"How long do you expect to keep that up?" "Are you still nursing?" "Wouldn't it be easier to just use formula?" You have a choice in how you deal with breastfeeding criticism. It all depends on your mood at the time, your individual personality, and the mindset of (and your relationship with) your critic.
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Coping With Pressure To Wean off Breastfeeding - It's Common
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could nurture our children without having to worry about disapproval and criticism from other people? Sadly, most nursing relationships end before their time because of outside pressure and unsolicited advice. Children would certainly be allowed to nurse as long as they want if parents were able to live on an island!
It is natural to care about what other people think, and to doubt one's choices in life, especially when the critic is a close relative, friend, or health care professional. Rare is the breastfeeding mother in any given society who never encounters this type of unfair attack.
How To Deal With The Intellectual
You can choose to inform a critic who values the marvels of modern medicine by citing The American Academy of Pediatrics' findings on the benefits of breastfeeding into a child's second year or beyond, for both mother and child, to avoid risks of cancer, obesity, etc.
You can begin by using a confident tone of voice and say, "I'm glad that you care so much about the baby. I've thoroughly researched the topic and feel comfortable with my decision. I'd be glad to share what I have learned with you."
Joke Your Way Out of Breastfeeding Criticism
You can even use a bit of humor or sarcasm to deal with your critic. If your father-in-law says, "How long are you going to keep that up?" you can jokingly respond with, "Definitely until he goes off to college." Or, "At least for the next five minutes."
If someone says, "You're still nursing?" You can say, "No, I actually weaned years ago. But Julie still is!" Or, "Yikes, I hadn't noticed!" Or, "Gosh, I must be doing something terrible. Look at how miserable he is!" And with that, your critic will notice how happy, content, and healthy your child is, and should back off.
Be Gentle Not Defensive
At times, what comes across as disapproval is actually just simple curiosity or surprise. Many people do not ever see breastfeeding, and when they encounter a nursing situation for the first time, they react with initial shock, may put their feet in their mouths, but are genuinly curious to learn more about it.
If a mother has encountered disapproval in the past, she may react to this curiosity with defensiveness, not realizing that they have an opportunity to talk about nursing with an open-minded individual. Of course, it should not be our job to educate everyone in the world, but if you are in the mood to talk, then by all means, spread the joy of breastfeeding!
Be Open To Discussion
Your mom/friend/in-law says, "Shouldn't Bobby have weaned by now? He's eighteen months old!" To which you could say something like, "Well (my spouse) and I have discussed weaning, and have a plan in place. We have eliminated his late morning feeding, since he enjoys his morning snack so much. However, Bobby and I still enjoy nursing so much so it is our decision to continue until we wish to stop completely."
As the discussion continues, you can say, "You've made some valid and interesting points. I really have a lot to think about now. But for now, let's just agree to disagree." Or, "I'm glad that weaning Julie at 9 months worked out well for your family. However, every baby is different, and your support really means alot to me. I'd like some time to think about what you just said. So can we please talk about something else now?"
By remaining open-minded to their opinions, you will show them that you are interested in their point of view, accept the way they raise their kids, and wish they would respect your choices too.
The Persistent Critic
If the critic is really persistent and insists that nursing is obsene, then you can firmly end it by saying, "Just like I don't like discussing politics or religion with certain people, it's obvious that we should not talk about this topic. This is a personal decision, and I'd never try to impose my viewpoints on someone else."
You can leave the room for ten minutes, or your spouse can help by insisting they go outside to look at the car or the new deck or whatever, leaving you to breastfeed in peace. Worst case scenario? You cut your holiday at your in-laws' short and go back home! Next time, they will know better and back off if they want to spend time with their grandchild.
Consider the source
A person that has always believed that babies are best fed with formula or is wary of physical closeness and intimacy is not going to accept breastfeeding. You are not going to be able to convince this person that you are raising your child right, and it's not your responsibility, either.
But it is your right to feed your child and to keep him happy and safe from harm. You have the right to surround yourself with people who accept breastfeeding, so if you have to ultimately cut someone out of your life because they ignore your pleas for tolerance and persistently criticize your parenting choices, then you may not suffer such a loss.