For most families, the holidays are a joyous time of year. Especially when there is a new baby in the mix, coming together with loved ones who may be meeting your child for the first time is exciting and likely, a tad emotional. But the holiday season for families with little ones can also bring about some added stress, especially for a mom who is breastfeeding her baby or toddler. That’s because when it comes to feeding your baby, it often can feel like everyone has an opinion. From how you should feed your baby, to how long, and even where is appropriate, sometimes it feels like you just can’t do the right thing.
It’s important for moms who are breastfeeding to remember to take advice with a grain of salt, know that most people are trying to be helpful rather than cause stress, but also to set healthy boundaries. Likewise, it’s important for those around a breastfeeding mom to realize that how she feeds her baby is really no one’s business. Unless a breastfeeding mom asks for advice, don’t give it. Chances are, it’s already coming at her round the clock. Instead, ask what you can do to help, grab her a glass of water, and let her relax and enjoy the season without the commentary.
Here are the top 5 things never to say to a breastfeeding mom during the holiday season:
1) “Should you really be drinking/eating that?”
Whether it’s a cup of coffee, a glass of delicious eggnog or a slice of rum cake, breastfeeding moms are constantly having their food and drink intake questioned. Before you open your mouth to lecture a mama or tear or pressure glass of wine out of her well-deserving hands, remember that most breastfeeding moms are well aware of what the should be eating and drinking. Research shows that a cup of coffee or an alcoholic beverage is absolutely safe. But most moms are hypervigilant about what they are putting in their bodies anyway. So really… just keep the critique to yourself.
2) “Maybe you’d be more comfortable nursing in private…”
Here is the thing about breastfeeding a baby: every mother has their own comfort level when it comes to privacy. Some moms would prefer to nurse away from the crowd or covered up. Others don’t want to lock themselves away and miss the party every time their baby needs to nurse, which, when it comes to newborns, is likely pretty often. Some babies have a hard time nursing under a cover and older babies and toddlers will often rip it right off anyway. The best thing you can do is not to voice your opinion on where mom should be nursing and how covered she should be. Because if you do, you aren’t really doing much to help her comfort level at all. Usually, you’re making her feel she is doing something wrong when all she wants to do is know that her baby is well-fed and cared for. You don’t have to cozy up next to her if you’re uncomfortable with her breasts being out. You don’t have to look directly at them! You do have to get down with the fact that its mamas body, mama’s rules.
3) Give that kid a bottle already!
Oh no, you didn’t?!? There are tons of reasons breastfeeding moms are told on the regular to give their child a bottle. Like, that it will help them sleep better. Or so that their partner can have a turn feeding. While the advice might be well-intentioned and aimed at giving mom a break, deciding to exclusively breastfeed your baby is hard work and needs support, not doubts and questioning. When it comes to pushing the bottle, just don’t. Because chances are, a breastfeeding mom has her own, very personal, thoughts and feelings on how she wants to feed her baby whether it’s breast, bottle, or a combination. And there’s an even greater chance that your opinion on it is not going to change her mind.
4) You’re going to spoil that baby with all this nursing!
Newsflash: newborn babies nurse like crazy. If you see a new mom nursing the day away at a holiday gathering, she’s likely exhausted and ready to peel that baby off her breast so she can just breathe for five minutes without being suckled. Most likely, she’s striving hard to meet the demands of her growing baby… not trying to spoil him or her, which is virtually impossible. But You can’t spoil a newborn (or a baby in general for that matter). Infant’s bellies are tiny. So tiny that it seems they are hungry almost constantly. Not to mention, newborns need to be held and comforted is immensely important in the early stages of life.
5) That kid is still nursing?
Eeek. You probably don’t want to go there for a few reasons. First of all, while some kids are dead-set on weaning themselves at a year old, others are just as dead-set on nursing until preschool. Whether a mother wants to continue nursing until a child weans themselves is completely up to her, what she’s comfortable with, and what she believes benefits her child. Keep in mind, in countries around the world, breastfeeding until three or four for both comfort and nutritional gains is viewed as completely healthy and normal. But more importantly, how long a child nurses isn’t up for public opinion. If you aren’t comfortable with extended nursing, then don’t do it. But your own views shouldn’t come anywhere near a mother who is doing what is best for her child, whether they are three months old or three years old. Read more about the average age to wean here. (Average does not mean best time for everyone).
To sum it up, the general rule of thumb when it comes to what to say to a breastfeeding mother is to stay supportive. If you disagree with her choices, that’s okay. Just stay quiet. Remember that breastfeeding is a hugely important job and it should be praised, rather than critique. A simple “you’re doing great!” or “what can I get you?” when mom is trapped under her baby for what seems like hours can go a long way. So when in doubt, close your lips and cut her a piece of that rum cake. Because no one is going to argue with that. Especially not a hungry, breastfeeding mama.
The SCV Birth Center the only nationally accredited birth center in the Santa Clarita Valley, San Fernando, and Antelope Valley. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.