Breastfeeding - the 411 in Okinawa


Breastfeeding - the 411 in Okinawa

by: Laura Barbour, Japan Birth Resource Network | .
Birth Ed. Center of Okinawa | .
published: February 01, 2016

One of the first decisions a pregnant woman makes is the choice between breastfeeding or formula feeding. Choosing breast or bottle comes easily for some but for others, they need further information and a solid support system in place.

First time breastfeeding mothers should begin with education through reading materials. Surrounding themselves with a group of women with positive breastfeeding experiences is also another way to ensure breastfeeding success.

Taking a breastfeeding class is also a great way to learn the foundations. Okinawa has two options for breastfeeding classes: a “Breastfeeding Basics” class taught by a Nurse Practitioner at Naval Hospital Okinawa or an out of hospital class, “Breastfeeding 101”, offered monthly at the Birth Education Center of Okinawa and taught by a Lactation Educator Counselor. In addition to the Breastfeeding 101 class, the Birth Education Center of Okinawa also offers breastfeeding consultations with a local IBCLC or a Breastfeeding Specialist.

There are two established breastfeeding support groups in Okinawa. Every Wednesday the Birth Education Center offers “Weigh-In Wednesdays” from 12-2pm. This group is a gathering of breastfeeding moms with babies of all ages - from newborns to toddlers. Here moms can chat, share experiences, and also have an opportunity to check their baby’s weight gain (which is a big deal in those first few months of breastfeeding baby).

Okinawa’s La Leche League offers caring mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding mothers and mothers-to-be. Meetings, called Nursing Mom Meet-Ups, are typically held on the second Monday of each month at 10 a.m. in the Camp Foster Library. They are open to anyone with breastfeeding experience, as well as those needing information and support. The leaders are available to offer encouragement and education to moms at any stage in their breastfeeding journey. Join the Facebook group, La Leche League of Okinawa, for more information or to contact a leader.

New mom, Stephanie, recently took advantage of the Tricare program to reimburse expectant mom’s for the purchase of a breast pump. Stephanie said her healthcare provider wrote a prescription for a breast pump and it was a very simple process on to upload her prescription and choose a breast pump. She received her breast pump within 2 weeks and is pleased with its quality. “I know my sister’s breast pump was not covered by insurance and she had to pay a couple hundred dollars. The fact that my insurance covered the full amount and I received a pump that works beautifully have really helped my breastfeeding journey.”

It is common for moms to feel defeated, especially during those first few months, when breastfeeding doesn’t go as they’d hoped and planned. Knowing what to do to prepare for breastfeeding and when to ask for help are crucial factors in beginning and maintaining a successful breastfeeding relationship.
Recommended Resources:
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

Japan Birth Resource Network provides evidence based information and mother friendly support throughout Okinawa and Japan.
To learn more visit:

Birth Education Center of Okinawa’s Schedule for February:

Thursday, February 4
    - What to Expect Postpartum

Friday, February 5
    - Infant Massage (4 weeks class)

Thursday, February 18
    - Open House

Saturday, February 20
    - Question & Answer for Expectant Families with Dr. Fumi of Yui Clinic

Sunday, February 21
    - Hypnobirthing Childbirth Class Evening Series (5 weeks)

Tuesday, February 23
    - Hypnobirthing Childbirth Daytimes Series (5 weeks)

Thursday, February 25
    - Labor of Love Childbirth Evening Series (5 weeks)

Saturday, February 27
    - Birth Talk on “Comfort Measures”

Monday, February 29
    - Breastfeeding 101

Ongoing: Lactation consultations, complimentary therapy for labor, infant massage, and childbirth classes.