Breastfeeding is hard work, especially for mothers of newborns who are just learning the ropes. Unfortunately, unsupportive family and friends can make the whole process even more difficult by throwing out their opinions on the matter when they are neither wanted nor needed. This can leave a breastfeeding mom feeling discouraged, and cause her to question her decisions.
In these cases, it is important for the mother to remember that she is in charge, and she had good reasons for making the choices she made. After all, most moms who choose to go against the grain have researched their options well.
That said, even when a woman has her mind made up and feels quite strongly about her decision, it can be difficult for her to defend herself against attacks from loved ones. Keeping the peace can feel so important that it often causes these mothers to do things they never intended in order to stop the unsolicited advice.
If you are going through this right now, you may be wondering how in the world to handle such a difficult situation. Here are a few tips to help you navigate through this unfortunate scenario.
Find New Savvy Nursing Gear
While nursing in public, where ever and when ever, should be common place, unfortunately some friends and family can be the most vocal and objective about what is a completely normal practice. Rude comments and suggestions are often the result of what your friends and family perceive as an uncomfortable situation. If your loved ones seem uncomfortable watching you nurse, and to be frank, you're just absolutely over hearing it, it might be time to invest in some high-quality nursing gear.
A few chic and modern nursing tops can go a long way in helping you feed your baby in a way that will likely leave your family feeling more comfortable, and therefore less nosey about your parenting decisions. A nursing tee shirt with discreet nursing access or a stylish and functional nursing hoodie may even have your friends and family offering compliments and changing their minds very quickly to a surprisingly more positive tone.
Remember, your mom probably never had seen such cool and fashionable nursing clothing back in her day. She may just stop in her tracks and be excited that you can nurse and not have to feel subject to other people's feelings about it.
Set up a Peaceful Nursing Haven
If, despite your breastfeeding apparel, the people in your life are still uncomfortable with your breastfeeding, you might consider leaving the room to feed your baby.
While this may feel ridiculous to you, and it is, it still could help ward off unnecessary commentary.
Setting up a nursing space in your home that is relaxing and peaceful may be your perfect "getaway" while you nurse. Have a cozy chair, water bottle to stay hydrated, lactation boosting snacks handy, a soft pillow, and some reading, music, or watching material close by if needed. With this, you're away and can really focus on bonding with baby rather than feeling the other energy you may not want to be around.
That said, you absolutely are not ever required to leave the room to nurse in any situation. If you would rather not leave when it is time to feed baby, then definitely don't.
Timing is Everything
You've heard that timing is everything. Well a young baby obviously has to eat when he or she has to eat and you just can't always time that.
However, if you are still breastfeeding a toddler, and especially if your family and friends believe your little one is too old to be nursing, making a plan to time things the right way could help maintain the peace when spending time with those you love.
Essentially, this would mean nursing your toddler before and after the visit, but not during. If it will be a longer visit, be sure to bring water and some favorite snacks in order to curb your child's appetite until you get back home.
If your baby is younger than a toddler and especially exclusively breastfeeding, then going back to the first tip of having savvy nursing wear may be your "breast" friend in this situation.
Despite your best efforts, you will probably not be able to avoid breastfeeding discussions altogether. When the topic does come up, remain calm, thank the person for their advice or opinion, and offer a short explanation of why you do what you do.
Your friend or family member may be legitimately concerned or curious, and offering an explanation in a kind and respectful manner is the best route in either situation.
Say thank you for your opinion and try to see that people just can't be in your shoes because they are not, and when to stop breastfeeding will be a decision only you and your child needs to make.
Many people have strong-held opinions when it comes to breastfeeding, but don't actually know many of the facts behind this beautiful act.
For instance, very few people of the older generation truly understand the benefits of extended breastfeeding. Additionally, because breastfeeding is not completely normalized in our society, there are some younger people out there who don't know any better and think nursing a toddler is gross. Yes we said that word...because that's just part of the unfortunate truth that people actually say such a thing.
By offering solid, research-based evidence that what you are doing is beneficial, you may be able to get through to the people in your life. It is not easy speaking to someone that is so set in their ways, or just so close minded that they cannot be open to the differences in people, but....who knows? You may even pull them over to your side.
Offer facts in the kindest way possible, and go out of your way to avoid making the offender feel dumb. This is the best way to get through to people.
If it's dad that has an issue, it could simply be that he feels left out. Find ways dads can help breastfeeding moms and be more included here.
Have a Heart-to-Heart
If all of the tips above just aren't doing the trick, it might be time to build up some courage and have a heart-to-heart talk. This can be difficult to do, as it can feel like you are putting your relationship in danger. However, it is important to keep in mind that not having this conversation is equally risky. Not talking builds resentment, and resentment is a problem for any relationship.
Once you decide to have a big talk with the person or people who continuously offend you, it is crucial that you first make yourself a script—or at least a guideline—for what you want to say. Practice this script until you know it by heart and will be able to cover everything you'd like to say, no matter what the other party may have to say.
When scheduling your meeting, consider finding a public place that is good for chatting. This could be a local coffee shop, a restaurant, or a public park. Wherever you choose to be, make sure you are comfortable speaking your opinions there. A public space also helps control voices from getting louder and may be the best place to carry out such a talk.
If you're going to initiate and invite them to meet you for coffee or lunch, let your friend or family member know that you will be treating them. This will hopefully set you off on the right foot.
Throughout your talk, do everything you can to remain calm. Do not yell, and do not become accusatory. Simply state the facts and let your loved one know how their actions or words make you feel. Offer your reasoning for the choices you make, and kindly request that they stop making the comments that are hurting your feelings.
A heart-to-heart that is done in this way should get the job done. If it doesn't, you can be pretty sure the person in question does not respect you and probably isn't a true friend. If this is a very close person to you like your husband or partner, suggest some counseling or consider counseling because a third party might really help clarify your message in a more unbiased way. Sometimes people don't want to listen to those that love them most and yet will listen to someone else they barely know.
Since having close friends and family is such an important part of motherhood, we know just how much keeping your loved ones close likely means to you. By following these tips, we are certain you will be able to sort out your breastfeeding disagreements in a civil manner that does not destroy your friendship. In fact, we'd be willing to bet that in some ways, your relationship will be made stronger by finding a way through this difficult situation.
You are not alone. Normalizing breastfeeding is a challenge that is ongoing in our society, though amongst family and friends, especially, you should feel at your most comfortable. Try these steps and at the same time, stand your ground in a firm and decisive manner reiterating that you are doing the best for your child. A mother that offers this type of nourishment and love to their child is committed and it's a hard job! Feel proud, confident, and beautiful! You are superwoman. Really!! It's crazy amazing what the female body can do so be proud and continue to feed when you need!
Keep going mama! Consistency yields results and you can do it!
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Do you need help or know someone that does? Reach out to someone you can trust. Ask for help. Find a way. If you need someone to call and do not know who, there are more support sources:
Asking for Help is a sign of Strength. National Parent Hotline 1-855- 4A PARENT • 1-855-427-2736
More Help Hotlines from https://www.womenshealth.gov --
Below is a list of national resources and hotlines that provide anonymous, confidential information to callers. They can answer questions and help you in times of need.
Phone Number: 800-442-HOPE (4673)
Phone Number: 800-799-SAFE (7233)
Phone Number: 800-994-4PPD (4773)
Phone Number: 800-PPD-MOMS (800-773-6667)