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Thursday
Jul082010

Nursing in public in Germany



Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.

***



Ah, cultural differences. As my readers know, we are currently spending the spring and summer in Germany. We also traveled here a bit when Julian was 8 months old.  Between those two trips, I've had a lot of opportunity to observe women feeding their babies in public and also to nurse in public myself.

Not a second thought, nary a nursing cover


Based on my own observations and the observations of some of my friends here, nursing in public just isn't an issue at all. People do not give it a second thought. Women sit down and nurse their babies whenever and wherever. Some of them attempt to hide as much skin as possible and some of them don't, but that seems to be based more on personal comfort level than on anything prescribed or expected by society. I have seen plenty of women nursing in public in Germany and I have never seen a nursing cover. I do occasionally see bottles, which could be women who are formula feeding or women who are too shy to nurse in public. But the whole trend of covering both mom and the baby with a hooter hider or similar device, just doesn't seem to have any uptake in Germany.

That said, I rarely see babies over 6 months old being nursed in public and certainly haven't seen any toddlers being nursed in public. Because I haven't been able to find any decent recent statistics on how long people nurse for in Germany, I'm not sure if this is because people only nurse young babies in public or if it is because they all wean early. There seems to be increased acceptance of the recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for six months, but it seems like a lot of people begin weaning off of the breast and onto follow-on formula at the same time that they start introducing solid foods. When I was nursing my 8 month old in Germany, a few friends with slightly younger babies just assumed that since they had already weaned, that I probably would have too. But I also have an American friend here in Berlin who is still nursing her three year old and who says no one looks at her funny when she does it in public. So while Germans may not nurse for very long periods, they generally don't seem to have a problem with the concept of nursing in public and don't have a problem doing it as long as they are nursing.

Attitudes towards nursing in public


Just because nursing in public in Germany seems to be fairly common, doesn't mean that it is universal or universally accepted. So I tried to find some data on nursing in public to back up my observations.

The first poll that I found was on eltern.de, a large mainstream parenting magazine and website. The poll asked mothers whether they nurse in public. The results were that 55% said "Yes, I have no problem with it", 13% said "No, I don't like that" and 32% said "Only if it is really necessary." This poll was answered by 2800, so should be fairly statistically representative of the mainstream parenting community in Germany.

The second poll I found was on gutefrage.net, a website where you can ask a question and get responses from other people. One nursing mother asked people what they think of nursing in public.  This one was only answered by 213 people, so not as representative, but it interested me because it was asking the general public and not just other moms. In this poll, 77% said they have no problem with nursing in public (could be nursing moms or bystanders), 15% that they do not nurse in public (presumably only nursing moms), and 8% said they are bothered by nursing in public.

How Germans view Americans


As I was looking for some data on nursing in public in Germany, Google brought me to a discussion board about the United States, but in German. It appears to be a board that is used both by German expats living in the United States and by Germans who are planning to travel, work or study in the United States and are looking for advice from fellow Germans who have done it before. One German mother wrote (my rough translation again):
We want to take our kids (2 years and 4 months) to Florida. Since I'm exclusively breastfeeding the little one, I was wondering what the situation is with nursing in public in the US? Here in Germany, no one looks at me funny and I nurse everywhere (of course I try to sit in the corner so that the little one has more quiet and I also wear practical clothing so that no one sees me naked). I have never been to the States, but I have heard that they can be fairly prudish (like topless bathing not being permitted?!). I've also heard that American women only nurse for a very short time and even then not in public. Of course I prefer to nurse at home in a comfortable chair, but on vacation that won't always be possible. I don't want to be stuck at home and we will be doing a number of day trips where there won't be any option.

What is it like in USA? Can someone help me? Thank you.

There were widely varying responses from Germans living in the United States, ranging from "no one does it" to "my friends and I all do it" and from "its illegal" to "its legal". There were several suggestions to go straight to a store and buy a hooter hider. Sigh.

A story from 1905


After I wrote my post on 50 reasons to breastfeed in public, one of my readers, Karin, e-mailed me a story from a "diary of an infant" written by his German father. The story was written in 1905 about the baby's first train ride (rough translation by me):
Papa had a bottle with a rubber stopper in his bag. The bottle was peeking out of the bag and people were laughing. The people are stupid. If they had known what was in the bottle, they wouldn't have been laughing like that. I found out first hand: it was so-called sterilized milk, disgusting stuff, not drinkable. As soon as I tasted it, I energetically refused to drink this brew and I cried and screamed until Mama decided to do her duty and give me something to drink, something that belongs to me alone and that I like.

(...) In any case, thing started moving and all sorts of grey, brown and green things were going by outside the window, unfortunately so fast that I didn't have time to observe them and figure out what they were. Every once in a while, the train stopped, an "uncle" or "aunt" got out and in their place another one got on. Under these circumstances, they kept trying to use the bottle in my father's bag to get me to be quiet, but "Cheers!" it was meal time. My mother gave my father an embarrassed look and glanced at the strange aunts and uncles as if they had something to say in the matter. The strange aunts and uncles didn't say anything and just looked out the window. I did notice that every once in a while they looked over at me. They were probably hungry too, but then they should go to their own Mama.

To me, this story from Germany in 1905 could, with some modernization of the language, be a story in the United States today. Perhaps one day, American parents will be as comfortable with nursing in public as Germans are now and won't bother packing the bottle "just in case" and giving each other embarrassed looks when the baby insists on being nursed in public. Hopefully it won't take 105 years to get to that point!



***
Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:

July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World

July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child

July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.

July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives

July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It

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Reader Comments (42)

This was so interesting to read! Thanks so much for doing the research to try to ferret out the attitudes and experiences. I wonder (hope) someone German will chime in here in the comments! I'd love to hear more, especially about attitudes toward nursing toddlers in public (my own particular field of concern…).

That message board post on expectations for breastfeeding in the US was so sad. I hope she went ahead and did it — and that no one asked her to cover up or leave! Double sigh.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

It is very interesting how you, coming from another country, see our situation here. Loved to read this.

And I agree, it seems that most people in Germany don't mind nursing of babies in public. There were occasional uproars about people getting thrown out of restaurants or museums because they nursed their children, but I don't think it is very common. I never got any comment, at most some odd stares, and I really nursed everywhere. Nursing covers are essentially unknown here, some people use a blanket or a wrap, but more because of their own comfort level, just as you said. I have used thin scarfs in restaurants where the tables are very close together, for example, but didn't even use nursing tops or anything else usually.

However, nursing older children ("older" starting well before 1 year) still seems to be odd. I seem to be the only mom in my area who nurses a toddler in public. I know a (very small) number of other nursing toddlers, even older children of 3 or 4 years, but most of them try to avoid public nursing because it does not seem to be generally accepted at all. Isn't this the same in Canada? Do you have a lot of publicly nursed toddlers? I have to admit, there are days when I try to avoid nursing my son in public now (and he is only 17 months old!) because I feel stared at, even at e.g. the playground with only parents and children around. And then again I think, what the heck, if I keep hiding it will never change in society...

About nursing older children in general: as I said, I know about a hand full of AP parents who support nursing of toddlers or self-weaning or nursing older children. And I know a number of parents who would tell, whispering, that they still nurse their 1-y/2y old, but keep making up excuses why they didn't stop yet. They seem very defensive, and most of them only nurse at home. It is kind of sad, and it is sad how it affects even me, someone who really thinks extended nursing has nothing but benefits. The "common" weaning age seems to be around 1 year maximum, probably also due to the German official recommendations which are 4-6 months exclusive breastfeeding, partial breastfeeding until 1 year or as long as desired (and people tend not to see this last, important part of the sentence). Many pediatricians or gyns also give mothers a hard time if they nurse longer. I have seriously considered carrying around a paper with scientific evidence about extended (full-time) nursing when visiting doctors...

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSchussel

Schussel:

In my area of Canada, it is fairly common to see children nursed in public up to about the age of 2. After that it is less common, because most have weaned and because I think people start to get nervous about doing it. Personally, I frequently nursed my children in public up to about the age of 2. At that point, they were nursing less frequently and were usually okay with me saying "not right now." That "not right now" usually had more to do with it being inconvenient (nursing a large child while grocery shopping is not easy!) than it had to do with public perceptions, but perhaps that played in too.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Wonderful read! Here in Singapore there is a silent minority who nurse in public. Me included more than a few years ago. Sometimes we get ridiculed, but other times people leave us alone. In modern Asia though, people are not quite comfortable so most of us wear nursing wear or covers out of respect for other people or out of personal choice. That is to me, better than in the past we were told to only breastfeed in the toilets. Hurray for breastfeeding in public and on the go! :)

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPearline

Ah, thank you. Maybe we should move to Canada.... Sure, sometimes it is simple inconvenience - my son is now 12 kg and rather tall, not a baby that can be hold in one arm for nursing - but I guess I am too much bothered by public opinion.

Thinking about it, nursing children older than 1 year really is very uncommon here, even more so in public. I have heard more than once (from other mothers of small children!) that they have seen a mother nursing her child in a playgroup or at a park, and how the child was already crawling! or walking!! and you can see a lot of rejection or even disgust in their face while they tell this story. I have also been told about a thousand times already that nursing is great for babies, but that it really is enough when they can walk (where is the link between nursing and walking, really?), or that it would be only "about the mother" once the child can eat solids. Mothers nursing longer than a year are often seen as "inconsequent" and "too lax", which is generally seen as a bad trait in parents...

This makes me kind of sad, really. Very sad, the longer I think about it.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSchussel

... a baby that can be *held*, of course. (Excuse my english.)

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSchussel

Very interesting! Although I hate things like this because they make me ashamed to be an American. We are so prude that some of our citizens actually think breastfeeding in public is illegal. *Doh* And I totally agree toplessness should be perfectly legal.

Great post (excuse the cliche). As Schussel has said, it's really interesting to see things from the perspective of someone who isn't German. I have the same impression as you, being German but having lived in Scotland for the past 13 years - in Germany NIP is just done and nobody even talks about it much, while nursing a toddler is unusual. I only heard about covering up from people here (UK), and tried it to be discreet and not fall into the stereotype of the German who is happy to show all to everyone, and in Germany I had to constantly explain why on earth I was still nursing my toddler. Even a paediatrician recommended that I wean to formula at 5 months because clearly the child wasn't getting enough (she was, heeding medical advice I tried to supplement not wanting to starve my baby and she never took much and we were back to exclusive breastfeeding a week later) and I'd nursed for long enough.

I wonder if there is a connection between Germans being more liberal about nudity and being more comfortable about NIP? I'm thinking mixed sex sauna, topless sunbathing at local Baggerseen and generally being not so worried about being seen in the nude by other people.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercartside

I will never forget the suggestion of my mother (from the UK) when I needed to breastfeed my baby on the S-Bahn (the local train within Berlin) that she, my father, my sister and my husband stand around me in a circle to hide me while I breastfed! Now that WOULD have attracted "looks" in Berlin!
Thank god Germans don't think like my mother - otherwise we'd all have to spend most of our breastfeeding lives walking round with a human shield of relatives! :O)

I think though that regarding the length of breastfeeding in Germany, maybe there's an issue of the German environmental concern. As far as I know (from what I've been told by friends) about 10 years ago there was public advice from the Stillkommission (breastfeeding commission of the German government) not to breastfeed longer than x months (I don't know what the recommended time was), because of the child's absorption of toxins stored in the fat in the mother's body. As far as I know, this advice was retracted about 10 years ago because the Stillkommission considered that the benefits of breastfeeding outweighed the negative effects. But, I think the consciousness of the effects of longer breastfeeding is still there and maybe that has an effect on the point at which Germans stop breastfeeding. My husband (German) urged me to stop around 12 months for that reason.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

I grew up in Germany but never lived there as an adult except for a 6-months-period in 2005 before I became a parent myself. My mother breastfed me for only a few weeks because at the time (mid-70s) the midwives/nurses told her that she needed to sterilize her breasts with antiseptic before and after every feed. You can only imagine what that did to her nipples and how she ended up with massive mastitis. My brother was born in the early 80s and nursed till he was at least 2, which was what I considered 'normal' growing up.

I think a large part of what you see in Germany might have to do with the fact that they just don't seem to have a big hang-up about female toplessness there. That's not to say breasts aren't sexualized there -any look at German ads and commercials will confirm that they are -but it seems like people are a little more sensitive to context: naked boob in public with baby-attached is not performing a sexual function; naked boob on beach is not performing a sexual function; naked boob belonging to stripper dancing a foot from your face is performing a sexual function.

People always say that (US) Americans freak out about NIP because breasts are sexualized, but I think it's a bit more nuanced than that -breasts in any context are somehow seen as sexual even when they're not performing a sexual function.

Just my two cents' worth.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVW

Well, I just had a quick look to see if I could find any corroboration for the story that the Stillkommission had advised a limit to the length of breastfeeding - and I can't find anything. So maybe this is not true.
Anyway, the site of the Stillkommission has some useful publications in my opinion and they seem to be carrying out research into when Germans stop breastfeeding. That will be interesting.
They seem to put a lot of emphasis on breastfeeding longer but their main worry seems to be people not exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months. Obviously, if many mothers are introducing solids before 6 months, the first priority must be to inform mothers about the importance of exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months. Longer breastfeeding alongside solids at an older age (12 mths up) logically must take a lower priority!

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

This post totally mirrors my experience in Germany. I had a 15 month old on our vacation there in 2007 and, while I was generally the only one nursing a kid her age, no one blinked an eye.

Actually I was surprised to not see many babies overall. There were a few, in both strollers and babywearing devices, but just not many compared to here in Chicago. Germany seemed so child-friendly to me coming from Chicago - the pubs had high chairs and some even had toys for small children, the trains had special child-friendly sections of the cars so that kids could be loud and boisterous without disturbing others, people seemed genuinely happy to see a small child in a restaurant instead of eye-rolls and requests to have their tables moved. I wonder if some of that is a function of their lower birth rate? No idea, but it was a really nice experience and I can't wait to take our youngest there with us next spring.

When we visited Scotland a year or so ago we had our second child with us who was 3 months. It felt less child-friendly than Germany as a whole, though still moreso than the US. I got lots of comments from people congratulating me on nursing him and zero negative comments regarding nursing. It was just harder to do restaurants and such as some of the places we wanted to go didn't have a special UK license allowing them to accomodate under-18s.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

Wow, really? I am in the GTA and can't think of any time I've seen a toddler NIP. Actually, it's a big deal when I see a mom with an infant NIP :(

I found that neither of mine were that hard to distract (if they even asked, which was rare) after age one, too much going on if we were out and about. This was somewhat of a relief to me with my first, as I went into it thinking I'd wean to a bottle at 6 mos and he would have none of it. So nursing a toddler was a completely new thing to me, I didn't know anyone who had done it in my real life, and am shy to begin with. I wish I had been more carefree about it, helped other women in my situation maybe, but there you have it. (My second doesn't nurse well if anyone else is around anyway, even at home we tend to go to his room just so he isn't paying more attention to his brother, so NIP would be pretty futile!)

I love that it seems it's no biggie in Germany (at least infants, that's a start)!

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

As far as the US, I think it depends entirely on where in the US a mother is. The San Francisco Bay area is known for it's high breastfeeding rates. I'm in Baltimore, where most low-income moms do not nurse, but nearly all the woman I personally know do nurse. And I have NEVER heard of a woman being hassled in Baltimore or the surrounding area for NIP. Pretty much everywhere I go, there is a mom feeding her baby, with or without a cover and hardly anyone glances her way.

At my daughter's preschool this past year, there were 4 moms with infants. One opted to pump and bottle feed at school and the other 3 breastfed with nursing covers. I never used one with my kids, but in this situation, I might have. Sitting elbow to elbow with other people, some of whom are men, can make it hard to get comfortable. I feel sometimes like nursing covers are demonized and that some lactivists feel like the only "right" way to breastfeed is without a cover, tits in the wind. And shouldn't we be supporting a mom's right to feed her baby the way that makes her comfortable? Isn't breastfeeding under a hooter hider better than not breastfeeding at all?

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I think Leah makes a great point about child-friendliness too. A friend traveled to France with her then-3 month old daughter and they were repeatedly turned away from restaurants because they "didn't take babies." Not even sleeping babies in strollers, when other patrons had their dogs under the tables.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I love that story from 1905! And the fact that it's written from the infant's viewpoint - priceless.

Most of the comments from the German perspective already state what I would have said. So I am just going to add a few points:
It is indeed a big issue among nursing mothers with children over, let's say, 10 months. Should I really NIP? What will people think? I think it has a lot to do with children being expected to eat 'properly' at that age instead of being (almost) exclusively breastfed (as mine was). At 12 months, this is considered bad for the baby because 'the mother's iron deposits are finished and the baby will not get enough'. Plus, the toxin theory rings a bell with me as well so there must be some truth to it being public opinion. In short: nursing a toddler in public is less common because a child at that age should be eating properly and maybe only be breastfed mornings and evenings at home.

I also went to the US when my son was 6 month and I asked around how the situation was there, having heard that it was indeed illegal. I never had problems, first of all because we were in California and secondly I was much more discrete about it than in Germany. No NIP in the toilets, though!

As about Germany being child-friendly AND having few children, I think that depends very much on the area where you are. There are many cities where you find streets full of bumps, babies and toddlers (and high-chairs in restaurants) and then there are those regions where they are indeed trying to be as child-friendly as possible because they are having demographic issues.

I agree, it was very nice to get an outsider's perspective on the situation in my own country!

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

Hope its not an issue in Italy either. We are taking our 2 yr old there in September. Figure I'll pack the nursing cover, but I never use mine here. No issues nursing in public here in Austin, TX, but then I don't really allow for discussion either. :)

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersimone

Fascinating. I hope that someday women can nurse their babies whenever and wherever they like -anywhere around the world.

Also - your post reminded me of "Our Babies, Ourselves," a book that I am reading about the varying ways that parents care for babies around the world. Have you read it?

P.S. The comment about Americans being "fairly prudish" made me laugh. ;)

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I forgot to ask: Why are you in Germany? Do you have family there? Would you ever consider moving abroad? I'd love to hear more about where you currently live and where you would choose to live if you could live anywhere in the world.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Thank you for this post! It was very interesting to read your perspective. It seems like European countries in general have a healthier view of sexuality and the (multi-)purposes for our bodies. I love how the woman asking the question about nursing on vacation in Florida is surprised that we don't allow topless bathing--I think "fairly prudish" is pretty accurate!

(I would be interested to know more about whether you don't see mothers nursing older babies because mostly they wean and introduce formula with solids. I wonder why that seems to be the general practice.)

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Simone:

You might want to check out this post on Italy: http://www.nursingfreedom.org/2010/07/carnip-day-4.html

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thanks for this post. It's really interesting. I spent a few weeks in different parts of Germany when I was tandem nursing my 2.5yr old and my 4mth old. I assumed that NIP wouldn't be an issue at all in Germany and didn't think twice about it. I didn't notice anyone batting an eyelid apart from one woman who just said she hadn't thought it was possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding. I wonder if this misinformation is prevalent would it explain why some women wean at six months if they are TTC again.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Foxe

While living overseas, I got the sense that at least in parts of Switzerland and france they have the same attitudes towards breastfeeding and NIP as well-- no one really bats an eye at an infant, but nursing past 6 months or so starts getting "weird." Which is a shame. But, I was very grateful that even as I nursed cover-free while sitting at sidewalk cafes in Geneva and while traveling in France, that the only looks or comments I ever remember getting were positive ones.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Stephanie:

My husband is German and he had a professional opportunity that brought us here for a few months. I don't think I'd ever consider leaving Canada permanently, but we do plan to live overseas again at some point. Right now we're in Kreuzberg, which is one of the inner city neighbourhoods in Berlin. I wrote a bit about it here:

http://www.phdinparenting.com/2010/04/09/from-bacon-to-bratwurst-and-a-vegan-cafe/

If I could live anywhere in the world? Not sure...at the moment, I guess Canada. But there isn't really one place that meets all of my needs. I'm a traveler, for sure.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Stephanie:

I know of "Our Babies, Ourselves", but I haven't read it myself.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Germany is extremely child friendly. We took our kids out to an expensive, fancy restaurant last week. It had an outdoor playground for the kids and also has an indoor play room for the winter. No one says anything at all about the kids wandering to and from the table over the course of several hours. Going to a restaurant and relaxing for a long meal with friends is practically impossible in Canada. In Germany, however, it is possible.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Catherine:

That is hilarious!

From what I've seen, a lot of people (in North America) are more concerned about nursing in front of male relatives than they are about nursing in public.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Andrea:

Maybe it is just the people I hang out with and the places that I hang out. I tend to stick to the crunchy neighbourhoods in Ottawa!

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

It seems to be that paediatricians in Germany (probably same elsewhere?) are concerned about babies getting enough iron after 6 months (you can also see this from the government publications you get - eg. from the BZgA) . They are definitely not against carrying on breast feeding - rather in favour - but they are very keen on the baby eating some iron-giving solids - normally potato-vegetable-meat purée or vegetarian alternative by about 8 or 10 months. My paediatrician asked about breastfeeding at our 12 month check up and when I said I was still feeding but not during the daytime (my son was then eating solids well and drinking water from a cup), the paediatrician commented that I should take seriously my own sleep needs (a kind thought but not really anything to do with breastfeeding - my kids don't sleep because of PLAYING!!) and suggested that continuing breast feeding until 18 months was "normal" anyway.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

That was what I then did - I sent my mum and dad to sit somewhere else and happily breastfed in full view of everyone else! :o)

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Oh, I definitely had pediatricians who really were against breastfeeding longer than roughly a year. They talk about psychic development and that I am the one who can't let my child go, and all this. I have also had a pediatrician once (my standard ped was off at the day), who suggested that my 3 months old son was now "old enough" to sleep in his own room and would not need to nurse during the night, I would rather spoil him and whatever. With other doctors, I just got e.g. the "you still breastfeed? (at 11 month..) no wonder you are down with the flu." And I know from a friend that it can be heard finding a gyn who accepts that one plans to nurse through the next pregnancy, most say it would be bad for the unborn.

So, while some doctors may be concerned about iron and things like that, others really don't seem to like the nursing in general.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSchussel

Wow, things must have changed a lot. People used to joke (or not) that dogs have more rights in Germany than children. At the townhouse/condo complex I grew up in in Berlin, children weren't allowed to play on the large grassy area in the middle, but dogs were. And going to a restaurant was very much a case of be seen, not heard.

Good to know that's gotten better. My husband has been suggesting a sabbatical in Germany, and I've been resisting (my actual words were 'over my dead body') partially because of memories like these.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVW

That's interesting- I live in a pretty crunchy area of Virginia, and here I have never been asked to cover up (except by a "friend" of mine, grrr). I was given a nursing cover before I had my daughter but I have never used it. I generally try to be pretty discreet anyway, and it does seem to be my husband who is trying to get me to cover up sometimes, but I generally don't anyway. :

It's interesting- my grandmother is German but moved to Virginia right before having kids, and she only breastfed her first child, I think. She probably fell victim to the misinformation that was so rampant in the 50's and 60's and still haunts us today! My mother, however, went to great lengths to breastfeed my sister and I, even after we were born 9 weeks prematurely in 1982!

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

My guess the range of responses on the German message board could be explained by the range of attitudes regarding nursing in the US. I think it really depends on where you are... Where I live (Madison, WI), nursing in public is fairly well accepted. And though I've never been harassed elsewhere while NIP, there have definitely been places within our country's borders -- even within an hour or two of my home -- where I've felt less comfortable.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKari

Lucky! :) I don't know where those are in my area, I'm about the crunchiest I know and that's not saying too much (incidentally, some of the crunchier types I interact with online are from your city!) Of course I can't claim to know about the whole of Canada by any means, only my small experience, but based on the stats, and anecdotes on Canadian parenting message boards, I believe nursing up to 2 and beyond at all is actually not common. So I'd have to imagine that NIP up to age 2 is less so.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Glad you could use the story from 1905. It's one of my favourites. :-)

July 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarin

Wow, indeed. Being from Germany and having visited Canada with a 9-month old and the USA with 3 kids, I found both countries extremely child friendly. Whereas Germany ... Oh my.

It's not like it used to be. I also remember children not being allowed to play on grass. That has indeed changed. Thank goodness. But what hasn't changed is the negative view on children. They disturb. They manipulate. They are tyrants. You have to show them who's the boss right from the start or you will lose the battle and the child will become a selfish brat.

That is so, so sad.

July 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarin

I've seen a lot of breasts exposed to small babies in Germany with no worry of covering up but haven't seen the same with toddlers. Nursing until around age one seems to be the norm but I know from friends in Berlin that there are mothers who continue breastfeeding until two or three but they tend to be more private about it and since it's probably happening more in the morning and bedtime it's not as visible. I had a friend visiting from Canada who nursed her 2 year old in a department store and she felt like she was getting strange looks from an older sales woman. I also experienced a definite feeling of disapproval from my doctor about still nursing a 2 year old and was quite surprised to get the classic question "are you doing this more for her or for you?"

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfrauflan

I wish I had more info about breastfeeding in Germany. I should ask my friends there. I nursed L in public in the U.S. until he was 3, and then he didn't really ask for it anymore. I never used a cover -- I am comfortable with breastfeeding, you can't see anything anyway, and I have noting to hide

L is still not done nursing to sleep at 4 years and 8 months. We recently flew to Germany and he nursed to sleep on the plane. I did cover him with a little swaddling blanket, for the first time, out of respect for the person next to us. We couldn't hide what we were doing, L is so tall :), but I wanted to be respectful to the passenger (men both times) next to us.

L thought it was really funny to be covered and gave me a big thumbs up from under the blanket, which made me crack up so much, I was crying LOL It's wonderful to get rewarded with an older child actually expressing his or her appreciation of breast feeding.

Dagmar

Loved this article! I am from the states (east coast) and living in Marburg, Germany nursing my 2 year old. Since she is beginning to ween and only nurses at naptime and bedtime now, I don't often find a need to nurse her in public, but if we are out at those times and she is unhappy and tired, I do it without a thought! Perhaps the frequency of toddler nursing is the reason you don't often see it. Although I have seen others nursing their toddlers in play groups if it right before or after nap.

May 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa

Just got back from a trip to Italy and Germany with a nursing 12-13 month old. In Italy people seemed ok with it, in Germany they stared at me, entire street cars full of old people. This was in the former east where mostly only old people are left.

August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

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