Breastfeeding Made Easy: 5 Ways To Deal With Relatives Who Disapprove Of Breastfeeding


Breastfeeding can be an interesting and sometimes challenging journey. There are many people who are lucky enough to be surrounded by supportive, helpful, and loving relatives and friends who make the journey a little easier with their presence. Unfortunately, there are also many who are surrounded by people who make them feel discouraged about breastfeeding, pushing them to seek supplementary feedings for their babies - usually because they feel they aren't making enough - which in turn actually does decrease their supply. The sad thing is, this usually occurs at the very beginning of their breastfeeding journey, which puts mama and baby at a disadvantage from the start.

If you are pregnant and plan on breastfeeding, do not discount the effect that this pressure will have on your determination, particularly when you're not getting enough sleep and are recovering from birth. In order to help you deal with the situation, I've come up with a list of how you can deal with family members and friends who discourage you from breastfeeding:



  1. Find Support
    It can be very overwhelming when you feel like everyone around you is discouraging you. So in order to balance things out a bit, make it a point to surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people. Join Facebook Groups like The Breastfeeding Advocates Network and attend real-life breastfeeding support groups. Identify mom friends who breastfeed and let them know you need their support when the time comes - most of us are happy to help! Also - actually, most importantly - make sure your partner is supportive. Having a few people who can support you and encourage you when times get hard can make a BIG difference when you are feeling discouraged. There has been lots of research into the role of support in breastfeeding success, so make this a priority in your breastfeeding preparation.

    Example:
    Attend a breastfeeding support group when you are pregnant and introduce yourself: "Hi everyone, I'm expecting my baby in December and my family isn't supportive of breastfeeding. I worry that this will affect my breastfeeding when I give birth. I hope some of you can offer guidance and support for me, because I know breastfeeding can be challenging sometimes. Thank you!"

  2. Prepare
    Speaking of preparation, you really must be prepared in order to breastfeed successfully. Even with all the support in the world, you are up for an uphill climb if your breastfeeding education only occurs after you give birth (trust me, I did that and wish I didn't!). If you are pregnant, prepare from now, and know that it is never too early. Read books, ask for advice from breastfeeding friends, and attend breastfeeding classes. And please don't just attend a birthing class with a couple of hours of breastfeeding lessons thrown in - that is NOT enough. Sign up for a real breastfeeding class run by Lactation Consultants or Breastfeeding Peer Counselors. Make sure you know for sure that formula companies are not sponsoring these classes! Also know that there are many online resources on breastfeeding, so the information is right there for you to discover. This page on Kellymom has great articles to get you started.

    Example:
    Read at least one book on breastfeeding (The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding is often cited as one of the best), join at least one breastfeeding support group on Facebook, attend a breastfeeding class and have at least three breastfeeding friends who can commit to supporting you when the time comes. These won't take much time at all - a day to read the book, a few hours for the breastfeeding class, and mere minutes to join a FB group and introduce yourself. This is the very least you can do to prepare yourself.

  3. Practice Responses
    Once you've got the knowledge through all your preparation, this part is easy. Identify the "facts" that these folks try to convince you of, and practice some clear and polite responses. Some people really do mean well and are simply ignorant, and yet others just are not comfortable with breastfeeding for whatever reason and use ignorance as an excuse. No matter what type of person they are, keep in mind you are the one with the power of knowledge here. So practice what you would say to nay-sayers, and do it confidently and with grace.

    Example:
    Relative: "Aiyo, two days already and you still don't have milk ah! See your baby keeps nursing and nursing. Better feed formula la, how can you starve your baby liddat??"
    You: "No lah Aunty, even though I'm not making milk, I am making colostrum. It's all the baby needs and can take in the first few days. I'm sure I'll be making milk in a few more days, though! But I need my baby's help to get there, so she needs to breastfeed as often as possible to get my milk in :)"


    1. Make your perspective clear
      This may seem a little passive aggressive, but the beauty of social media is that it enables you to share your views with the world. So utilize your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram page to share share breastfeeding articles and links (like this post!). You can also place breastfeeding books or posters in full view when people come to visit. I know this seems like it's so passive that it won't affect anything, but at least some people might get the hint and avoid saying anything to discourage you. It also has the secondary benefit of further boosting your own confidence in breastfeeding, which in turn will convince these friends and relatives that you know what you're doing.

      Example:
      Share this post all up on yo Facebook wall, girrrrrl!

    2. Smile and nod
      Sometimes there is nothing you can do but smile and nod. Make peace with this. When relatives offer suggestions that you know will affect your breastfeeding negatively, smile and nod and say "thank you". And then move on to the next topic. Even the most persistent person will stop once they realize their words aren't having much effect. When you feel the comments starting to get to you, go back to #1 on the list and vent to your buddies. It'll help keep you centered and prevent you from yelling at the person you've just told for the 100th time that you don't plan on letting your baby eat solids for at least 6 months.

      Example:

      Friend: "You know, I fed my baby when she was 4 months. No problem whaaat??"
      You: "Oh, okay :)"
    Image Source: Babycenter
    Of course, the comments won't ever stop. In fact, for as long as you are a parent, people will question every parenting decision you make. Breastfeeding is just an easy target. Not just in the beginning either - I had the odd comment or two even after years of breastfeeding (usually related to weaning them, which truly is nobody's business but mine). Alas, many people genuinely believe they have a right to criticize or even dictate your decisions, particularly in our culture. Some even mean well, even if their advice isn't particularly great. But if you are steadfast and determined, and do the 5 things above, you can avoid having it affect your breastfeeding success and go on to happily nurse your children for as long as you bloody well want ;)

    Are there any strategies that you employed that worked but aren't on this list? Share some with me in the comments!