10 Better Questions To Ask About Breastfeeding In Public

It feels like every time there’s a drama over a breastfeeding mum being inappropriately asked to cover up or move on, it’s reported with a poll that asks something like “Should women cover up when breastfeeding in public?”.

Two local papers ran a story last week about a mum who felt shamed into covering up while breastfeeding at the National Gallery of Australia.  They both ran the silly poll too.  Breastfeeding publically is a right, protected by federal (Sex Discrimination Act 1984) and state (Anti Discrimination Board of NSW) law.

It might seem over the top to take exception to a newspaper opinion poll.  I mean, it’s an opinion poll, right?  The beauty of opinions is that everyone is entitled to have one.  But it’s important to consider context.  Our media outlets, such as our newspapers, have a ethical responsibility when it comes to reporting the news and steering public discussion.  When these polls are placed in the middle of an article that discusses a breastfeeding woman being illegally discriminated against, the question is  inappropriate.

Asking for public opinion on an act that’s protected by law, in the middle of an article that talks about the law being broken is a question over the relevance of the law itself.  Why does the poll question the legal act of breastfeeding, instead of the illegal act of harassing her to stop?  It feels like the question suggests that the behaviour of the perpetrator could be condoned, as if that woman’s legal right is trumped by the number of people who disagree with it.

I’ve never seen a poll in the middle of an article about building code violations asking if people should be allowed to build property despite having inadequate skills or experience to do so.  Nor have I ever seen a poll in the middle of an article about fraud asking people if they think it’s OK to forge another person’s signature.  And these issues don’t necessarily involve harassment.  Would it be OK to poll in the middle of an article about rape asking if it’s OK to disrespect women who wear short skirts?

I have come up with ten alternative polls that media outlets could use whenever a breastfeeding-in-public drama makes the news:

  1. Did you know women have a legal right to breastfeed in public without a cover? I feel this is a more important question.  If more people understood that the right to breastfeed is protected by federal and state laws, they might be more respectful of it.
  2. If you were in public with an upset and/or hungry child, and you had the power to immediately calm and satisfy them, would you? Force people to mentally walk a mile in mum’s shoes.  What do they ACTUALLY expect her to do?
  3. Would you rank your own personal discomfort above the needs of an upset and/or hungry child? Are you egocentric?  Our smallest humans are among the most vulnerable of our species.  It makes sense to put their needs first.
  4. Do you think dignity is more important than satisfying upset and/or hungry children? I don’t consider breastfeeding to be an undignified act at all, but even if I did, so what?  I left my dignity behind in the birthing suite when fifteen hospital staff stood around my naked and howling body.  Those hospital staff had a choice whether to be or not to be there, just like people have the choice to watch mum or not.
  5. When you see things that you feel slightly uncomfortable, should you look away and mind your own business? Because why?  Why can’t people mind their own business?
  6. Are you a bully?  Relying on shame to force someone to stop what they’re doing and instead to do what you want is bullying behaviour if I ever saw it.
  7. Would you prefer to listen to the baby cry? It’s a lot easier to avert our eyes than it is to cover our ears.
  8. Are you an utter ignoramus? Pardon me, but if the shoe fits, then wear it.  Because only a total ignoramus could be unaware of the inmportance of breastfeeding, and the fact that there’s nothing shameful or wrong with it.
  9. Can you get your kicks some other way? Because if hassling a mum for breastfeeding in public is what they need to do to feel important, then they need to get a life.
  10. Do you like green eggs and ham? I admit this question has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but at least it isn’t harmful to the right to breastfeed.

In all seriousness, I believe our media need to be accountable and ensure their messages, whether written or implied, are socially responsible.  They have a great deal of power over the way people think, and that power should be used appropriately.

Did you know that the right to breastfeed in public without a cover is protected by law?

 

More Pumps for More People – Pumping It Forward Project

The Pumping It Forward Project  has proved to be highly successful since it delivered it’s very first pump in August 2016.  To date, it has seen 15 brand new, hospital grade double pumps gifted to professionals and organisations dedicated to supporting breastfeeders and their families.

The project is funded through commissions earned on sales with Spectra Baby Australia and Pumpables, with more affiliates to be joining us in the near future.

In December 2016, two very cool things happened.

Rodney Whyte (Therapeutic Medicines Specialist in Pregnancy and Lactation) at Monash Health, was so impressed with the work done by the Pumping It Forward Project, that he personally made a donation that paid for one pump for us to donate to another worthy recipient.  The pump Rodney paid for was sent to Susan Paterson at the Specialist Breastfeeding Service at The Northern Hospital in Epping, VIC.  Rodney’s generous donation is greatly appreciated and we just know that Susan and her team will put their pump to good use.

Perhaps even more cool is that Spectra Baby Australia are enjoying the success of our project so much, that they have thoughtfully offered to match our donations, pump for pump.  This means we get to give out twice as many pumps!

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I have always known that our breastfeeding community was full of kind and thoughtful people, but these benevolent acts have made me incredibly proud to be a part of our Pumping It Forward Project.  We are sharing the love and creating goodwill for all involved.

The only problem is that our list of professionals and organisations fit to receive our donations is dwindling!  We never expected it to be as successful as it has been!  But I’m sure we’ll manage… Somehow 😉

This post contains affiliate links that support the Pumping It Forward Project

Do you know of a professional or organisation dedicated to helping breastfeeders and their families?  Please tell us about them!

 

Feeling “Touched Out” – Moving Past It

Do you ever get so overwhelmed from being touched all the time that you just want to scream?  Do you want to run away when your child needs a hug?  Does your husband’s gentle caress in the evening make you want to smack his hands and yell at him to leave you alone?

This is what “touched out” feels like.

It was explained to me as being like a cup… there is a limited capacity for touching and when you reach that capacity, it overflows and makes you feel like you’re drowning in touch! As for hubby, he missed out for many years because my cup was filled by kids…” – Kerryn

It feels like you have scarab beetles crawling all over you and you’d like nothing better than to jump out of your skin and run away from it.” – Bree

This feeling appears to be common among parents, but especially mums, and especially breastfeeding and/or bedsharing mums.  Feeling “touched out” can be trigger intrusive thoughts, such as:

  • inadequacy as a parent because you feel unable to meet your child’s emotional needs
  • guilt because you don’t want to kiss and cuddle but feel like you should
  • confusion of why you feel these negative feelings towards people you love

I am not an overly affectionate person.  I am a loving person, but affection and touch don’t come naturally to me – I show my love through kind words, support and acts of service.  That said, touch is essential for raising kids, and am trying very hard to learn to be what they need.

My son is one of those kids who needs a lot of affection and love to keep his cup filled.  He is nearly 5 and when he’s not sitting all over me with his arms around my neck, he’s treating me like his own personal gym, swinging from my arms, clutching at my legs and generally climbing all over me.  Sometimes as I lie in his bed waiting for him to doze off, he’ll impulsively sit up and climb on top of me, lying all of his 18.8kg over the top of my body, head in my chest and arms around my neck.

Take into consideration I am a mum of 2, tandem feeding, bedsharing and at home with my kids almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (neither are in daycare or have regular time away from me) combined with the fact that, as stated, I am not a touchy-feely kind of person and you may be able to grasp the overwhelming suffocation I feel when I CAN’T HAVE FIVE SECONDS ALONE WITH EVERYONE KEEPING THEIR BLOODY HANDS TO THEMSELVES!

When I feel touched out, I actually feel like my kids are trying to grope me.  I feel shame as I read those words back to myself, but it’s true.  I feel like I’m at the movies next to a horny teenager who wants to take something from me that I don’t want to give up.  I feel suffocated.

Sometimes I love kisses and cuddles and snuggles, but when I have had enough, I feel powerless to stop it. I want to recoil, to protect myself and to sometimes lash out, but I can’t.  My kids just want to feel loved by their mama.

Maybe “touched out” doesn’t adequately describe the situation, because as it turns out it’s not the touch that’s upsetting me, it’s the “take”.  When I am not meeting their needs by using my touch to make them feel loved, they find ways to satisfy the urge.  This is the climbing, jumping and clutching at me that I struggle to cope with.  My frustration is now my cue to start giving out touch so that that my kids don’t need to take it from me.  I become proactive in displaying my love.  My kids need to feel my skin on their skin, and that’s OK.  I can meet those needs, but I don’t have to relinquish my bodily autonomy to do so.  Instead of gritting my teeth through their touches, I meet their needs on my own terms, by:

  • giving them a backrub/massage
  • keeping them close in a sling or carrier
  • bedsharing (my son sleeps in his own bed in his own bedroom, but during recent hot nights we’ve camped out in the lounge room under the air conditioner, and he’s significantly more easygoing the day after he’s slept next to me all night)
  • actively engaging in roughousing
  • chasing the kids and wrapping them up in my arms when I catch them
  • playing games like “paper scissors rock”, thumb wrestles and “Snap” with cards

My natural instinct is to withdraw and avoid all touch, but this only exacerbates the problem.  By taking the initiative and actively giving my kids what they crave, they don’t need to demand it as much.  And once the demands dropped off, so did my “touched out” feelings.  I am still learning to initiate affection, but for now I can at least follow their leads and give more when I need to.  It’s exciting to see an improvement and to know I have made personal progress as a mum.  The satisfaction of changing the situation to something that I can not only tolerate but celebrate is an empowering and welcome change.

If you are struggling to maintain healthy relationships with your children, you can talk to your GP about looking after your mental health, and you can visit PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia).

Do you sometimes feel “touched out”?  How do you manage it?

Establishing Breastfeeding – Letter to Australian Medical Association

Dr Michael Gannon, President of the AMA (Australian Medical Association) this week called for input from women’s groups about hospital policies of sending new mums home soon after giving birth and whether or not this is appropriate (see here for the article).  In a joint effort between Breastfeeders in Australia and The Gentle Breastfeeder, last night we released a statement regarding this, and encouraged members to contact the AMA with their views.  View my original post here.  You can email Dr Gannon at [email protected]  If you need some help writing an email, I have prepared a draft template that you can copy and personalise to send.

Below is a copy of the email I sent to Dr Gannon.

“Dear Dr Gannon

I refer to your recent comments regarding new mums being sent home soon after giving birth, published by ABC News.  Thank you for using your position to question the way hospitals support women in establishing breastfeeding.  I am writing to you on behalf of the Facebook group Breastfeeders in Australia.  Our group was created in 2012 and we have 24,000 members.  I also blog about breastfeeding issues as The Peaceful Lactivist on the Breastfeeders in Australia website.

The issue here is not only the length of time in hospital, but the standard of care around breastfeeding that is lacking. Breastfeeding support is inadequate, with many women receiving outdated advice.  Many of our members are being guided towards non-evidence based practices while in hospital, such as:
• Baby being removed from mum immediately after birth for an extended period
• Introducing formula without a discussion about alternatives or the risks involved
• Conflicting information about breastfeeding
• Timed breastfeeds and scheduled feeds

We call for the following improvements to be implemented, with the recognition that successfully establishing breastfeeding and the known health benefits could save the healthcare system millions each year:
• All Australian hospitals to be BFHI (Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative) certified
• All medical professionals that come into contact with pregnant, birthing and post-partum women be required to undertake further training in breastfeeding
• All women have access to an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) while in hospital for a full-length consultation and assessment of any feeding issues, including oral restrictions such as tongue ties
• IBCLC consultations within 12 months post birth to attract a full Medicare rebate
• All women to have the option to stay in hospital until they are producing breastmilk and have established breastfeeding

ABC News also published comments from a spokeswoman from the King Edward Memorial Hospital, which discussed the process for determining whether a woman was clinically fit to be discharged.  Unfortunately the process did not involve speaking to the mother and asking her if she felt ready to go home or not.  This suggests to me that perhaps the woman’s personal feelings are not valued when assessing whether or not she is ready to go home. I believe this should be rectified immediately.

Breastfeeding is very important.  Thank you for acknowledging the relationship between supporting breastfeeding and preventing post-partum depression. Consultation is a very important part of continuous improvement.   I am very grateful for the opportunity to contact you on behalf of my group.  I look forward to seeing positive changes.

Yours sincerely,

Lauren Threadgate”

We are very fortunate to have a very large community of breastfeeders and breastfeeding advocates.  I hope that by working together, we can make a difference.

How long did you stay in hospital after giving birth?  Do you think women should have the choice to stay in hospital until their mature milk is in, and until breastfeeding is well established?

The Trouble With Lactation Cookies (and other lactation recipes)

The trouble with lactation-inducing cookies and other recipes is that they seem so easy!  Eat this small, tasty thing and BAM!  You’ll have more milk!  You can buy them easily – you can even make them!  Heck, some professionals will even sell them to you!  What’s not to love about lactation cookies?

But generally I don’t think they’re an appropriate solution, and it looks like I’m not the only one.  When one mum posts in a breastfeeding support forum and asks for lactation recipes, she’ll generally receive two types of responses.  The first type will be eager mums who are happy to be helpful, sharing their favourite milk-boosting foods – cookies, smoothies, oats, beer and five hundred different ways to have milo.

The second types, however, are more hesitant and probing.  Why do you think you need to make more milk?  How many wet nappies is your baby having each day?  How many dirty ones?  Is your baby alert and meeting milestones?  Tell us more.  Tell us what’s happening so we can help you better.  She doesn’t want to give you recipes, because she thinks you might not need them.  Basically these mums want to help you find a better solution than cookies.

A BETTER SOLUTION THAN COOKIES?  WHAT?  WHAT IS THIS SORCERY?!

Nope, it’s actually true.  There are better solutions.  You can ring the Australian Breastfeeding Association.  You can speak to an IBCLC.  You can work out if you have a supply issue, a perceived supply issue, or if the problem is in fact with your baby’s ability to breastfeed rather than your ability to make milk.

But just in case you aren’t on the bandwagon with me, here’s seven more reasons why you should reconsider the cookies.

  1. There’s not really much evidence that they do anything, and if they do, they probably don’t do very much
  2. Some ingredients such as brewers yeast and fenugreek are known to cause belly upsets for mum and bub
  3. Fenugreek comes with some side effects, and is contraindicated by some medical conditions, such as thyroid conditions
  4. Buying cookies or unusual ingredients that you probably don’t normally keep in the pantry to make your own is expensive, especially when weighed up against the fact that there’s no guarantee that they will help
  5. It’s hard to shake off the babyweight when you’re consuming so many extra calories.  If you read the fine print for some well-known lactation cookie brands, you’ll actually find that the claim for extra milk is because you’re consuming extra calories, not because of any special ingredients.  You don’t need special cookies for extra calories, regular cookies can achieve that just fine (if you’re anything like me you could probably even inhale some extra calories just by thinking about cookies)
  6. You might not even have low supply – there are very few medical conditions that impact a woman’s milk supply.  If your baby is struggling to gain weight, there are several more likely reasons than a low supply, and even the very best lactation cookies won’t address any of those
  7. Brewers yeast (an ingredient in most recipes) tastes awful .  You can either eat horrible cookies, or attempt to sweeten them with extra chocolate and sugar, potentially making them a pretty unhealthy option

Taking lactation cookies for a genuine breastfeeding problem, to me, is akin to discovering an unexplained festering wound on your body and simply throwing a band aid over it, without questioning why it’s there or how to get rid of it.

Cookies can seem like a harmless way to boost a mum’s confidence.  I actually feel like they do the opposite – they perpetuate the idea that our bodies can’t make enough milk to sustain our babies on their own.  We would never have evolved as a species if that were the case!  No one ever questions their body’s ability to make blood, unless there is an unusual medical condition involved.  We need to start thinking about breastmilk in the same way – we were made to breastfeed.

This information is general, and does not replace the advice of a medical professional.  If you have concerns about the health of your breastfed child I would encourage you to seek the support of an IBCLC.  You can also call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 MUM 2 MUM

I Get To Go To A Funeral Today

I get to go to a funeral today. That might seem like a strange thing to be a little bit happy about, but I have missed too many funerals since my kids were born.

I think it’s can sometimes be a good thing for kids to be present at funerals. I believe it’s good for them to be introduced to death and the way people grieve, especially in situations where they haven’t lost someone close to them. I also think that seeing young kids playing happily around the graves, looking at rocks and generally being joyful are a powerful juxtaposition to mourning the passing of a loved one. On the day of a funeral, some people are desperately searching for something to smile about.

But some funerals are sadder than others. The passing of someone elderly is very different to a sudden and unexpected passing of someone who has not yet lived a full life. I also still need to care for my kids, and that may not be practical while I am expressing my own great sadness.  While I want to gently expose my kids to grief and loss, I also want to protect them. I don’t want to throw them into the deep end by taking them somewhere where a lot of people are experiencing extreme emotions.

In the past I have been to funerals because I felt an obligation to be there, but having kids has forced me to re-evaluate my feelings.  Going to a funeral is a privilege.

I have missed too many funerals this year. Some I didn’t feel were appropriate for Mr 4 and Miss 21 months to attend. Some were too far away and I couldn’t take the kids on such a long drive, only to come straight back. Some I had no babysitter.

I’m not big on ceremony. Truth be told, I don’t go to them for myself, or even really for the person who died. My personal belief is that when someone goes, there is no requirement to attend a funeral to say goodbye to them – I can do that anywhere, at anytime. But it breaks my heart that I haven’t been able to be there to support the friends and family who have lost a loved one. I hate feeling like they think I don’t care about their grief because I haven’t attended a funeral. In 2016, I have actually shed more tears over being unable to comfort those left behind than I have for the person who has passed away.

I am very close to my mother in law. She has considered me her daughter ever since her son and I started getting around together, nearly 18 years ago. One of her best friends passed away, and I am grateful to be going to Beth’s funeral today. I have someone to watch Mr 4, and I feel it will be appropriate to have Miss 21 months with me.  It means so very much to me that I will be there today to support my mother in law while she says goodbye to her beautiful friend.

So to Paul Campbell, Phil Massie, Greg Bird Snr and especially to Damo Brennan, may you all rest in peace. I care deeply for the loss your loved ones have experienced, even though I wasn’t able to be present at your funerals with them. But to Beth, I will be at your funeral. I know I don’t have to be there, but I’m grateful that I get to be there.

Is It Weird To Compliment A Breastfeeding Stranger?

This might come across as weird, but as a breastfeeding mum, I feel a strong urge to offer support to other breastfeeding mums.  A lot of this support is given online in groups like our breastfeeding support group on Facebook.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to have friends and acquaintances around me who are breastfeeding.

When I see a stranger breastfeeding, the urge is still there, but I often question myself on the best way to do this.  I don’t want to embarrass or intimidate the mum who’s breastfeeding, and I don’t want to distract her (as a new mum I needed to concentrate on latching, not exposing myself and refraining from spraying milk everywhere).  If at all possible, I would also like to avoid looking like an idiot, weirdo or nutcase.

This lead me to ask around breastfeeding mums to find out if they’d ever been encouraged by a stranger, and whether they received the support positively or not.  Here’s some responses:

“Just yesterday I was breastfeeding by myself in a cafe.  I was a bit nervous since I was on my own, and had a couple of ladies approach me and compliment me on breastfeeding. It was such a relief to have that happen. I’m so glad I’ve never had a negative situation”

– Kylie

I was shopping at a big local shopping center and my 4mth old needed a feed so as I do I start feeding, walked into a clothing store where a store assistant commented how well I was multi-tasking and well done for feeding. Gave me a little ego boost for the day”

– Jess

“A friend and I were feeding in a cafe last week and we had an elderly lady with her daughter and granddaughter on a table next to us. The daughter said to us it was beautiful to see us breastfeeding our babies. The grandmother commented how lovely it was. That when she breastfed she had to feed her children in the toilet when out. She said she was so glad women could feed their babies everywhere now, because so they should.

Was a lovely feeling having a positive comment, as we do hear a lot of negative experiences. Also a great feeling seeing a smile on the elderly woman’s face, like she was reminiscing her own times breastfeeding”

– Bree

“I was feeding my son in a crowded cafe and I was struggling to fit him between the table and myself. I couldn’t move my chair backwards as there was someone sitting right behind me. A man sitting at the table next to me came over and pulled my table back for me so I had more room. He smiled and told me what a great job I was doing and asked if I needed anything!

Another time I was out for dinner for my grandmothers birthday. My son was only 5 weeks old and it was quite a fancy restaurant. We had a lovely waitress who was studying midwifery. She was asking all about my son. She then told me that I was most welcome to feed my son right where I was. It was lovely to have that support and encouragement”

– Veronica

If you’re a little on the shy side, approaching any stranger about anything at all, let alone breastfeeding, may always remain outside of your comfort zone.  You could try getting some of our “thank you for breastfeeding” cards instead (which you can order here).  I’ve given out quite a few of these cards.  They still take a little bit of courage – it kind of feels like you’re throwing a grenade and then running for cover before it takes effect.  But hearing positive feedback from mums who receive these kinds of cards makes me feel a little more confident each time I give one out.

“I was feeding my little bub at TTP Modbury today when a lovely lady came up and handed me this card.  Thank you! You made my day and reminded me just why I’m sleep deprived is totally worth it!”

– Jess J

“I was in a major shopping centre again today and bubs needed a feed.  I went to the parents room (even though I didn’t really want to!) but it smelt like poo. I decided I would feed while having a coffee instead. I’m so glad I did as another lovely mumma gave me a “thank you for breastfeeding in public” card. You made mine and my husbands day!! He thought it was the best and sweetest thing ever! So, if you were the lady at TTP coffee club today, thank you! xxx”

– Chantal

It’s normal to feel a little nervous about offering breastfeeding support, but I hope you’re able to take some encouragement from this post.  And if you still aren’t quite ready to say something to someone in person, you can join our breastfeeding support group on Facebook and offer encouragement online.

It appears to be very unlikely that a mum is going to think you’re a freak for telling her she’s doing a good job while she’s breastfeeding, whether in person or online.  If you run the risk and go for it though, there’s a good chance that you’ll make someone’s day.

Have you ever offered a compliment or support to a stranger?  Has a stranger said something nice to you? 

How did it make you feel?

Running Away From My Fat Day

I’m having a fat day today.  A few days out from my 32nd birthday and my middle aged spread has found it’s home.  All of my weight is being dumped around my already unattractive middle.  As if the pre-existing stretch marks, loose skin and csection scar weren’t bad enough, now I have flabby fatness there as well.

I am usually the first person to champion positive body image.  I have grown two babies inside of me, and am breastfeeding them as they grow.  I’m pushing my body to it’s limits by breastfeeding two kids AND expressing to donate to other mums.  I have a hypothyroid, which makes all of that slightly harder and I’m still managing.  I rarely get sick and I have plenty of energy to play with my kids.  I KNOW my body is amazing, I just wish it looked it too.

My kids provide a perfect excuse for exercise. Today I took them to the park. Did some ‘box jumps’ on the play equipment, worked my bum and thighs on some steps, had a go at swinging on the monkey bars and entertained the kids with some hand stands against a big pole.  Mr 4 was very impressed that I could do handstands “Just like Aunty Jeni”.  I’m pretty sure that the things I was doing could never be compared to the major feats of strength and flexibility my sister engages in, but I felt a boost to know that my son thought they were similar.


For my grand finale, I chased my son on his bike (he has no training wheels so he’s pretty fast) with my sleeping 2yo in a cheap stroller. Our park has a 1.8km loop around the outside.  It was hot and there was no shade or breeze.  I ran for a bit, walked a bit, ran some more and then clumsily rolled my ankle on the drink bottle that fell out the back of the stroller.  It was painful but I walked it off and then ran a little more.

Mr 4 is a brilliant motivator.  He knows I’m not used to running and he knows I can’t run as fast as he can ride.  He cheers me on, slows down so I can catch him and then speeds up to encourage me to run a bit more.  When I’m buggered, he rides off to give me a short rest, then loops back to tempt me into chasing him again.

The plan was never to exercise, it just happened.  There was no thought process where I made a conscious decision that I wanted to get fitter or lose some weight.  But sometimes when I’m feeling crappy about life, I want to run away from it.  I know that running away generally doesn’t fix anything, but in this case it might.  So when I am feeling crappy about weight, I run away from those feelings.  Literally.  Sitting around feeling sorry for myself has never been my way.  I run to a place where I can feel good about myself again.  I don’t feel any skinnier just yet, but I DO feel a lot better about myself than I did this morning.

Loving life, trying not to spew
Loving life, trying not to spew

When Loved Ones Are Unsupportive

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

Fighting About Whether Fed Is Best – Who Wins?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard that to some people, “fed is best”.  I don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  There have been many blog posts about this, and if you have no clue what I’m talking about, you can learn more here, here and here.

I don’t want to talk about my opinion of this slogan (for the record though, I disagree).  What I want to look into situations where I believe it’s inappropriate to engage in a discussion about all of the reasons why you believe it’s incorrect.  Among breastfeeding forums, it’s often asked how to best respond when someone tells you that fed is best.  Suggestions often include sharing useful and informative memes, links to articles and blog posts and long winded explanations as a way of “proving” that fed is NOT best.

These are fair and appropriate ways of sharing information, which is great.  Sometimes people are prepared to expand their knowledge and discuss their opinion.  It’s wonderful when that happens.  But more often than not, the phrase has come from a mum who has been very hurt by an unsuccessful breastfeeding journey.  In these situations, I don’t think she needs to be corrected or educated – she needs support.

Imagine how you would feel if you just poured your heart out to your best friend, and they chose to focus on a word you mispronounced.  Imagine if you were a child writing your first love letter and it was returned with a big red circle around a word you spelled incorrectly.

Perhaps by focusing on three words out of fifty, we are missing the broader point.  When I see or hear that “fed is best” on it’s own and with no context, it seems ridiculous to me.  However when a mum is choking back tears while she tells me about her baby that cried and cried, and wouldn’t gain weight, and how she desperately wanted to breastfeed but was told (and believed) that she couldn’t, I can understand why she would cling onto any thought that would make her feel better about a bad situation.  At that point in time, my opinion isn’t important, no matter how correct I think it is.  Instead, I say:

  • That must have been really difficult for you
  • I’m sorry you felt let down.  That’s unfair, you deserve to feel supported
  • Thank you for sharing that with me.  I hope it helps to get it off your chest
Photo credit - The Leaky Boob
Photo credit – The Leaky Boob

I’m not suggesting anyone lies by pretending to agree when they don’t, and I’m definitely not suggesting that we diminish the importance of breastfeeding.  Instead, keep the broader picture in mind.  If a mum feels like she’s being attacked when she’s vulnerable, she’s not going to listen to your message.  If anything you may have turned her off it completely.  If we can help more mums heal, then maybe we can have these conversations with them one day when they aren’t so fragile.  Fighting about whether fed is best won’t encourage more mum to breastfeed, but a little bit of kindness goes a long way.  With a bit of luck, that kindness will help those mums remain open to trying to breastfeed again in the future.  THAT is a win we can all feel good about.