Monday, January 24, 2011

Breastfeeding in Sweden



Sweden is often held up as a shining beacon of breastfeeding light when discussions of breastfeeding rates come up in the US and other countries. And yeah, probably if you haven't given the subject a millisecond of thought it hasn't popped up on your radar at all.

Having spent almost a year now with this being a big part of my life, I thought I would sound off on my experience here. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

  • It is assumed you will want to breastfeed – I was asked about my feelings about this once, at my first midwife appointment. After LO was born, I was shown how to breastfeed without anyone asking if I wanted to or not. As I mentioned before newborns aren't swaddled – there is skin to skin contact to ease breastfeeding – and all of this happened immediately after birth – before weighing, measuring, cleaning, etc.
  • Here is a brochure you can read – if you have any questions call! This was about the amount of info I got after LO was born. To be fair it was swine-flu season so there were no parenting classes before the birth. I also had a ped appointment for a few days after I got home, so we weren't entirely on our own. I also could call and meet with a lactation consultant whenever I wanted – for the cost of 10$ per meeting. There were also lactation consultants on staff at the 'patient hotel' we stayed at for 2 nights after the birth. I did consult them and they were great.

  • How dare you suggest I pump! - Pumping is pretty rare – probably due to the generous maternity leave. A politician was lambasted during the last election when he suggested that breastfeeding moms could still share parental leave with fathers, by pumping at work. He went on to point out that this was the strategy he and his wife used. Mothers throughout the land were infuriated.

(IF YOU DO PUMP – Are in Sweden – And have a good supply – Contact your local hospital – due to low pumping rates, breast milk donations for preemies are at an all-time low and they welcome donations with open arms)

  • Why wouldn't you nurse in public? - In Sweden, the attitude toward the boob is different. Seriously, they are everywhere – in often very non-sexual ways – and it's not a big deal. You will be stared at if you wear a nursing burka USA style. If you are shy and your child will oblige lay a small cloth over your shoulder/baby – but nothing dramatic. And no – it's not because Swedish ladies want the world to see their boobs, it's because they just wanted to keep their baby fed and not be chained to the house all day.
  • At six months, you're done - Many Swedes reach the 6 month mark and abandon ship. They switch over pretty quickly to an all solids diet and lots and lots of Valling.



8 comments:

  1. Yeah, I noticed that, that everybody does it for six months and then everybody stops (and if you do it longer you are weird, and I guess if you do it less you are weird, too.) I of course think it is weird to stop at six months to switch to välling, a substance of which I am suspicious.

    I hope the breastfeeding help is good here like you said since I may need it!

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  2. Hi I just love your blog about Sweden and about your reflections on all kinds of subjects. I think this is all very interessting to read. I also love your blog title. Feels like that is exactley what I am trying to do even if I am a Swede now that I just returned from the Deep South. I read your troubles about small size shampoo bottles and I so agree withh you. I can't understand why they make them so small here. I am going to the US in April and I am actually considering going to Costco to get me some schampoo and also to CVS or Walmart and get me some decent sized body lotion. I will gladly return to your blog and read more.
    Have a nice day!

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  3. Nursing burka??

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  4. What are the breastfeeding laws in Sweden at work? Do companies have to provide facilities? How long/how many breaks do you get a day? Are the breaks paid?

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    1. You don't get breaks because you get paid maternity leave for up to 16 months. Then you would have to negotiate with your boss, but given that they have to give you 25% off if you have small children they would have to give you some time off unpaid if you were still pumping after 16 months during the day -- I guess. There are no facilities because most people do not pump at work because they have mostly weaned… you would need to find space.

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    2. Thank you! I've really enjoyed reading your blog. I am a masters student in New Zealand and I'm writing my thesis on global breastfeeding policies, so thank you so much for helping with my research!

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  5. Just curious, do doctors advise vitamin D supplements for babies there?

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    1. Yes, they do. They recommend kids take vitamin D drops for their first two years. It does get pretty dark here as we are quite far north. We get the drops 'free' from our pediatric nurse at the first well visit and you can always get more whenever you need.

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