Saturday, 30 May 2015

Breastfeeding in Japan (the Good)

Sakura and Breastfeeding
 This disclaimer applies to everything I ever write, really, but I'm going to make a special point of restating it here~ these are my experiences, and do not necessarily reflect the situation for others or in other parts of Japan. With breastfeeding in particular, I think my experiences in a rural area with a relatively high birthrate may be very different to the situation a tourist may encounter in Tokyo, for example.

Cricket is fast approaching three months old. In that time I have nursed him on a train, in several parks, in an onsen, in a PTA meeting and during a Buddhist service in a 450 year old temple. Not only have I had no problems whatsoever, if he gets the least bit restless when I am out with him I can guarantee that within a few seconds an old lady will appear with one hand squeezing my breast and telling me to hurry up and get it into the baby quick-snap! Everyone I have encountered has had a very positive attitude towards breastfeeding, and the facilities available just about everywhere are fantastic:

One of several small "private" feeding rooms in a department store. The pillow is provided.
A nursing lounge in the same department store. This one has room for a pram and picture books for older children to read while waiting for their younger sibling to finish nursing. There are twice-weekly lactation classes offered here for free.
Although the best baby care facilities seem to be on the kids' stuff floor of department stores, all major shops or government offices have them. Even the garage where we had our brakes done recently had a big comfy nursing lounge. The other thing I am really loving about the baby care facilities in Japan is that they are offered to men, as well. Men's toilets come with changing tables, there is always a gender free toilet with a changing table too, and some large department stores have "daddy care" and "mummy care" rooms. In the mummy rooms you can breastfeed freely, while I guess the advantage of the daddy care rooms is that guys don't need to feel as self-conscious (on one occasion when I met a dad by himself in a baby care room he was quickly mobbed by curious mums who wanted to check out his diaper changing technique and tell him how great he was, which I am guessing would get old very quickly).
Lovely clean changing tables and nappy vending machines
Feeding chairs for toddlers, hot water and microwave, and pamphlets on various services for young families
In terms of social acceptance, facilities and general ease, I think Japan is awesome for breastfeeding. Getting established in the first week after birth was another story though, and I'll write about that in part 2.
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  1. The baby facilities in Japan are the best in all the world, I think. You will soon appreciate the little hanging baby basket thingies in the individual public washroom cubicles! (I thought about them every time I had to unhook and sit in a Canadian restroom, with Takeru snuggled in a carrier, feeling like I was 15-whatever months pregnant).

    1. Yes! I used a regular public bathroom the other day and immediately realised how hard it was, even with the carrier a wonderful person gave us ;) I will definitely be sticking to the designated baby ones in the future.

  2. A father here. Yes, I am in full agreement, from my point of view. You can add in the extra compliments given to any level of competence due to my novelty: Oubeijin father to happa. There are messed-up things in Japan, as in my native Canada, but they do get that mothers' boobs are for babies, and the more that interaction's facilitated, the happier everyone is. Likewise, co-sleeping is normative, but that subject descends into controversy...

    1. What're the fathering facilities like in Canada? I never thought about it when we lived there, but I don't recall ever seeing a men's toilet with a changing table logo in Australia. Very sad :/


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