Friday, 10 February 2017

Experiences of Breastfeeding Part 2

This morning, I took SCB to the doctor for her monthly checkup. As usual, he started off by asking me about feeding and I explained that she is still breastfed as well as now having her solid foods.

And, as usual, he went on to tell me exactly how many millilitres of milk she should be having and in what size of bottles throughout the day.

This has been going on since we started seeing this doctor in September. He's friendly, he's well-qualified and his surgery is just around the corner from where we live, which is why I keep going there. He's also never been anything but positive about the fact that I'm still breastfeeding. But after every appointment, I leave feeling as if we have a massive communication problem. It's as if the information I'm giving him is so far from what he's expecting that it just doesn't compute, so he gives out whatever advice he had prepared in his head anyway.

I was even more conscious of the gap between his advice and reality this time around, as I had been sitting in the waiting room reading a leaflet about sleep which claimed that "after the age of 3 months, babies do not need to eat at night". This may or may not be true for formula-fed babies, but for breastfed babies it's terrible advice. Not only is night feeding totally normal and often necessary, breastmilk contains substances which help the baby to sleep, while the act of nursing releases hormones which make the mother feel drowsy too. Studies have even shown that breastfeeding mothers actually get more sleep than formula-feeding parents because, although they are woken more often, they also get back to sleep more quickly.

A big part of me feels that all of this is very wrong. I should be able to get advice from my GP on how best to feed my baby in the biologically normal way.  Public health advice should support breastfeeding, not sabotage it, as the sleep leaflet was likely to do.

But I guess on the other hand, the vast majority of women are winding down breastfeeding by 3 months and would like their babies to sleep through the night as they are often going back to work, so perhaps the numbers affected by this are very small. Nobody has ever said anything negative to me about the fact that SCB is still nursing at 8 months old, but people are surprised and usually ask if it's not too tiring. (Answer: yes, I'm tired, but not because of making milk!)

It's an interesting contrast with the UK though, where despite the fact that most people are giving at least some bottles by 3 months and certainly by 6, healthcare workers are not even allowed to give advice on bottle feeding as it's seen as promotion of formula milk.

Luckily, I have enough confidence about what I'm doing that I mostly just ignore the GP's advice. I've got lots of friends to share experiences, I've joined some groups, both French and Anglophone, which provide support and there's a whole internet of information out there. I just hope other mothers who want to breastfeed for longer manage to do the same, because being different in France is never easy!


  1. Lol for the milliliters of milk! Though I was already under the impression that doctors, at least in France, were some of the worst people to ask for breastfeeding info or advice, with obviously some exceptions. Our doctor hasn't ever asked us how much he's eating, just how many times a day he's nursing, which I understand but also find annoying because it's right after I've said "every two hours." But she had just come back from a breastfeeding conference right before our first visit so maybe she's a little better informed.

    Our midwife however has been very helpful. I recently asked her if she often has groups like mine where only one woman breastfeeds and she said all the time. Which I guess is why she gives me masses of free samples (breastfeeding tea, lanolin...).

    I also have been getting concerned reactions from colleagues when I say that the baby is not sleeping through the night (after being asked), and then have to reassure people that actually it's really fine! It's as if I got up to take a long toilet break and drink some water. But I think it's mostly small talk anyway.

    Well I'll stop there so I don't write you a novel. I hope your GP is good in other ways.

  2. At the point when it was true, I used to just tell people that the baby was sleeping really well. Because yes, waking up once or twice in the night for a couple of ten minute feeds, then back to sleep, is really no big deal!

    The GP is a man and must be close to retirement, so I can kind of see why he's not very up to date. (My GP in Paris, who was a woman with kids of her own, was much better informed.) But a few of my friends who take their babies to specialist paediatricians have also had bad advice, which really is shocking!

  3. I have definitely been given advice on bottle feeding from my UK GP, but only when I asked. They definitely do NOT mention it at the hospital or unprodded! Which is probably why I do not know a single person who breastfed for fewer than 12 months here (and most much, much longer).

    1. OK, maybe the stories I've heard are exaggerated, then!

  4. I have to say that I do not understand the skepticism surrounding formula feeding. Me, for example, I have no other choice but to formula-feed. But that doesn't make it the inferior option. I always choose the organic formula by Holle (this one: and even though it might be a bit pricier than other formulas, I know that I am giving my baby the best that is out there. It is not about making a sacrifice, it is just a valid second option.