I was told repeatedly by medical practitioners to stop breastfeeding and that it’s “abnormal” for my baby to NOT take a bottle.
Breasts are very important in France – I have never, ever, in all my life (even after living in the Middle East) seen so many lingerie shops – beautiful and expensive lingerie is abundant in France.
I am even told that many women collect lingerie yet when it comes to finding a good nursing bra I had to look abroad which makes it painfully clear that breasts are to be beautifully adorned in the finest silks and lace, both of which cannot accommodate a suckling baby.
There is this crazy fear here that breastfeeding will make you a “slave” to your baby.
How on earth can you live your life with this parasite that seeks to drain every last drop of your soul, being and femininity?
Urrr … firstly, breastfeeding is not like that and secondly, how does breastfeeding make you unfeminine?
I was asked repeatedly if breastfeeding was making me excessively tired and if I really wanted to carry on seeing as I was still hanging on to my baby weight months after delivery – surely I wanted to wean and go on a French diet of coffee and cigarrettes and regain my svelte silhouette (which just FYI was never really that svelte to start with).
Didn’t I want to leave my baby to go and do something better with my time? Actually no I didn’t, not on a regular basis – this shocked people – why would I want to spend ALL my time with my baby?
Scheduling appears to be very important to the French so breastfeeding on demand was akin to a crime against my being – I shrugged, I guess I am a “slave” to my baby but I’m happy.
I gave birth in a private clinic where there was a lactation consultant on call 24/7 yet I was the only mother breastfeeding on the corridor of 10.
Even when I asked for help from my independent midwife once I was home she shrugged her shoulders and said maybe I should try a bottle.
It wasn’t until months later that I found that La Leche League operate in France, but sadly for me my French wasn’t up to speed to benefit from the meetings – later I found a leader an hour away who spoke English and found the support I so desperately craved.
I know if I hadn’t been so determined and stubborn I would have undoubtedly failed.
'Re-education of the perineum horrified me'
Then there's the “rééducation périnéale” something that horrified me when I first learned of it during my pregnancy.
I leapt on to Facebook to find an old school friend who I’d not spoken to in almost two decades but I knew who’d had a baby in France recently and I asked about it.
Nothing quite like pregnancy and childbirth to break down social norms and dive in to a conversation about your nether regions! She replied “It’s not very sexy but you HAVE to do it.
They insert this thing into you, its connected to a machine and it makes all the muscles work again. Your husband will thank you for it” … OK as a first time mum to be I was mortified – what is this crazy thing?
I jumped on the internet and found no record of it anywhere in the world other than France. Fast forward to my six-week check up post delivery and I was prescribed 10 sessions with a physiotherapist plus a prescription to pick up my, umm … well, probe is probably the best way to describe it.
Off I went to my appointment and its basically kegels (pelvic floor exercise) on speed with a screen to track your progress – you have sets of 10 squeezes and then you have a bit of electro-stimulation to make the muscles work harder. Yikes. Not really something you want to talk about but I am the first to say it’s excellent aftercare.
They say its to ward off incontinence but it’s not the real objective – it’s to get your sexual prowess back as soon as possible. That is the focus. Plus it’s free completely 100% free – making it more important under the healthcare system than chemotherapy or the flu vaccine!
The physiotherapist, who’s sole responsibility was to get women’s pelvic floors up to speed was mortified when I went one day with my baby who was hungry as usual so I fed her –
“Breastfeeding! Still? But she is almost 3 months old!" she said.
So yes, sadly, if you breastfeed in France you do so at your own risk.
You will be asked if your husband is ok with it – or if you are a foreigner like me it will be chalked down to the fact that you are obviously not French. But if you really do want to you can, you will and it will be great!
(Ameena Gorton - Mummy in Provence)
To find out more about Ameena Gorton you can click here.