Tips for Breastfeeding Moms During the Holidays

How to deal with the prickly dynamics of family members who aren't on board with your feeding arrangements—and ways to find confidence through the discomfort.

Whether, when and how you feed your babe are all personal choices (and legal rights!) for nursing mothers, but it can feel more like you’re breastfeeding in public versus at your mom’s dinner table around the holidays when surrounded by family. Find out how to handle the skeptics with these smart suggestions from Sarah Wells, CEO and founder of Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags and mom in Alexandria, Virginia.

Don’t Take Opinions Personally

You’ll discover early on that motherhood makes most people opinionated. When family members give you unsolicited input on breastfeeding (or other parenting decisions), it can feel like an attack. But keep in mind that more often than not, people mean well—although that doesn’t justify them getting in your business. Sometimes the best way to handle well-intentioned advice is to smile and ignore it.

Fight, Flight or Seek Cover

Worried that Great Aunt Judy will cringe when it’s time for your munchkin’s milky meal? You have three choices:

  1. Avoid interaction by finding a private location; ask the host if you can use a home office or spare bedroom as a nursing room.
  2. Tackle it head on—because it’s a woman’s right to nurse in whatever setting she chooses. As long as you’re comfortable breastfeeding, your family members and the general public can learn to carry on and mind their own. Don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking it’s public indecency to not cover up.
  3. If you’d prefer to err on the side of discretion, wear a nursing bra/nursing top and nursing cover for easy access without as many glares. This is something you can also practice in front of a mirror at home to help build confidence in the transition. You could try nursing in a public space like a cafe or shopping mall a few times to try out your skills before seeing family. There are lots of lactation consultants offering breastfeeding support on social media or online if you need some helpful tutorials.

Remember You Know Best

If a relative makes a negative comment, base your reaction on what will make you feel best. If you’d rather not deal with the remarks on how bottle-feeding is also a way to give baby breast milk, then change the subject. If you feel passionately and the crowd is receptive, share the latest recommendations for mom and baby. If family members are more difficult, have a mantra at the ready, such as: “I’m sorry my breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, but my priority is my child’s health and happiness. Please respect my decision. You can choose to look away.”

Follow Your Doctor’s Orders

Use your pediatrician as your backstop. If you don’t want to get into an in-depth explanation on the benefits of breastfeeding, you can simply say, “I discussed this with my pediatrician, and she agreed that breastfeeding is the healthiest option for my baby,” or, “That’s a good question; I’ll bring it up with my pediatrician at our next appointment.”

While it’s unfortunate that breastfeeding mothers may feel unwelcome nursing in the company of loved ones and in public places, the moments of discomfort are fleeting in the grand scheme of things and do not have to dictate any part of a woman’s breastfeeding journey. For more support on public breastfeeding, visit kellymom.com or visit a local La Leche League meeting.

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