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Coping with Breastfeeding Criticism: Strategies for Responding Gracefully to Remarks from Family, Friends, and Strangers

mother breastfeeding her toddler in the snowEditor’s Note: The following information is originally from a handout at one of La Leche League of Greater St. Louis’ most requested conference sessions. Many families will be gathering together this week with family and friends, and there will be other opportunities for travel and coming together throughout the next month. No doubt conversations with well-intentioned family members and friends – even strangers – will arise that include questions and suggestions about your parenting choices. We hope you find these ideas helpful throughout this festive season and beyond.

Listen First.

  • Wait to respond until you clearly understand what the other person is saying.
  • Always assume good intentions – most people genuinely mean well.

Look for the Question behind the Question. 

  • Identifying the motivation behind a particular question can help you decide how to handle it.
  • Is he still waking up at night to nurse?” could be a question out of concern for your own welfare. “Oh, we’re getting plenty of sleep” or “Yes, and I absolutely cherish those peaceful feedings when it’s just the two of us” may resolve the concern while avoiding the discussion of baby’s need to nurse at night.

Broken Record.

  • Calmly and persistently repeat your message.
  • “My baby is hungry and needs to nurse. The law allows me to nurse wherever I am.”

Fogging.

  • Agree with the true part of the statement, and “fog” the real issue.
  • In response to “People can see you nursing that baby,” say “Yes, my little one is eating right now and will be finished with lunch in just a few minutes.”

Negative Assertion.

  • Accept the statement without guilt, and restate it in positive terms.
  • Yes, we are nursing a lot today.”

Negative Inquiry.

  • Ask for details about what the person doesn’t like.
  • “Could you explain exactly why my baby’s nursing bothers you?”

Explain your Reasons.

  • Call on experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and the Surgeon General in order to explain your choices.

Workable Compromise.

  • Find a way to retain the aspect most important to each party.
  • “We’ll continue to come visit you and your grandchild will enjoy being held by you in between our nursing times,” since the grandparents certainly want to continue seeing their grandbaby!

Humor.

  • When asked, “How long is he going to nurse?” mention “Well, I’m hoping I won’t need to go to college with my child, but we’re going to wait and see.” 

Leave.

  • Physically leave the room or the premises, or change the subject, or talk to someone else.

Please send your story ideas to Amy at nbeditor@lllusa.org.


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