This is #2 in the “10 Pitfalls to Breastfeeding Enjoyment” series.
Chances are that you have had your fair share of opinion sharing from multiple well-meaning loved ones. Perhaps it sounded something like this:
“Oh, you are still breastfeeding?”
“Didn’t you just feed that baby? He’s not hungry yet.”
“When are you going to stop breastfeeding? Well, you’ll stop once she can ask for it, right?”
“When are you going to feed the baby real food?”
“Have you started formula yet?”
“Is the baby sleeping through the night yet?”
“Why don’t you just pump and let me give the baby a bottle so you can have a break?”
We love our family and friends and we know they mean well, but, man, are those comments annoying. Not only are they annoying, they have the ability to cut you to the core and threaten everything you have worked for… Wait, do they? No, no they don’t. It just feels that way. Because words are just words and what we allow them to do to us is our choice.
Most of these comments are well intentioned and come from a place of ignorance (bless their hearts).
So, for example, Aunt Janet, who never had children of her own and knows little to nothing at all about babies, is sitting next to you on the couch when you whip out your boob and latch your four-month-old on. First, Aunt Janet gets uncomfortable because she just saw your nipple. She shifts in her seat a little, but doesn’t get up because she doesn’t want to be rude. She feels the need, however, to make small talk to break up the awkwardness she is feeling, so she says the first thing that comes to her head: “Oh! You are still breastfeeding?!”
Now, she may have meant this a number of ways. She may have meant, “Good for you! You are still breastfeeding.” Or she may have meant, “Most women I have known have failed at breastfeeding, so it is impressive that it is working for you.” Or, she may have meant nothing at all by it; she simply talks a lot and needed some type of chatter to fill the dead air space.
But, when Aunt Janet said that, all you heard was,
“EEEEW! That baby is way too old to be breastfeeding! I can’t believe you are still doing (with disgust) that.”
Now, maybe that is what she meant to say, but probably not. So, why did you interpret it that way?
Here’s the point. You must be rubber (You know: “I am rubber you are glue”?)
Words cannot hurt you. Words do not have to make you question everything. That is a choice that only you can make.
- BREATHE. Deep breath. This is the moment you have been training for. Get some extra oxygen first so you don’t freak out on Aunt Janet.
- Introspection: Ask yourself: “What emotions does this comment bring up in me? Why is this causing me feel so _____? (angry, self-conscious, homicidal)”
- Truth: WHAT DO I KNOW TO BE TRUE?
- Collect the love: Assume the comment is coming from a place of love. Breathe in that love. Breathe it in again.
- Help them understand: Respond with love.
So, responding to Aunt Janet looks something like this:
“Oh! You are still breastfeeding?!”
Breathe: (think, don’t say) “Oh, hell no. She did not just say that. DEEP BREATH IN. She doesn’t even have any kids! What the hell does she know? DEEP BREATH OUT. How am I supposed to feed my baby? She’s four months old. DEEP BREATH IN. Let me just stop and think about this for a second so I don’t scream at this crazy old lady right now. DEEP BREATH OUT.
Introspection: What am I feeling? I am feeling judged. I feel like Aunt Janet is telling me I am doing something wrong by breastfeeding my four-month-old. This is making me question everything I know about breastfeeding. Does everybody think I shouldn’t be breastfeeding? Why is this causing me to feel so self conscious?
Truth: I know I am doing the very best for my baby by breastfeeding him right now. It is the perfect food and he needs nothing else.
Collect the love: This crazy old bat just loves me and loves my baby. She wants what is best for us; she just doesn’t know how to express that. I am going to breathe in that love. DEEP BREATH IN. I am going to breathe in that compassion. DEEP BREATH IN. I am going to breathe in ease right now so I can respond to her with love.
Help them understand: I will respond with love.
“Yes, Aunt Janet. Isn’t it wonderful? I have worked so hard to get to this point and I am very proud of it. They say breastfeeding is what is best for him, so I am giving him the best!”
Then, there is the internet…
The Internet is a dangerous place for the breastfeeding mom. It is filled with 98% crap and 2% good advice. Unfortunately almost none of it is well organized. (The irony that you are reading the post on the internet is not lost on me… I like to think that I am in the 2%.)
Is it applicable to you? Meaning, was this written for a breastfeeding mama like you with a normal milk supply or was it written for someone with a low milk supply? Don’t make the mistake of thinking it was written for you then and embodying it: “Do I have a low milk supply??”
Who wrote this? Because the last time I checked, any schmo can post on the interweb. Was it written by a Registered Nurse? An IBCLC? A mother of three? A physician? A physician employed by Enfamil?
Is this evidence-based fact or opinion? If it is opinion, do you trust this person’s opinion? Why?
Here’s an eye opener: most breastfeeding info online is loosely based on fact and heavily focused on opinion. That is because there is only so much breastfeeding research out there due to limited funding and lack of ability to quantify something so individualized. This heavy emphasis on opinion isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of what I tell you is my opinion, right? The important thing to ask yourself is whether you trust this person’s opinion. Do they have credibility? What are their opinions based on?
My opinions are based upon a foundation of my medical knowledge base as a Registered Nurse; my credential as an IBCLC; ten years of hands-on breastfeeding assistance; five years of private consulting; 5,000+ hours of hands-on breastfeeding assistance; 500+ of times leading support groups; 500+ hours of teaching classes about breastfeeding, pumping, starting solids, and newborn care; and 33 months of personal breastfeeding experience.
Have I earned your trust? Well, before you swallow what I have to say hook, line, and sinker, first make your own judgment: is the advice you are reading sensible?
An internet article can be applicable to you as well as professional and opinion-based from a credible source, but the most important thing to ask yourself is, “Can I realistically do this? Does it even make sense?”
For instance, if you have been diagnosed with Candidiasis of the nipple (aka thrush or yeast), you will find a large number of websites that give you advice about what you should or should not do to combat this problem.
Remove sugar from your diet! Wash everything in vinegar! Eat more yogurt! Take a probiotic! Apply grapefruit seed extract to your nipples! Wash all your clothes with grapefruit seed extract! Use Gentian Violet on your nipple and on your baby’s mouth! Sterilize everything after each use!
Seriously? Remove sugar from your diet? Have you ever met a new mom? She is lucky to eat at all, let alone do the work it takes to figure out how to get sugar out of her diet.
All of these techniques have merit, but I use few to none of them when I am working with a mom with yeast. Why? Because they are ridiculous, time consuming, stressful, and probably unnecessary.
If it doesn’t make sense or seems like way too much work, don’t follow Dr. Google’s orders.