Breastfeeding in Norway is dictated by something that reminds you of the North Korean regime. You better believe in it, try your best to adhere to it, and never speak negatively about it. At least not amongst people you don’t trust. If you fail you better weep and show your sorrow. The punishment for not following these rules is thankfully not quite as harsh as in North Korea but there are a lot of true believers here that will frown upon you if you don’t.
You are simply expected to breastfeed here and this is carefully imprinted in you during your pregnancy with midwife sessions, brochures and posters. Breast is best is a popular slogan used and there is even a propaganda film with that name.
There is a whole army of nurses at the hospital that make sure you try your best right after your baby is born. You immediately get interrogated if you intend to breastfeed and while you might think that a yes is enough to get them to leave you alone you are wrong, they will keep pushing and nagging as long as you are there. Your hospital journal carefully documents if you are trying to breastfeed or not. Sadly there seems to be more focus on documenting your breastfeeding attempts than your birth. The nagging is so intense that I actually found myself wanting to stop breastfeeding just to annoy them.
Breastfeeding is expected to come above all your needs. While I was at the hospital after my boy’s birth I rang the bell to get some help to go to the bathroom. I had some issues with low blood pressure before and after my caesarean and didn’t want to risk fainting while getting my baby back to his crib. The lady came and the first thing she asked why I wasn’t breastfeeding as my little one was crying a little. I said I had just done that and needed to go to the bathroom. She ignored my request for help and just grabbed my boob and stuck it in my kids mouth and swiftly left the room.
This really sums it up though. Forget about your own needs and just focus on breastfeeding. Older kids better be able to feed and fend for themselves as none of the advices you get take into consideration that you need to take care of them as well. Looking at the website Ammehjelpen which is a voluntary support organization for breastfeeding the advice for a baby that is dissatisfied is just to let the baby breastfeed all the time. This might be possible with your first child but with the second one it isn’t quite doable.
Women that can’t or don’t want to breastfeed will always give a little speech how sad they are and how hard they tried. I don’t doubt that many of them are sad because of all the pressure to breastfeed but I am willing to bet an arm that there are quite a few that just give that speech to get rid of the judgment. You are expected to grief just like in North-Korea.
There is plenty of judgment if you don’t breastfeed. The propaganda has resulted in lots and lots of true believers that try to preach and belittle people that struggle or don’t want to do it at all. Search anywhere online for someone asking for advice that their baby wants to eat all the time and you will find a lot of harsh critics that tell them it is normal and that they are selfish for wanting to give them formula or baby cereal. Women that struggle producing enough milk get thrown in their face that everyone can produce enough if they just try hard enough. In general, you are flogged publically if you dare to question the true belief.
The queen bee of it all is Gro Nylander. The oracle on breastfeeding that has strong opinions and know-it-all attitude. She is the one the media goes to for all articles written on breastfeeding. In a recent article about decline in breastfeeding she went as far as saying it will take lives. She was referring to increase in breast cancer for women that do not breast feed but I feel like she could have presented that as a benefit and not as a threat.
I also believe women should be met with understanding when things are hard and not just “try harder” and “it is intended to hurt” attitude. Searching on the Ammehjelpen website you will find the following phrase as assistance for painful letdown:
If you feel the pain is insufferable then just remember that pain from milk letdown is not dangerous and will go away eventually.
Just what you want to hear when you feel like someone is dragging barbed wire through your milk ducts!
Let it be noted that I have breastfeed both my children and am still doing so with my baby. I do it because I can and it seems like a natural way. While the benefits of breastfeeding have been debated there is still no evidence that it is not good for your baby (as long as your baby doesn’t have allergies). Let it be noted that I felt like I had to write this to avoid public flogging and this is exactly what I strongly despise. Being bullied into breastfeeding. I would rather be presented with more research and a more human-friendly attitude. You shouldn’t be made feel like a criminal for supplementing with formula when needed or dropping breastfeeding if you choose to do so. Our lives, needs, and bodies are all different and what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others and we should all keep that in mind. I really don’t think people should be bullied into breastfeeding!
Another religion in Norway is wool (more on that some other day) and it is recommended that you use breast feeding pads out of wool as it doesn’t get as cold when wet as other fabrics. They might keep you warm when you leak but they don’t soak up the milk so you end up with embarrassing stains on your clothes. They are also quite expensive ranging from 11 t0 20 euros for a pair. I found a cheaper solution to both the cost and leaking problem and thought I would share a little tutorial.
What you need is some scraps of wool (I used merino wool from Janus). Thread, paper, scissors, something to measure and something to draw a circle unless you feel like free-handing it. I used an overlock machine but you can of course just use your regular machine.
Get your commercial breastfeeding pads of choice and find something circular that is slightly larger then them. I used an Ikea plastic bowl for my Natusan pads. You need approx 2 cm extra on the edge (1 cm for seam allowance and 1 cm padding so it is easy to insert the breastfeeding pad).
Draw two circles on paper and cut them out.
Fold one of the pieces in half and measure 2 cm from the middle.
Draw a line and cut the piece. Throw away the smaller piece as you will only be using the larger one.
Cut four pieces of the half circle piece. I recommend cutting it on the grain as it is easier to overlock it this way.
Then cut two large circles as well.
Overlock the straight edges of the smaller pieces.
Now pin the smaller pieces on top of the circles having one of the smaller pieces overlap the other one.
Overlock around the edges and fasten threads.
Now the commercial pads can be inserted into the wool pad and you have the best of both worlds. As the Natusan pads are form shaped these tend to sit in place much better than store bought wool pads.
Would love to hear if anyone tries this !