastfed in plenty of parks & car parks, in the Red Panda at Junction One et el,and have never had any comments, though plenty of staring...Should say though, that my mum is an ex HV and strong advocate of breastfeeding - had this not been the case I can imagine it could have been a lot more difficult ( MIL didn't get it at all but knew better than to pass comment! )

There is a brilliant group of women in my area who are doing so much work to help,and are probably the reason I fed DD2 unitl 17 months :www.midulstermums.co.uk/index.html and I know groups like this exist in other areas too
And yes, the midwives & HVs are preaching breastfeeding and trying to say all the right things, but you know by talking to them that the vast majority are not breastfeeders themselves and find it much easier to tick boxes on their formula feeding charts...and what is it with the obsessive weighing of breatfed babies??( but that's a whole other thread on ridiculous things 'health professionals' have said to me about breastfeeding )

Beveridge Tue 13-Oct-09 15:29:08

I'm surprised that NI is worse than Scotland for bf (given Scotland's horrendous health stats generally)but I agree that legislation to support bf in public places is important, both for practical reasons(so you can legally tell onlookers to get lost if they give you any gypgrin) and to raise the issue/stimulate debate in society in general.

Btw, I only picked up on the "feeding her yourself" euphemism after a few weeks of BF DD (I live in Scotland)and I actually quite like it now! People round here do not say the word breast for anything (page 3 or bf!)and I actually think it conjures up an image of a discreet,straightforward activity - and hopefully one day this might translate into a general consensus that its bf not bottle feeding thats 'normal'!

stleger Tue 13-Oct-09 15:50:57

I think Michelle Gildernew 'fed her babies herself', possibly in Stor-mount? It was the done thing in my family, but my MIL and her SIL were not happy that our babies were breastfed for months. BUT my offspring are the tallest grandchildren that MIL has (17 of them!) Things like that matter in the province. We live in the far south of Ireland now, but I do love a visit north to remind myself of its charms!

mathanxiety Tue 13-Oct-09 17:33:27

There's a 'shame' factor associated with women's bodies. It's really strong, even so long after women's lib, in Irl and NI. It prevents women from openly breastfeeding, even in their own homes, even among female relatives. Ireland as a whole is a very misogynistic place, north and south alike, thanks to the domination of two different clerical traditions, neither of which were (are?) well disposed towards women. And there's also the association with poverty and not having enough money to afford formula. Easier to blame mother's milk and mothers for disgraceful infant mortality rates than tackle poverty, low wages and excessive spending on drink by men while children went without.

Derv78 Tue 13-Oct-09 20:33:45

I live in Belfast and bf my DD til she was just under a year. I didn't care where I fed her & had a spiel ready for anyone who challenged me; mainly along the lines of how sad it was to feel uncomfortable seeing me feed my own daughter & that it was a shame they would make sexual connotations because I had a breast out in public. Almost regret the fact that I was never stared at or challenged as I would've loved to let rip!!
My friend was asked to leave a local (v popular) coffee shop by the manager because she was bf. Needless to say I have boycotted that place ever since.
My family & friends have been v supportive of my decision to bf (apart from SIL, who asked me when DD aged 6 months did I not feel that my body wasn't my own?!? She doesn't have kids, surprisingly!)
I am currently 29weeks pg with id twins & plan to bf them. Might be a bit more difficult to be discrete if I'm feeding them both at same time though! But it's not gonna stop me going out & about with them though!

logrrl Tue 13-Oct-09 21:06:52

as I live in Scotland and it's all peace and breastfeeding love here grin, it never occurred to me that NI wasn't the same! Is it a similar situation to England with regards to BF in public places??

CornflowerB Tue 13-Oct-09 21:15:03

I'm from Dublin and I would say 'feeding the baby myself' and 'breastfeeding' interchangeably [sp?]. Never occured to me that there was anything odd about it and it certainly isn't to do with avoiding saying 'breast' I think...hmmm will have to think about that

Waswondering Tue 13-Oct-09 21:26:10

LOLOLOLOL at driving through Donegal and bashing nails into wood!!

I've bf throughout the northwest - Portrush, Portstewart, even Moore's in Coleraine with no problem at all . . . but then I had my greatest ally with me, in my mil, who is VERY pro-bf and actively encouraged me and sil to bf - I remember how great she was in the early days bf ds (who is now 6) when it was all going horribly wrong!

The only place I couldn't bring myself to bf in NI was my grandfather's living room - I think that's about the only time I excused myself and slunk off to the kitchen out of shyness!

But extended family in NI haven't bf, or if they have it's not been for long. Don't know why!

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