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Breastfeeding in public places? 2007/3/23 20:17
I am about to travel to Kyoto with a new baby. Is discrete breastfeeding(with a baby wrap over your shoulder) in public places considered offensive to Japanese people? What sort of reaction would I receive?
by Sophie  

Why...? 2007/3/24 08:45
Why would you breastfeed publicly anywhere? Its not that is bad, because, you know, you have to love him and take care of him, but its not... right. If you wouldn't expose yourself without out a baby, you shouldn't expose your self with one, it's not an excuse. Breastfeeding should be practiced only at home, in privacy. But that's what I think, its just my opinion, you don't have to take my word for it.
by Rilwan Kujenya rate this post as useful

how to breastfeed in public 2007/3/24 09:54
Breastfeeding can be done in public, and is accepted by many people in Japan. The baby can't possibly wait until (s)he gets home!

But as a courtesy to people like Rilwan :) you can ask around for private rooms to breastfeed your child. For example, department stores and airports almost always have breastfeeding rooms. Shinkansen trains also have breastfeeding rooms nowadays, but if not, the conductor can surrender his room while you breastfeed.
by Uco rate this post as useful

umm 2007/3/24 12:33
i think you'll get discusted looks ANYWHERE no offense, but it's just not something you should do in public anywhere.
by kate rate this post as useful

... 2007/3/24 12:34
if your baby can't wait to eat baby bottling your breat-milk would be best.
by kate rate this post as useful

it is okay 2007/3/24 13:34
Unlike some of the posters here, most people are mature and sensible and will prefer that you see to the needs of your baby. Babies need to be fed often and you do not need to hide at home simply because you are breastfeeding. If someone is offended, think of it as their problem, and pity them for not understanding what the real purpose of the breast is. Usually the same people who are inclined to complain about breastfeeding in public are the very same individuals who are likely to object to a baby's crying.
by Tilt rate this post as useful

tilit 2007/3/24 13:36
you're right. i don't like babys crying in public, i dont like babys that much. i think a mother should know it's rude not to keep her child calm.

oh i am evil *rolls eyes*
by kate rate this post as useful

Breastfeeding 2007/3/24 13:56

In my experience, it is extremely rare to see mothers breastfeeding in public in Japan, and when you do, it is often foreign women.
As many places do seem to have baby-feeding rooms these days, I suggest you do what the Japanese do and use these where possible.
by Dave in Saitama rate this post as useful

Go ahead 2007/3/24 14:31
Unlike Kate, I have not noticed disgusted looks when I have been with friends who have breastfed their babies in public in Tokyo (or anywhere for that matter). As the original poster mentioned, friends of mine have used a baby wrap so there is nothing to see.

I agree with the posters who say that most people are mature enough to deal with this, although I also agree with Dave who says that Japanese women rarely do it, however they also end up spending a lot of time at home by themselves and can get quite isolated.
by Sira rate this post as useful

Please respect local customs! 2007/3/24 14:58
The fact that public breastfeading is not common in Japan has nothing to do with "immaturity"! It is simply a local custom.

I recommend all visitors to a foreign country to respect local customs!

It is the same with kissing in public. Eating while walking, etc.

Just respect local customs!
by Uji rate this post as useful

It's OK 2007/3/24 15:20
I lived in Kyoto for over a decade, and often saw young mothers breastfeeding.

When I say "I saw" please understand that Japanese women are terrifically dicreet and good at making themselves invisible. And Japanese in general are adept at 'not seeing' what they do not need to see.

But cycling through the Gosho Palace park and along the Kamo River and other public parklands I often saw stuff, of course without staring. Cafes, too. The problem there, however, is cigarette smoke. As a new parent I am sensitive to that. And sympathetic to you. The idea that a bottle should replace abreast is hardly worth responding to.

Kyoto has a generally young population, and away from the city centre it is a quiet and laid backm bohemian place. Discretion is its own reward.

This is, after all, a country where it is very easy to see grown men urinating in alleys behind restaurants!

In my opinion the only respect that need be accorded to the scolds above is just to leave them stew in their sanctimonious moralism.

There will be a few uncomfortable moments, but you'll be fine.

by Pericles rate this post as useful

Customs and travel 2007/3/24 16:47
Just respect local customs!

Although I'm all in favour of respecting local customs, the situation of a traveller is rather different from a person living in a country and Sophie specifically said she was travelling.
I have seen Japanese women breastfeeding babies discretely in parks, etc. in Japan and I suggest that Sophie follows Uco-san's advice, especially since Uco-san is a Japanese woman with children living in Japan. :-)
by Kappa rate this post as useful

... 2007/3/24 17:47
Just respect the local customs by not breastfeeding publicly, i.e. use breast feeding rooms in public buildings, your hotel room or private compartments on trains or, if you cannot find a private room, use a discreet breastfeeding technique in a discreet location.

If you don't, you will irritate many locals around you. You will be no different from a Japanese tourist who refuses to stop slurping loudly while eating pasta in Italy.

As for urinating in public, it is considered very bad manner in Japan. The fact that people do it, does not mean that it is acceptable.
by Uji rate this post as useful

some background 2007/3/24 20:33
Wow, wild thread! Like I wrote, I suggest the breastfeeding rooms. However I'm going to give you people some background just for your information.

Traditionally in Japan, breastfeeding was quite commonly done in OPEN public. In fact back then, a lot of commoners didn't hesitate to show their breasts even though they never showed their buttocks.

A Japanese doll-making artist who specializes in old-time customs has a piece that shows a village woman feeding her baby in broad daylight and neighbors are bursting in laughter at how good the baby's appetite is. Very healthy piece of art.

Even as I was raising my child 15 years ago, I'd see mothers in high-fashion breastfeeding while waiting for the babies' health check-up. She had the baby's mouth area covered with her shirt though.

However, a mom-friend once started breastfeeing inside a now Tokyo Metro train since her baby was crying so much it was annoying the other passengers. She claims she got stares, so she got off at the next station and fed at the platform bench which was okay.

In my personal experience, I've never seen anyone showing her breasts in public in Japan, be it foreign or Japanese. I've only seen Japanese mothers feeding at parks with her nipples covered, and I've seen Japanese mothers feeding with breasts fully shown in front of her father.

I also agree with the other poster that Japanese mothers tend to stay home more. There is less babysitting, and doctors encourage them to keep the baby indoors until the second month or so. Plus streets and facilities are not yet that baby-friendly, so you can't go out with the baby for a long time, having to worry about places to rest, feed and change.

By the way generally speaking, in Japan, bottle-feeding is not something you do to hide your breast from public. It's something you have to deal with when breastfeeding is not physically going well for some reason, or when you need to be away from the baby for work and you need to freeze your breast milk. In any case, any mom who successfully lead her baby to be fed from the bottle is lucky. Life ain't that easy.
by Uco, J woman with 1 child in Japan rate this post as useful

go ahead 2007/3/25 07:20
I fed my babies in many public places in Japan over the years, and never encountered any hostility. Of course if there is a breastfeeding room available, use it - they're more comfortable, and often have nappy-changing tables too. But otherwise park benches, corner seats in restaurants and so on are all fine. The Japanese are not prudish about exposed skin (just think of onsens...), but most women prefer to be as discreet as possible just in case. The only place I have ever heard of mothers being asked to stop feeding in public was the Tokyo American Club. I think that tells you something about the difference in attitudes between Japan and the US.
by tokyo mum rate this post as useful

Thank you for all your answers!! 2007/3/25 09:21
Thank you everyone who replied to my question!! There were so many responses which has helped me get an idea as to my best course of action. As I am travelling it is very difficult to stay indoors all the time. However, I think I will take the advice of many and look for feeding rooms eg,departments stores etc. Thank you everyone again for you input it was very interesting the different reactions to my question.
by Sophie rate this post as useful

... 2007/3/25 15:51
The only place I have ever heard of mothers being asked to stop feeding in public was the Tokyo American Club. I think that tells you something about the difference in attitudes between Japan and the US.

Attitudes with regard to voicing a complaint, that is. In the US, it is much more common for annoyed people to voice their complaints than in Japan, where many people will remain quiet despite being annoyed or angered, especially when the annoying person is a foreigner.

It is very dangerous, especially in Japan, to equate "no complaint" with "no problem".
by Uji rate this post as useful

wrong 2007/3/26 01:31
Japan is a more breastfeeding friendly culture, but perhaps you cannot get beyond your own discomfort and prejudices? Anyone who equates breastfeeding with urination has some serious issues. I am sorry that you take such great offense at such a natural and loving act, Uji. Please try to remember that it is never anyone's first choice to breastfeed in public and that suitable alternatives are not always available. Also, it is not always possible to respect local customs. If a woman were to do that here in Hong Kong, she would not be able to successfully breastfeed. Fortunately, Japan provides a supportive environment.
by Tilt rate this post as useful

in conclusion... 2007/3/26 02:37
Tilt, I'd say that any Japanese person who has raised a baby has no problem seeing women breastfeeding in public. However, not all people have raised children. And it's not difficult at all to find a (as mentioned) "discreet" place and a hanky to cover yourself.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Getting hot in here 2007/3/26 02:51
OK, OK. I apologise for being the one to bring urine into the room. But you know what point I was trying to make.

Anyway, I am a big fan of the Akachan Honpo chain babywear stores. Last year I was in Japan while my wife was pregnant, and I wanted to stock up on some good Japanese baby products.

One thing I picked up, but sadly did not keep, was a free 'how to' pamphlet for breastfeeding.

Many of you will be familiar with cute characters in Japanese promo material. Well, this one had truly hilarious little cartoons and illustrations about breastfeeding. Cute, and quite earthy also. Splashes of milk, even indications of mastitis. Hard to imagine such an item anywhere but Japan.

On a more anthropological note, I have visited several old Shinto shrines where the theme was mothering. I am thinking of one in particular in Yoshino (Nara) where maternity-related offerings are displayed, many in the form of breasts made of soft cotton.
by Pericles rate this post as useful

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