Inlaws or Outlaws…

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I’ve never really had much of an issue with my inlaws, they live in a different country and don’t speak English…so whilst that creates some problems it also eases many of them.

The only real frustration arose during a visit with our baby, who was 5 months old.  It turns out that the Turkish parenting style is massively slightly different to my own.  Whereas in the UK there are several main themes of parenting, people tend to pick a style and then go along with this to some extent whilst incorporating bits of other styles and advice from others so they end up with a system that best suits their own family, because as far as I can see every child is different and there’s no “one size fits all” solution unfortunately.

Before we went away we had a pretty decent bedtime routine, Jem slept through the night or woke once for milk, he still fed a lot during the day but it was manageable and he napped pretty well although did have a tendency to cry when put down.  He has a cousin who lives in Turkey who is almost exactly 1 year older which is nice, and although the difference between a 6 month old and an 18 month old is huge it was interesting to see the effect of our different parenting styles.

The first issue was feeding, my inlaws were pretty convinced that I was effectively starving the baby.  Every whimper would result in enquiries of “are you going to feed him, he’s hungry”.  I found this really puzzling, he doesn’t cry that much but he was in the process of teething and on the verge of crawling so sometimes he would cry for reasons other than hunger…

The second issue was napping.  Apparently napping is unnecessary, and there’s no word for “overtired” as far as I can establish.  Jem would nap in the car but my inlaws thought I was being cruel by trying to put him down in his travelcot for a nap.  “Rock him” they said, taking him and rocking him to sleep.  I tried to explain that the reason I didn’t do this was because I was trying to encourage him to fall asleep in his cot so we could nap at home…it didn’t go down well.

If he cried in his cot he would be immediately picked up.  If they got chance loud singing and clapping would be employed to distract him from tiredness…whilst I tried to maintain our habit of quiet time.  I tried explaining that he often cried for a couple of minutes as he fell asleep, but again I was speaking a foreign language.

As we are about to venture to my inlaws again they are confused as to why we are again taking a cot when he could just sleep in our bed.  Issue 3: bed times.  In Turkey our nephew goes to bed when his parents go to bed, as they are often out in the evenings and don’t like to stay in.  He also has no nap routine but if he’s getting particularly tired they will rock him to sleep and then put him down on a bed.  Jem goes to bed at half 7 and as a VERY active 1 year old without something to contain him we are asking for trouble.  The inlaws think he can just stay up with us and really that napping is unnecessary so he could manage…I disagree!

Food will be an interesting issue this time, Jem was only just about to wean last time we went and although he will eat pretty much anything I still dread mealtimes there, we will have no highchair and from what I have seen soup is the primary food source for children (not his favourite thing!) and they tend to eat very late whereas I like Jem to have eaten an hour before bed.

*sigh*

It may be find, I may be overreacting – keep your fingers crossed for me!

(and don’t get me started on showering and bathing babies….)

 

Breastfeeding abroad…tales from my offensive breast

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When Jem was 5 months old we took him to Turkey to visit his grandparents.  I was settled into bf by this point and although a little anxious about travelling keen to go before we started weaning.

“How do women bf in Turkey” I asked the Turk.  “Dunno” he said. [note to self: this should have been my first warning].

“Could you ask your mum/sister/sister-in-law” I asked the Turk.  “Ok” he replied.

Long story short I find myself on an aeroplane none the wiser about the attitude towards bf.  In my head Turkey is the kind of country that actively encourages bf, therefore presumably it’s pretty acceptable. I am equipped with my bebe au lait nursing cover (an expense I wasn’t convinced about but once I had it wished I had one earlier).  This assumption was incorrect, I later found out that take up of bf is relatively low, despite Government policy to encourage exclusive bf until 6 months.  Upon arrival at my in-laws I was desperate to feed, we’d had 2 hours in the airport and over an hour in the incredibly hot and un-airconditioned car without a feed…that was a long time in Jem’s world.  I was encouraged to feed, but in the bedroom, away from the men.  OK so I accept my father in law may not want to see my boobs, but I am pretty discrete having finally got the hang of it, and I had my nursing cover.  Jem was desperate for a feed so I went with it and was glad to get him away from the hysteria of family reuniting anyway.

What I didn’t really appreciate at the time was that this was how every feed would be, at any cry my in-laws would insist that Jem was hungry (he wasn’t he was usually tired…but they don’t believe in tiredness in Turkey – more on this in another rant post!) so I would be banished to another room to feed.  Whilst out the next day I horrified my mother in law by suggesting I feed using my nursing cover, again I had to resort to sitting in the car out of public view.  I was getting confused, for such a bunch of people who clearly wanted me to feed my baby as frequently as possible they didn’t want me to do it around them!

In supermarkets or shopping centres I discovered something interesting.  The baby changing rooms were usually great, clean, large, sometimes with supplies, good quality changing tables and mats and hand washing facilities.  This wasn’t all, they were almost always equipped with somewhere to sit, often a comfy high backed chair with arm rests ideal for nursing.  Whilst my story is generally negative about the experience I had, I really wish I could transpose this good practice to the UK, all changing rooms should be somewhere pleasant to sit and feed your baby rather than a cubby hole created just because you “have to” have somewhere to enable parents to change their baby.

I would never sit in a public toilet to feed my child and in the UK I’ve fed all over the place, so whilst I appreciate that there were lovely locations to feed in Turkey, having worked so hard to become a competent bf’er  I really resented the feeling of being sent away to feed my baby.  I understand that around the world there are different sensitivities to adapt to and I have no objection to being more discrete even than I might normally be, but it was a real shock to me to not feel able to even feed my (“starving“) baby in the living room if there were men present.  It made me feel unwanted, dirty and like I was doing something wrong.  I have never felt like this in the UK and that is why I am so pleased that recently so many women have made a stand against negative attitudes towards bf.  I think it is now relatively uncommon to have such a reaction towards bf in the UK, but I appreciate that only a few short years ago many women would have felt the same as I do now.  Given the changing attitude in this country to bf I believe we should all do our utmost to ensure free and open opportunities for bf, it is only through this that we will be able to encourage mums like me who struggled so much with bf to be able to continue.  When I started bf I had genuinely never seen anyone close to me nursing their baby, I had no idea how to hold a baby or what it should be like, I felt it was shrouded in some great mystery!  I hope that my open approach and that of others is helping to demystify the process and encourage more and more mums to try bf and overcoming a fear that it is somehow offensive for others to see.