Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Get your t**s out! Breastfeeding in Dubai

I feel the urge to start this post by saying that I don't want to enter into the breastfeeding debate that seems to crop up in the press on an almost daily basis at the moment. Well, it appears that way to me, perhaps because I may be somewhat tuned into it. If you can and want to breastfeed, then well done you. If you don't, don't. Why would you give a s*** about what I think about your parenting choices anyway?

For what it's worth, yes I am "exclusively" as the medical professionals like to term it, breastfeeding Desert Baby, and yes, it was a bloomin' struggle getting it established. My experience of it was this: After she was born, the nurses asked if I was going to breastfeed, I said "yes" they brought me a special gown to enable flapping my engorged mammaries out with relative ease, and Desert Baby made vague, slightly anaesthetised newborn attempts at putting her mouth in the right direction, and away we went. Simple. Except it wasn't that simple at all. For the first few weeks at least, it hurt like f***, because I had failed to acquire the fabled "technique" that one thousand and one patronising YouTube videos by various alpha mummies who suckle seven kids at once deem to be of paramount importance. There was weeping, there were feelings of inadequacy, there was a tear-sodden, hysterical refusal to allow a nurse to give Desert Baby formula during one particularly grim night in hospital, but we got there in the end, and Mini Me is so far gaining weight at the speed she should.

I could bore on for hours on this subject, but I shan't, but I will say, there are various breastfeeding or "lactation" consultants in Dubai but they were of little or no use to me because they all seemed to be on holiday for two or three weeks when I really needed them. I was recommended this place instead, where you can pay a small fee for an appointment with a midwife who will take a look at you feeding your baby, and advise you. Or, if you're at the so tired and hysterical that you can't get out of the house without slices of toast stuck to your hair with your nightie on backwards having not showered for a week phase, they will visit you at home for a slightly larger fee.

It all worked out for me in the end, as I had plenty of help and advice from a big sister who had been through the same thing less than two years earlier, but I am conscious of the fact that it does not work out for many women in the UAE, for a number of reasons, some of which will probably make another post at some point. But in the mean-time, this is my attempt at being all touchy feely and helpful and in a "sisters are doing it for themselves" way. It's primarily for ladies who might think that getting your t*** out in public in order to feed your squalling child in a country where public nudity is punishable by prison sentences on occasion is a bad idea. It isn't.

Breastfeeding is a topic much discussed in the UAE, partly due to this law, which does not just encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies but requires it, for the first two years. Far be it from me to try to speculate on the motivation of this law, as I would not know where to start, but, as far as I am concerned, it means mums have the green light to breastfeed in public as long as they abide by standards of modesty normally expected in the UAE.

A lifetime ago, pre Desert Baby, I thought about things other than how fast my genius child is growing and how very advanced she is for being able to simultaneously crack a smile and make noises like Wellington's war horse charging into battle when she fills her nappy. At that time, I got somewhat hot and bothered about the UAE dress code debate in this post. Yes, you are required to dress modestly covering your knees and shoulders in Dubai, although many expats ignore those requirements, and, you would think flopping a t** out would be a problem because of that.

Like so many things here, the truth of it is that staying out of trouble is a matter of common sense, which in this case, requires investing in one of these. Other brands are available, including this one. I have Bebe Au Lait, and it's alright, does the job, although it has a pattern like Smarties and it makes me feel like a demented children's party entertainer who has just one trick - making a baby appear. It was the only one available in Mothercare other than a black one, which I decided would be too warm. The Nuroo one looks way nicer when used, at least, it did on the very chic lady I met at a mother and baby group yesterday. Actually, it may be that she was just super cool and stylish compared with me, which wouldn't be difficult at the moment as I am currently rocking an eclectic combination of maternity clothes and a succession of increasingly peculiar breastfeeding tops.

So, the question is, do people hassle you for breastfeeding in Dubai? The answer is, as far as I can see, no. Here is a list of places I have breastfed using my "nursing cover" without problems:

1. La Brioche cafe, Bay Avenue, Executive Towers, Business Bay
2. Cafe di Roma, also in ET.
3. Cafe Rumi, ET.
4. Chez Sushi, ET.
5. Tangerine, Thai restaurant, ET.
6. Omar Khayyam, Iranian restaurant, ET.
7. La Fragola (gelato, pancakes and waffles, don't judge me, I'm breastfeeding), ET.
8. Costa Coffee, 2nd floor, The Dubai Mall.
9. Carluccio's, The Dubai Mall.
10. Social House, also TDM.
11. On the floor in the shade at the Taste of Dubai food festival, Media City.
12. On a bench in the foyer of TDM's cinema parking, when him and indoors and I were having a forgetful new parent "where did we leave the car?" moment and Desert Baby decided she didn't fancy waiting for us to get her home.
13. The cafe at Mediclinic Welcare Garhoud Hospital.
14. Poolside at ET.
15. Poolside at the Emirates Grand Hotel.
16. Caribou Coffee inside Dubai Aquarium, TDM.
17. Ikea restaurant, Festival City.
18. Other places that I can't remember.

No one has raised an eyebrow at any of these venues when I have fed Desert Baby. What this tells you, apart from the inordinate amount of time I have spent in cafes in the past couple of months, is that if you feel embarrassed or shy about feeding your baby in public, you don't need to be. The only time it has even been mentioned to me is when a waitress offered to move my pot of tea slightly closer so I could reach it, thus, feed and drink tea simultaneously. Now that's civilised.

So, go forth and feed your children habibtis, be not shy with thy mammaries. Now, if anyone's got any tips on how to take a baby for a walk in her pram when it's 40C plus, I would love to hear them.

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