Breastfeeding and Family Challenges
After your first few weeks, breastfeeding in the comfort of your own home is
enjoyable. But sometimes but nursing around your relatives during the busy holiday season, at family reunions and other events has its challenges. Some moms have complained that their family members give unwanted advice, especially around discipline or weaning. It’s not uncommon for relatives to criticize your parenting choices especially when those differ from their choices.
Another issue when breastfeeding around extended family are difficulties in regards to the act of nursing in public itself – whether to do so discreetly where you are or to retreat to another area. No one wants to hide away as if nursing is shameful, but what if you get only flack from your relatives when it’s time to meet baby’s needs?
Here are a few suggestions on how to make things a little easier.
Some moms choose to pump their milk and bottle feed it during this time. That is an option, however, if you are not accustomed to using a breast pump, the additional stress of learning the pump combined with other busyness and stress common to the holiday season might prove to be too much. It could be discouraging when you do not get as much milk as you think you should (since babies are far better at extracting milk from the breast than any pump) and if your pump is not a high quality pump, you could even cause yourself pain.
It is far easier to simply nurse the baby as you would at home, but how do you get around some of these challenges?
Many moms find that a baby sling is an absolute heaven send when breastfeeding around family or at other times when your privacy may be invaded by people or noise.
A baby sling covers you up but also creates a little cocoon for baby so he can get down to business and breastfeed effectively. If your baby skips feedings due to being over stimulated, you may end up with a plugged duct or worse, mastitis. You do not want that during this busy season.
Plugged ducts are common during the holidays anyway due to the additional activity and stress associated with it. A plugged duct can turn into mastitis, which is quite painful and can leave you feeling like you have been hit by a truck, so make sure you take the time to settle baby down and nurse on a regular basis.
It is also important that you get plenty of rest. At the very least, take time to put your feet up when it is time for a feeding, and close your eyes and nap if possible. Do not forget to feed yourself well too. Don’t binge on junk food commonly served during holiday and other festivities, but keep eating a healthy, whole foods diet to keep your immune system strong.
How do you deal with criticism from relatives who don’t respect your parenting philosophies? That can be a tough nut to crack. If the relative in question is a mother herself, it helps to remember that her own experience with breastfeeding colors her perspective. If she had a hard time or was not successful with breastfeeding, her guilt may come out as criticism of you.
If this is a person you see only rarely (such as once a year at Thanksgiving), it might be best to drop the subject and just let the comments slide right by without acknowledgement. But if it is going to be an ongoing problem, try to head off comments at the pass by saying something like:
” I do appreciate your perspective on things, however we have decided to do what we feel is best for our family .”
Breastfeeding book author Amy Spangler suggests that instead of answering the question directly, we direct it back to the person. Ask about their breastfeeding experience, and listen empathically. Point out that your choices are not a criticism of their choices.
Setting appropriate boundaries with family is an important lesson to learn, regardless of the area of discussion.