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Why Do They Say That?
I’m going to make an assumption, with this article. I’m going to assume that if you are reading it, you are breastfeeding, or you have made the decision to breastfeed. Do you feel like you getting breastfeeding support from the people who matter most?
“Breast is best.” How many times have you heard that? Research shows it is true. It even says it on the labels of formula cans, and you know the formula companies aren’t doing that because they want to. Formula companies do it because they have to. Because it’s true.
Did your doctor say it to you? They should have, and it should have been a clear message.
Current surveys tell us that only about 80% of new moms initiate breastfeeding. You may be wondering, why isn’t everyone doing it? Or, at least giving it the old college try? It’s because they don’t get enough support.
Family support has the most significant impact on whether a mom decides to breastfeed, and how long she does it.
Who Affects a Mom’s Decision to Breastfeed?
That is a loaded question. We know that a woman’s partner, mother, and healthcare provider are the primary people that affect whether she decides to breastfeed. There are also many other influences though.
Think about how many times you have seen a woman breastfeed in public, on TV or in movies. Or maybe I should say how few times that you have seen that. Compare that to how many times have you seen a baby being bottle-fed? I would venture to guess that happens much more often. Whether it is okay to breastfeed in public is debated on a regular basis. I don’t remember ever hearing any type of conversation about whether it is okay to see a baby getting bottle-fed in public.
Media affects our decision as well. There has been a flood of articles lately about how breastfeeding’s benefits aren’t all that beneficial (not true), and that all the emphasis on breastfeeding is making women feel bad if they don’t, or if they are not “successful.” There is also the ever-present “but” when an article or person talks about the importance of breastfeeding, “breastfeeding is important, but…”
Some women will be affected by the person in their Facebook group, or the stranger they meet at a party, saying, “You’re going to breastfeed, aren’t you?” The fact is though, the people that will have the most significant impact will be the people she loves, cares about and respects. Furthermore, the stranger at the party won’t be with you in the hospital when you are going through the often unexpected, Second Night Syndrome, or engorgement, sore nipples, biting, bottle-refusal, lack of sleep, or any of the other things that make a mom think about weaning.
Who is “Family”?
The definition of family is an ever-evolving word. It no longer just someone related by blood, adoption or marriage. But let’s start with those people.
- Grandma and Gramps
- Your father
- Expanded Definition of
- Best Friends
- Child Care Team
Support vs. Sabotage
Why Do They Say That?
The ways that the people who are important to you can show their support, or their sabotage, can often be subtle. These are some of the things that they can say that are one or the other.
- You should breastfeed (good), or I want you to breastfeed (better)
- It’s fine either way
- I can help with feedings if we formula feed
- I want us to be a team about everything, and formula feeding will allow us to do that
- I can help with night feedings if we formula feed
- I (or “you” were formula fed and we turned out just fine)
- Breastfeeding is great, but don’t worry if you can’t
- Breastfeeding will be so convenient. No bottles to warm or wash
- I’ve heard breastfeeding can be hard
- Formula feeding would be so easy
- I’ve heard that there are many benefits for mom from breastfeeding
- You’ll get more sleep if the baby is formula fed
- What day is our breastfeeding class
- I don’t need to go to that with you, do I?
- They ask you if they can get you something to eat and drink when you are breastfeeding
- What I like best about breastfeeding is that I’m off the hook
- I’m happy that I have so many ways to bond and interact with our baby
- When can I give him a bottle?
- I wish I could feed him too
- When your baby is eating frequently, they say, “Your body is doing such a good job of providing everything our baby needs to grow.”
- Do you think he is getting enough to eat?
- Maybe we should offer him some formula, just in case
- He still seems hungry. I think you should put him back to the breast again
- He still seems hungry, I’m going to give him some formula
- If you want your breasts to be off-limits during sex, they say “I am so happy we can be close in other ways” and “I have so many other things about your body that I love.”
- When will they be mine again?
- At the times when breastfeeding is hard, they say, “I’m so proud of you for working so hard at this.”
- You should just switch to formula. It’ll be so much easier.
Your Mom or Mother-in-law
- I’m so happy that you’re breastfeeding
- Why in the world would you want to do that?
- The formulas they make today are just like breastmilk.
- I couldn’t breastfeed, and I’m worried that you won’t be able to either
- I didn’t breastfeed, and you turned out just fine.
- Don’t worry if you can’t breastfeed
- He’s hungry, go ahead and feed him. If they look at you funny, I will stare them down
- You’re going to do that in public?
- What would your father say about you exposing yourself like that?
- I never breastfed, but I know there is a lot of support out there, and there are many other things I can do to help you.
- Is there anything I can read to learn about breastfeeding?
- I can hold the baby so that you can take a nap, but I will bring him to you as soon as I see any feeding cues
- I’ll hold the baby so that you can take a nap. I brought some formula so I can give him a bottle if he gets hungry.
- I want to stock up on foods that will help you make lots of milk.
- There wasn’t much support for breastfeeding when I had my babies. I’m glad that there will be for you
- I know that breastfeeding is the best thing for my grand-child.
- I’ve heard that breastfeeding can help you lose weight.
- Aren’t you worried that breastfeeding will make your breasts sag?
Grandma and Gramps
- They do things so differently these days! (This is actually a very neutral thing to say. You can take the opportunity to talk about the value of breastfeeding.)
- I don’t care if you breastfeed your baby when I’m in the room, he’s hungry, that’s what you are supposed to do!
- I’ll stay or leave, whatever makes you the most comfortable, the most important thing is that you feed him when he’s hungry.
- Isn’t there somewhere you can go to do that?
- I’m going to leave while you do that?
How You Can Respond
- When your partner feels left out, tell him/her that you heard that dads or the other mom will be the first place that babies will learn that love and food are not always associated with each other. That is not my quote, and I can’t remember where I heard it, but it’s a great thing to say
- Encourage your partner to find their own, special thing to do with the baby. I encourage infant massage for this. Have them take a class and encourage them to do it once a day
- You were a great parent
- I know. Things are different now. We know how important it is to breastfeed a baby.
- My doctor told me that it’s very important to breastfeed to keep him healthy
- I know that you did the best that you could
- I know that you did the best with the information you had at the time.
- I will probably do many things differently than you did
- Thank you for raising me to be a confident mom who does what she thinks is best for her baby
- Your son/daughter is such a good parent and wants me to do what is best for our baby
One Final Thought
The people who love you want the best for you. They also want to feel good about the decisions they made, and how they were raised. Many negative comments come from this desire. With your partner, it’s important to have discussions before the baby arrives, so that you get the support you need. You may even want to send them this article.
Formula is not the F-word
Odom, E. C., Li, R., Scanlon, K. S., Perrine, C. G., & Grummer-Strawn, L. (2014). Association of family and health care provider opinion on infant feeding with mother’s breastfeeding decision. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(8), 1203-1207.
Rempel, L. A., Rempel, J. K., & Moore, K. C. (2017). Relationships between types of father breastfeeding support and breastfeeding outcomes. Maternal & child nutrition, 13(3).
Mueffelmann, R. E., Racine, E. F., Warren-Findlow, J., & Coffman, M. J. (2015). Perceived infant feeding preferences of significant family members and mothers’ intentions to exclusively breastfeed. Journal of human lactation, 31(3), 479-489.