By Maryam Al-Ali, La Leche League Leader from Kuwait
I have been pleased to observe how breastfeeding rates have gone up in my home country, Kuwait, over the past few years. However, although most mothers in Kuwait start out breastfeeding at birth with a passion to continue, many give up within a few months. The main reason for that, I have observed, is pressure placed on them by society.
Mothers I have met seem willing to persevere through numerous challenges they might face during their breastfeeding journeys, but the way society views them may drag their morale down. The common comments a mother gets from people around her revolve around her freedom:
“You won’t be able to leave the house often.”
“Can you do your shopping comfortably?”
“How many more months until you are able to hang out with your friends?”
“You really will spoil your baby if you hold her for too long!”
Mothers’ desire to breastfeed is clear; doing so discreetly in public or in semi-public settings often stands in their way. I came to realize that babywearing makes this easier, especially using a sling adapted to Kuwaiti culture.
Since I am a babywearing mother myself, I took it upon myself to encourage mothers to use slings by role modeling them. I bought slings of several patterns and fashionable fabrics, and flaunted my happy suckling baby around town wrapped in them! The slings did turn heads and help initiate conversations with local mothers, especially because most Kuwaitis are rather fashion-conscious.
Since the weather here is quite hot, with humidity peaking in summer, sling fabrics need to be light and breathable, yet opaque to respect the culture’s modesty. A long drape also helps to give more cover and enable discreet breastfeeding anywhere.
Obviously, such baby wraps also allow mothers to enjoy a semi-hands-free experience with babies when on the go or while doing chores at home, all while remaining stylish!
I continue to actively encourage mothers in Kuwait to take up babywearing, which I hope will make a difference to the duration of breastfeeding here. I’m sure babywearing has such an effect everywhere, but it might have an even stronger effect here due to the cultural importance of modesty.
This article originally appeared in Close to the Heart, a publication of La Leche League Asia & Middle East, in their Mid-Year 2019, Volume 20, Number 2 issue. Reprinted with permission.
The first and only Arabic Leader in Kuwait, Maryam Al-Ali has been a La Leche League Leader for four years and also helps translate La Leche League articles. With her kind and gentle manner, Maryam is making a real difference in her local community, where the cases of premature babies are frequent.