Breastfeeding backlash: How to respond to criticism about breastfeeding

Your breastfeeding experience is completely yours to own. We seek support and encouragement from those we trust, but ultimately, a mother decides how to feed and nourish her child.

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Do you face criticism from those around you on the breastfeeding choices you have made? Don’t let it stress you out. As a mother, you will be doing everything in your power to keep your little one happy and healthy.

Anita Daubaras, Vice President of Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group Singapore (BMSG), urges mummies to not let the fears of others influence their breastfeeding decisions. The way you breastfeed and how long for is between mother and child.

She has this very helpful advice for mums dealing with breastfeeding criticism from friends and family.

“1. What are the intentions of the comments? Perhaps, they come out of a genuine concern for the child?

2. Who is criticising you?

  • A stranger? A relative who is not close to you and is overstepping their boundaries? You may choose to ignore their words.
  • With close friends and family members, you may want to establish boundaries respectfully.

Establishing boundaries

3. State your choices, with kindness and respect.

  • You can say, “My husband and I read up on this and have decided not to supplement with water or formula,” or “we have decided not to begin feeding baby solid foods until after 6 months old.”

4. Use a polite one-liner that you can repeat even when upset by comments.

  • You can say something like, “Breastfeeding is working well for all of us right now.”

5. Use humour and light-heartedness to diffuse tense situations.

  • Saying “My daughter will probably wean sometime before teenagehood!” is likely to bring a smile to an awkward moment.

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6. Do the comments come from a person who is feeling confused, doubtful, guilty or regretful about her personal breastfeeding or parenting decisions?

  • In this case, empathising with where the comments are coming from may help.

7. Think of yourself as an informed mother making what you believe are the best choices for your baby. This may help you feel less vulnerable or hurt.

8. Ask yourself why those comments bother you. Are you feeling conflicted or doubtful yourself?

  • Seek support and guidance for your fears from those you trust. Remember, you are doing what feels right to you as a mother.

9. Is your role to be an educator?

  • Perhaps by breastfeeding, you are defining what girls and mothers-to-be see as the normal way of raising babies. As others become aware of the very normal and real possibility of breastfeeding, they in turn would be able to make informed, breastfeeding-friendly choices themselves.
  • Maybe, you could share printed information or research supporting your decision with the commenter, spreading breastfeeding knowledge.

10. Dealing with criticism may help you feel more courageous and confident about doing what you believe is best for your baby!’

You can join Anita and many other breastfeeding mums for support and encouragement by requesting to join the Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group (BMSG) on Facebook. This is a closed group.

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