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{This is article is intended for those who are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, but it is not meant to uphold breastfeeding as the right way, or debate the advantages or disadvantages of breast vs. bottle. If you can't breastfeed or have chosen not to, no judgement here! Maybe you can help us out by writing an article on bottle-feeding overseas.}

I was a new mom with a 16-week-old baby when we moved from the US to Africa, so breastfeeding was still a full-time job. Although my little one was not the best nurser, and certainly had a rough start, we had gotten the hang of things and I was comfortable with it. I knew that the culture we were moving to accepted breastfeeding as a normal, everyday part of life, so I figured if anything it would be much easier to nurse my baby in Africa than at home.

Whew, was I in for a surprise!! First of all, my little man was shocked to go from cold temperatures to hot as we moved in December. He would get totally drenched in sweat with the effort of nursing, and the last thing he wanted was my smothering nursing cover over his head when it was 95 degrees. Suddenly, nursing discreetly became a lot more difficult! But I worked with my technique and got to the point where I felt I could nurse modestly without a cover - especially as I realized that my African neighbors considered it totally acceptable for a nursing mom to go around without any shirt on to give their baby easy access! But my ability to fit into this cultural worldview was severely stretched one day when my husband took me & baby to the market. He wanted me to meet one of his good friends, a man who sold leather wallets, sandals, and other knick-nacks in the tourist section of the market.

When we arrived, he was occupied with a customer and waved for us to sit down and wait for him. I was relieved, as my baby was quite ready for his afternoon snack. I carefully turned my chair so that my back was to the watching world, and started to feed my little one. A few minutes later, long before Baby was done nursing, my husband's friend came over to greet us. Hubby quickly jumped up to "head him off" until I could finish, but it was no use. He was thrilled that we had brought the baby to meet him, and it never occurred to him that I might want privacy while I was breastfeeding! He proceeded to squat down in front of me, trying to get my baby's attention, talking and laughing, as comfortable as could be. I was mortified and quite annoyed! Yet it was so obvious that this was such a normal thing to him . . . just like we have no problem with playing with a baby while their mother is changing their shirt or putting on a clean diaper, so they have no problem with playing or talking to them while they're eating. Three more years and another baby later, I never gave up my desire for modesty and privacy, but I did do a better job of controlling my embarrassment when I couldn't do anything about it.

So let's open a conversation about breastfeeding - sharing tips, questions, advice. I'll start with a few things that I discovered in my almost three years of nursing two babies . . .

If you're figuring out how to nurse discreetly, try sitting in front of a full-length mirror, so you can get an idea of what others are seeing. Also ask your husband to walk around and "check out the view" from every angle.

One thing I learned about breastfeeding in a tropical climate was how easy it is to get heat rash and thrush. I found I had to put on a clean bra every single day, or I would develop BAD heat rash under my breasts. I would use cornstarch or a medicated powder (if you use the medicated kind be sure not to get it anywhere near your nipples!) sometimes several times a day to keep things dry and comfortable. In the hottest season, or when I had a bad rash that I was trying to clear up, I even took my afternoon nap completely topless to let everything dry out and air out. (A side note - the best remedy for a bad rash, on you or on baby, is direct sunlight. However this is probably not practical for most of us!)  About thrush: I personally didn't have any trouble with this bothersome fungal infection that affects both mother's nipples and baby's mouth. But I know many ladies find it to be much more common in a tropical climate. Do any of our readers have tips or suggestions on how to deal with thrush?

I also found that feeding was much more comfortable and enjoyable for baby and myself if I sat directly in front of a fan as often as possible while nursing!

Question: A friend asked me recently what I did about nursing pads. I did not need them for either of my boys, so I didn't have a good answer for her. She had tried making her own washable ones, but found that they leaked much too easily. Have any of you ladies made nursing pads? How did you make them waterproof?

 

What else? What questions do you have about breastfeeding overseas? Any funny stories about nursing in a different culture? What tips or suggestions do you have for a mom just starting out?

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