• Heather de Paulo

How to Handle Breastfeeding Cynics


I didn’t want to specifically say mothers-in-law right at the get-go, but the most prevalent complaint is, indeed, with mothers-in-law. You may have the most amazing mother-in-law, so this may not apply to you. Or you may be having issues with someone else who thinks he or she is helping, but is actually driving you crazy!


Essentially, the people I’m talking about here don't support breastfeeding, make you feel guilty for not breastfeeding, feeding too much, feeding too little, always around and interfering – it goes on and on. This is a very touchy subject because she's your husband's mother, or someone you can’t just boot out of the house, so you can't just get rid of him or her (though you may want to!). You have to find a way to deal with it.

First, you need to have your husband or significant other on your team; you need to have a unified front. You may not agree on everything, and in some cases, you may have to just let some things go, but you need to find the "don't cross the line" items that you will stand strong about.


The biggest one may be that you want your baby to be exclusively fed breastmilk. There's a generation of mothers-in-law who tend to be the formula generation, so they don't understand why you won't just give your baby formula.


It's best to be very clear about your decision to exclusively breastfeed BEFORE the baby is born. Hopefully, if you deal with this issue beforehand, you will not have to deal with it while you are learning the whole process yourself with a hungry, screaming baby. If she is not getting it, start showing her some literature about the benefits of breastfeeding and why you are choosing to do so. If that's not enough, take her to talk to your pediatrician or OB. If an authority figure like a doctor explains why breast is best, she may be convinced.


Hopefully, these things work, but if she's a tough one, you may have to respectfully tell her that it's your decision and have your significant other with you to back you up. But you should definitely stand your ground and don't let her overpower you to the point where you compromise your principles!


Some women are in a situation where they need their mother-in-law to watch the little ones when they return to work. This is where the real issues begin because she has the baby all to herself and you aren't around.


Again, you need to pick your battles here. If she happens to put a diaper on backward or put on clothes that you don't like, this isn't a big deal, really. However, giving formula instead of breastmilk, when you've explicitly told her you are exclusively breastfeeding, is off-limits.


You may also have the issue of grandma (or any caregiver) overfeeding, causing baby to not want to nurse when he's with you because he's full, or underfeeding, and she's screaming from hunger when you pick her up. You need to choose what's important for you and stand your ground. For me, giving formula would be an absolute no-no and if she continues, I would find another sitter. Perhaps for you, it would be something else.


Don't feel there's no way out – there's always a way. Don't accept something that totally goes against your beliefs because you feel stuck. You are never stuck, there's always a solution!


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