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Responses to Breastfeeding Criticism

When nursing a new baby, visits with family and friends, while filled with joy over the new baby, may also expose a new mother to uninvited comments or criticism over her choice to breastfeed exclusively (see my article "Family and Critcism While Breastfeeding" in related links at the end of this article).

So what do you do when confronted with contrary or unsupportive comments about breastfeeding? Here are several options:

• Educate – There’s lots of easily accessible science-based information on the benefits of breastfeeding, recommendations for introducing solids and child development and attachment. Academic-minded family and friends are often particularly influenced by information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization. Le Leche League offers many great, concise articles in their FAQ that you can print out and have at the ready to quote or share.

• Nod and Smile – Simply get through it. Let them say their piece and feel as through it is making an impression, whether it is or not. General responses like “I’ll have to think about that.” or “It’s always great to hear what has worked for others” can be helpful here.

• Graciously Dismiss – For comments that you can’t just let go by (for example, someone with a spoonful of food heading for your baby’s mouth), you can disagree and dismiss their advice graciously. Try responses like “I appreciate your input, but we’ve already made our decision about this” or “That sounds like it worked really well for your family, but this is what works for our family.”

• Protect your decisions – Don’t ever forget that you have the right to make decisions about your baby, and don’t need to apologize for exercising that right. Express confidence in your views even if you don’t always feel that way. You may need to resort to responses like “I respect your views on this issue, and we will have to agree to disagree. I am sure that you understand that we expect you to respect our decision for our child, just as we would with yours.”

• Be Proactive and Vigilant When Necessary – It is important to understand others don’t usually mean to upset and challenge you or hurt your baby. They simply are trying to contribute to an important time in your life with the knowledge and input they have. If you have experienced repeated friction with a family member or friend, you may want to agree simply to not discuss issues of contention. If you expect trouble on a subject during a particular visit, you can prearrange with your partner or a more supportive family member to run interference or find a way to share your decisions in a way that doesn’t invite discussion.

Sometimes it will be important to actively let family know specific intentions, such as not yet giving all foods or certain foods to prevent problems with well-meaning and enthusiastic relatives or friends, and keep your eyes open for potential issues.

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