UNICEF: “Only 5.4 per cent – or around 43,000 of the estimated 800,000 babies born in the country each year – are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. This is the lowest exclusive breastfeeding rate in Asia and one of the lowest in the world, according to UNICEF. In Bangkok, the exclusive breastfeeding rate drops to just 1.1 per cent, the lowest in the country.”
This is far below the World Health Organization’s standard at 30%.
Quite appalling, I must say!
While Thailand’s health care facilities are almost world class standards, they may not necessarily be an advocate to things like natural vaginal delivery and breastfeeding, preferring instead, C-Sects and Formula feeding. While these things seem to be the most natural thing in the world, they somehow are just not embraced enough by the local community.
I found that there has been no adequate support and a proper education on breastfeeding when I was still in the hospital. This showed, even when I desperately needed help after I was discharged. What was disappointing was that they could not pinpoint me to the right direction or one person who could help me. In the end, I was pretty much left confused and frustrated while trying to figure things out on my own with Google at hand. I finally managed to find some help & tips from an independent group on breastfeeding who referred me to a Lactation Consultant from another hospital.
It has been said that Thailand’s been contaminated by aggressive marketing activities perpetrating that formula can just be as good as breasts milk. While advertisers in Thailand are facing some tough restrictions, they are not completely banned altogether. It is a sad fact. In fact, I have also heard from people on the streets that breastfeeding is viewed as something that only the rural dwellers (hence, lower status standing) indulge in. Feeding your child formula on the other hand, indicate a higher social status and economic standing. I remember reading somewhere on the web where one woman actually said the reason she is not having kids is because she thinks she cannot afford to buy formula for her child. If such is true, I find that to be really sad and a pathetic excuse.
I just don’t understand the very subtle sentiments against breastfeeding in Thailand. New mothers practically receive little or no education to breastfeed from medical staff and no support on proper breastfeeding techniques. At least, not at the hospital I went to for my delivery. While the process of lactation is very natural, there are so many problems that can occur while breastfeeding. Hence being able to resolve those issues is the key to a positive experience, and thus, avoid being manipulated to using formula as a means to an end.
Knowing what I know now, I felt as if I was being manipulated to start on formula.(The whole story in another post). I was later told by a kind soul that Samitivej Hospital is THE only hospital so far to have a certified Lactation Consultation (the only one in the country) and the only one so far that really advocate breastfeeding by giving proper support.
I still say I had an awesome doctor as my OBYGN, but I doubt he is an expert on breastfeeding. Speaking from experience, just be aware that there’s a high chance that the reputable hospitals here may just undermine your good intention on breastfeeding. You may just be steered to formula feeding, since breastfeeding can often be exhaustingly frustrating.