Here you are, a breastfeeding mama, working unbelievably hard, probably exhausted, but also feeling super proud of your feeding accomplishments... and then enter snide comments or snooty questions from others. It's like a double gut punch because you feel unsupported AND as though your hard work is invisible. Well, mama, you are not alone! I see you and so do countless others who have also walked your path. I'm writing this a few days before #Christmas, which brings lots of #family get-togethers that can leave mamas feeling self conscious and overwhelmed. Regardless, of what time of year you are reading this, my 3 pronged approach to handling these situations will give you good options for different situations and relationships.
*It's up to you to contemplate which approach or mix of approaches will work best for you. There are lots of factors here; the setting, your relationship with this person and your history together, social obligations, etc...
Approach 1: Full Stop Boundary Setting
This is the most assertive approach. In this approach, it doesn't really matter what Aunt Felicia specifically says, you are ready to go with responses to set the #boundary that you are confident and happy with your #breastfeeding choices. The boundary is basically #communicating, "this isn't up for debate and I'm not engaging with you about this." Obviously, some people will catch on more quickly to this than others. Just like with anything else important and worthwhile, #boundaries can be hard in the beginning. But it's like a muscle; the more often you use it, the stronger it will be. And remember: KEEP IT SIMPLE. DON'T OVER EXPLAIN! Set your boundary and don't be afraid to let in hang there in the silence for a moment. I also really like this article: https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/
Here are some great examples of responses to Uncle Barry saying "Doesn't your husband mind having to share those?" ::insert his creepy laughter here:: or any other Ew! comments / questions that are thrown your way.
"Please don't talk about my breasts."
"It makes me uncomfortable when you talk about my breasts."
"It makes me uncomfortable when you question my parenting choices."
"I'm doing what I believe is best for myself and my baby."
"I'm happy with my feeding choices."
"This is working for us."
"I don't want to discuss that with you."
"I would like your support and not opinions right now."
"That comment/question isn't helpful to me. You could help me a lot if you.......... instead."
Approach 2: Educational Ammo
While the following information is important, I want to stress 2 things: (1) Remember, as a new mom, it's not your job to educate anyone. Being a #newmom is hard enough! Please don't feel like you've got to change the entire bottle-feeding culture! (2) This is all great information to try to store in your brain, but if you feel particularly challenged or vulnerable, it's not going to be easy to pull facts out. Don't beat yourself up if you intend to do this and then fumble over your words. (This has certainly happend to me!) Again, it's not your job to change anyone's mind or validate your #parenting choices to anyone.
Topic: He's eating again? Didn't you just feed him? Are you sure you make enough milk?
”Breastfed babies normally eat 8-12x per day in the first several months of life.“
”Breastfeeding is about more than food. I’m also his source of hydration and comfort.”
"He's snacking, just like adults like to do... and some days more than others."
"I am everything to him right now... His meals, his snacks, his water bottle. With this in mind, it's normal that he'll be on the breast a lot."
”When breastfeeding, the rule of thumb is to respond to your baby and not the clock.”
”He’s gaining weight well and has enough daily diapers so I’m confident she’s getting all she needs.”
”It’s normal for a baby to want to nurse more often if overstimulated or in a new environment. It calms him.”
"Breastfed babies can't be overfed at the breast because my supply and composition of my milk is constantly changing and being re-calibrated based on his feeding frequency."
Topic: She's fussy... I bet she'd calm/sleep better for you if you gave her some #formula.
”There isn’t any evidence that shows formula fed babies sleep better than breastfed babies.”
“She’s probably fussy from a new environment, people, sights, sounds, and overstimulation. Formula wouldn’t change that.”
"The answer to everything is not always that the baby needs a bottle. Overfeeding with formula has been linked to greater risk of obesity."
Topic: I gave my kids formula and they turned out fine.
“I’m glad that worked for you. Breastfeeding is working for us.”
”Human breastmilk has evolved over millions of years and is tailor-made specifically for my baby. It is the absolute best source of nutrition for him.”
”All experts agree (CDC, WHO, AAP) that babies who receive more breastmilk than formula have superior health outcomes, such as decreased risk of SIDS, obesity, childhood cancers, and type 2 Diabetes.”
“Breastfeeding also has benefits for the mother such as decreased rates of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.”
"Fine and optimal are 2 different ballgames."
Topic: No one will give you an award for exclusively breastfeeding.
”I don’t need an award. I’m doing what promotes the best health for myself and my baby.”
Snarky Option: "I will be giving myself an award/party/gift when I reach my breastfeeding goal."
Topic: What's wrong with a little bit of formula?
”#Supplementing without medical necessity throws off the breastfeeding relationship and can negatively impact my supply.”
" Even small amounts of formula change the infant's gut microbiome."
"There isn't anything wrong with formula if that is what the mother feels is best. But I've decided to focus on giving as her as much breastmilk as possible right now."
Topic: You should let me/her/him/us give him a bottle. You're being selfish and hogging him.
”I’m feeding him the way mother nature intended. There will be more opportunities to feed him when he is older.”
”Breastfeeding is a labor of love. It is not easy and there is nothing selfish about it. I’m doing everything in my power to give him the healthiest start.”
"It's impossible for a mother to hog her own child. He is mine and I am his."
Topic: You shouldn’t eat this or that when breastfeeding. You’ll have to #pumpanddump if you have an alcoholic beverage!
”It is actually quite rare for infants to have an allergy or sensitivity to something in the mother’s diet.“
”Most things people say not to consume aren’t based on research and vary greatly depending on cultures.“
”Our health care team has advised us there aren‘t any dietary restrictions when breastfeeding. The dietary rules of pregnancy don’t apply.”
”Many cultures eat (insert item here like spicy foods, beans, garlic, etc…) and they don’t have way more colicky babies than other cultures.“
"#Breastmilk is made from what is in the mother's bloodstream, not what's in her GI system. So, even if something may cause excess gas for the mother, those gas bubbles don't enter the bloodstream, and therefore, don't enter the breastmilk."
"Research has shown that eating a variety of foods changes the taste of breastmilk (end even the amniotic fluid!), which is a good thing to expose the baby's palate to new flavors and can help avoid food pickiness in childhood."
"#Alcohol enters and exits breastmilk at the same rate it exits and enters the bloodstream. Therefore, the typical recommendation is to avoid breastfeeding for 2-3 hours after consumption of 1 alcoholic beverage. Most mothers can enjoy a drink occasionally if they are able to time it correctly. Alcohol does not get trapped in the milk and doesn't need to be pumped out."
Some great articles that discuss maternal diet and alcohol consumption while breastfeeding:
Topic: You are going to spoil her with all of that holding and on-demand breastfeeding.
"Responding to her biological needs is not going to spoil her. Babies and breasts are literally designed to be together."
"Most mammals keep their young very close and breastfeed on demand. It is the way Mother Nature intended."
Topic: Can you do that in another room? Or use a cover?
*Obviously a huge consideration here is the environment you are in. In someone's home and they don't want you to breastfeed in front of them? Then I would strongly consider if or how long you would visit. Why spend a lot of time somewhere that they don't support you feeding your baby in the most natural way possible? However, some moms love having an excuse to go to another room and have some quiet 1 on 1 time with their baby. If you are in #public, then you are legally protected to breastfeed, without a cover (if you so choose).
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures:
"All fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. Thirty-one states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.)
"Breastfeeding is a completely normal part of the mother/baby relationship."
"Its difficult and uncomfortable for her to feed under a cover."
"You are welcome to look in another direction if me feeding my baby makes you uncomfortable."
"You may see breastfeeding as a private thing. I see it as the reason the human race has survived."
You could also ask that individual if they would be comfortable eating their dinner with a blanket over their head or in a public restroom. ;) Hehe
Topic: How long are you going to breastfeed? Isn't he getting too old for that? You don't want them breastfeeding in high school!
"There are many studies that show that the natural age of weaning varies from 2-5 years old."
"There is no expiration date on breastfeeding at a certain age or milestone. It continues to have benefits for mother and baby for several years."
"Breastfeeding is the most natural act a mother and baby can share. To my baby, my breasts are part of their home. It's a shame most people allow the over-sexualization of a woman's breasts to ruin their view of this beautiful and natural act."
The American Academy of Pediatrics' Policy Statement on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk is an EXCELLENT and THOROUGH resource. Covers multiple topics and common concerns. It can be found here: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/129/3/e827/31785/Breastfeeding-and-the-Use-of-Human-Milk
Approach 3: Deflection, Deflection, Deflection
I have found that changing the subject usually works well. It either distracts that individual and/or passively communicates to them that you don't want to discuss breastfeeding. I have especially found that changing the subject to something that will put the burden of discussion on that individual, is especially effective.
"Oh, I've been meaning to ask you.... about your kids, your job, your pet, your retirement plans, your hobby, etc..."
"Oh, do you want to see these super cute pictures I have of the baby?"
Please understand that your role in the breastfeeding journey is incredibly vital! I can't stress this enough! The protector, the supporter, the nurturer, the provider, the water bottle filler, the diaper changer, the snack fetcher, the snuggler, the stroller pushing marathon walker, the tummy time guru, the chores champion, and the errand runner are just some of the roles you fill that HAVE to be filled, in order for the mother and baby to get their breastfeeding relationship established and keep the household functioning. These things may not be glamorous or exciting, but neither is breastfeeding, or #parenthood in general. If you are on the fence about supporting breastfeeding and/or think that it "doesn't have anything to do with you", then I implore you to educate yourself on breastfeeding and truly consider the health impacts for your family.
There will be conflicts with friends and family over your parenting choices at some point in time. Especially with your first child, many people in your circle will be navigating a new role too (first time #grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc...) and may be over zealous about some things. At the same time, the new mother is in an incredibly raw and vulnerable state. She and your baby need TLC and support like never before. Be there for her. Truly be there; not just physically, but emotionally too. Stand with her in your breastfeeding journey as a family. Stand firm as one united family unit, especially in front of others! She's looking for you to do this, even if she never verbalizes it.
A note in defense of your family & friends
It's crappy if their questions or comments make you feel crappy! Obviously, I am on your side here! However, most people aren't meaning to upset you. (Although, I fully recognize that this is much easier to say in hindsight, and not when you are in the thick of new motherhood.)
I have found that usually these types of questions/comments come from one of the following places: (1) They want to help but don't know what to say or do and their only background involves formula/#bottlefeeding (or no baby caregiving experience at all but raised in a formula feeding culture) so that is the only info they know to offer. (2) They have their own emotional baggage regarding breasts, sexualization of breasts, and/or parenting choices, and it's bubbling to the surface when they interact with a new mom. (3) They may not know what to say at all and get uncomfortable with silence, so they begin to have "diarrhea of the mouth" and blurt out whatever comes to mind. Eek!
Becoming a parent is hard for many reasons, but one area that takes a lot of time to grow into is your confidence. As your confidence grows, you will care less about others' comments and feel better equipped to handle those comments when they come your way.