When you love someone, you care about their feelings and opinions. It’s natural to seek the approval of those we love.
You give them a bit of power over yourself. They can lift you up with love and support, and they can put you down with criticism and discouragement. It’s easy to say not to listen or to care about the opinions of others, but when it’s someone you love, that’s not always possible.
The support from those closest to us should be empowering. When we have people behind us ready and willing to push us towards success, it can make us feel like we can accomplish anything! When people are unsupportive, they can have the opposite effect. The slight disapproval of someone close to us can have the potential to hurt us much more than overt rudeness and intolerance from a stranger.
They probably don’t mean to be unsupportive. But they question us and what we do in a way that makes us question ourselves. Comments like “Why don’t you offer a bottle? She seems very unsettled – a bottle will fill her tummy and help her sleep better” come from a place of concern, but may also make us feel inadequate. Regardless of any good intentions, these kinds of comments are often insidious, and gently wear us down over time.
What can you do about it?
I try my best to be a peaceful lactivist, so I would never advocate aggression or nastiness, especially towards someone who is important to you. I don’t even really recommend attempting to educate anyone who isn’t open to it. Your loved ones don’t need to understand exactly what you’re trying to do, they just need to know it’s important to you.
Focus on building your confidence. If you truly feel good about what you’re doing, it won’t be easy for others to make you doubt yourself.
- Find your support network. You can even start doing this before you start breastfeeding. If you have a team of people encouraging you, it can take a lot of the sting out of one Negative Nellie.
- Know what to look for. 5 or more wet nappies a day are a good sign you are producing enough breastmilk. Knowing this fact alone protects me against negative comments suggesting I don’t make enough milk. Being aware of the facts helps me see those comments for what they are – incorrect.
- Celebrate the wins. Did your baby have a huge weight gain this week? Did she kick her legs and smile all morning? Do people keep commenting how alert and intelligent she is? Relish in these wins, and share them with others. If you show off your happy, healthy baby, that’s what people will see.
- Educate yourself. My Nana’s comment about formula-fed babies being bigger and stronger than breastfed babies may make me roll my eyes but they don’t upset me or make me question whether I’m doing the right thing about my kids. I know better.
One other thing that has worked brilliantly for me in the past is modelling graciousness. Modelling graciousness each time you’re feeling a little unsupported can help you turn the situation around. This can help someone find the best way to offer support to you in a way that leaves both them and you feeling good about it. Try something like:
“I really appreciate your support of my breastfeeding. I know you’re not always comfortable with the way I do things, and it means a lot to me that you can let it go and trust me to find my own way.”
Make eye contact and even physical contact if you’re comfortable – a hand on their arm or hand will help. Don’t be sarcastic, speak genuinely and with love. Rehearse saying it if necessary.
Why will this help you?
When you love someone, you care about their feelings. It’s natural to seek the approval of those we love.
By empowering yourself and those around you, you can create the support you deserve.
How have you dealt with unsupportive loved ones?