Breastfeeding in Thailand

Choosing to breastfeed.

August is breastfeeding month and a time to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and have those conversations that some of us shy away from – especially Thailand which currently has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world with only 12% of mothers choosing to breastfeed.

Being a Kindergarten Teacher and an expat in Thailand, I wanted to find out why this was the case. If you scour the world-wide-web, there is bountiful amounts of information on breastfeeding, how to do it, why you should do it, and so much more information to help first time mummies successfully breastfeed their bundles of joy.

So what’s going on with Thailand?!

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I spoke to a few Thai mums about some of the main obstacles and reasons why mummies here were not breastfeeding. Ann Nakavisut, 52 who is a mother of two and also a nurse in a hospital in Bangkok, says the main reason is how powdered milk is promoted in Thailand. It’s marketed as being better for baby than breastmilk with added nutrients and vitamins. 

Another obstacle is new mummies having to return to work three months after giving birth and powdered milk seemed like the easiest and best option.

It also doesn’t help that a lot of Thai mums don’t know how to use a breast pump, are actually scared of it and don’t know how to store the milk correctly.

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Ann, who breastfed both her children, states that training and guidelines are being introduced to nurses and midwives to preach that ‘breast is best’ to new mothers.

Along with more education and training for nurses, Thailand has also clamped down on powdered milk advertising and has even got Thai royalty on board with the campaign.

The third wife of the current Thai King publicly promoted breastfeeding using pictures of her son saying “Mother’s Milk is the first taste of family love and bond” in an attempt to get mummies on the breast bandwagon. 

Joining the craze are Instagram mummy influencers who call themselves ‘breastfeeding coaches’ and offer support, videos and products to promote and help breastfeeding mums. So it seems that Thailand is trying.

Curiosity piped up as I started to wonder about how expat mums living here in Thailand felt about this subject. I talked to mum of one Amanda Topham, 34, originally from Canada who has been living in Krabi, Thailand for nine years. She chose to breastfeed her daughter for two years and four months.

She stated that she would have comments said about her decision to keep her daughter on the boob for so long but was fully supported by her family and friends and so, ignored the remarks.

Her secret to being able to breastfeed for so long with Thailand’s strict maternity laws was a supportive workplace that allowed her to quickly run home to pump or feed her child.

When talking about the support she had in hospital when her daughter was born, she said the nurses were sufficient enough in showing her how to breastfeed. However, there was one incident that they fed the baby formula while Amanda slept, which upset her.

Amanda offers breastfeeding mums visiting or living in Thailand some advice, “Be comfortable feeding your baby wherever you are, but be a little discreet.”

“I was comfortable pulling out my boob in public, but I always made sure I had a scarf or something to keep a little covered up.  Don’t be surprised if people stare. I’d say most aren’t staring out of judgement, more so out of curiosity”

So there is evidence that Thailand is trying their best to convert to the breast. However, there is still room for improvement with changes still needing to be made to the length of maternity leave, access to lactation rooms and better knowledge and education for Thai society in general around breastfeeding their next generation.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written by a contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mummyfique.

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