Everybody has one. And many are most willing to share theirs, whether asked for or not. Since the holiday season, with its visits and dinners with family and friends, is closely approaching, I thought it would be helpful to share a few “opinion deflectors” for new parents.
It seems like lots of folks have opinions on how babies should be fed; breastfed, bottle fed, breast and bottle, pumped breastmilk, formula, or even Great-Aunt Mildred’s suggestion of cow’s milk (a big no-no for children under the age of one!!!). How you choose to feed your baby is your decision. You need to do what is best for you and your little one. Some questions or opinions may sound judgmental; try not to let them bother you. These suggestions are for parents of the breastfed baby, but you can tailor them to suit your needs.
If you want to reason with a person who may believe one of the many breastfeeding myths, like, “I heard you shouldn’t breastfeed your baby when you have a cold,” then by all means, do so. The more education, the better.
But if someone is choosing to be argumentative, one of the best lines I’ve ever heard to deflate an argument is, “I see your point.” This way the person feels they were heard and you have agreed to nothing they have said. You acknowledge them and then go about your merry way, doing what you had originally planned. I have found this works in all types of arguments.
If you have chosen to breastfeed, you may find some family members are not familiar with how often a breastfed baby nurses. “That baby is on the boob again! Why so soon? You just nursed her a little bit ago”, queries your cousin, as she sips from her water bottle.
You could explain the whole process of milk production and how baby’s tummy quickly fills and empties or your reply can be succinct (and probably will leave her speechless). “Well, if you were thirsty and had just a drink an hour ago, would you look at your watch and say, ‘Nope, too soon. No drink for me. I have to wait another hour.’ Or would you just go and get a bottle of water?” Your cousin will probably blink and walk away.
“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable nursing your baby in the guest room?”, asks your mother-in-law. You surely appreciate her support of your breastfeeding but unfortunately as much as your partner has tried to explain that it’s no problem for you to nurse in public, even in a living room full of guests, she still thinks it would be better to “hide it from the children”.
Your answer, said sweetly, of course, “Thank you so much for the offer. If the baby needs some quiet time, I will be sure to use the guest room. But for now he’s perfectly content to nurse and nap right here among all the hubbub. But again, thanks!” Yes! You did it! No hiding out while everyone else is having fun! And your nieces and nephews get to see breasts being used for their biological purpose…so you are educating as well. Go you!
Now let’s set up a different holiday scenario: You’re in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning, chopping and dicing, pureeing and sautéing, and suddenly your sister-in-law realizes she forgot cranberries but she can’t go get them because she is in the middle of making dinner rolls. You offer to zip to the only open grocery store open in a 20 mile radius, along with everyone else who forgot cranberries.
Your sister-in-law barks (she is a bit stressed afterall), “What? You can’t take the baby out! It’s cold/snowing/crazy out there. Plus what if you get stuck in traffic and the baby needs to nurse. You won’t be here and he’ll be so upset…”
As you are slipping on your coat, you reply, “There’s pumped milk in the fridge. His dad can feed him. He knows how.” You grab your keys and she says, “But won’t that confuse him, nursing and then drinking from a bottle? My friend tried to do that and the baby got all confused and would never breastfeed again.” You quickly say, “I appreciate your concern. I’ll explain later,” and dash out the door.
When you get back to the house with a $10 bag of cranberries that you wrestled from somebody’s granny, you explain to your SIL that you chose not to offer the baby a bottle until he was two or three weeks old (those days are still a bit of a blur for you). By then your milk supply was well eastablished and your little guy had perfected his suck, swallow, breathe pattern. Your partner offered the bottle once in a while and your little one didn’t have a problem.
Your SIL tells you her friend gave her baby a bottle far more often that the breast. You could explain the baby probably became accustomed to the fast flow of the bottle and got frustrated at the breast as it is a slower flow at first until mom’s let down. You also mention that if her friend had spent some time with a lactation specialist, there was a very good chance the baby would have gone back to the breast.
If your baby is older, you may find some family or friends may make comments such as, “You’re still breastfeeding that baby? Isn’t she too old?” or “What good is breastmilk now he’s eating solids?”
A quick answer to “Isn’t she too old?”question would be, “Not according to the AAP.” If you have more time to elaborate, you could explain that the AAP is the American Academy of Pediatrics and they recommend “exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.”
You could also explain that breastmilk provides the majority of necessary nutrients as baby starts to sample a variety of new foods. Her experiences with solid foods are still just practice sessions for the future. It’s important to make sure she continues getting enough breast milk to meet her nutritional needs. Breastfeeding will continue to offer immunities, nutritional value, and emotional strengthening even after she is a year old. Many times folks are surprised to learn these facts. You’ve become quite the educator!
Family and friends may offer other opinions about how the baby should be dressed, where the baby should sleep, and the best way to parent. You and your partner may want to think of a few good “opinion deflectors” of your own. Hopefully these few I have mentioned will give you a headstart and get your creative thoughts flowing. Talking with other parents, whether new or seasoned, might be a good idea to expand your “deflector repertoire”.
Wishing you the best!
xoxo, Hope Ouellette Certified Lactation Counselor