Sunday, November 11, 2012

Breastfeeding in the Holiday Season: TEN WAYS to Eliminate, Educate & Elude Confrontation

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The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with family and friends. The warmth and cheer and the good food are enough to fill a person's heart with contentment to advance into the next year in a good way. I, for one love Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. And for those that don't celebrate these holidays, there is Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ashura, among many others. Breastfeeding can be daunting in and of itself. A lot of women don't  have the courage to do it in public, around strangers. Breastfeeding around family members who are unsupportive or unfamiliar with it can be even more daunting. One reason being, that you know them and you have to face them on a regular basis. Or, at least, once a year.

You may be confronted by family members with rude comments or dirty looks and feel the need to leave the room to avoid these confrontations. If you feel most comfortable being in another room, by all means, do what you feel suits you best. But for a lot of breastfeeding mothers, they may not want to leave the room and miss the festivities. Which, in a lot of cases, you may be there longer than one feed for your baby or child and this can cause a lot of missed time with family and friends.

If you feel you may be confronted at these gatherings, there are many ways to go about avoiding them or standing up for yourself and your baby to make your holiday stress free and family friendly. I have asked some mothers to share their experiences, breastfeeding during the holidays. Here are a few:

Jessica writes:
'My youngest son was born in March, so by the time Thanksgiving came around
that year, he had already passed the "recommended" '6 month cut off'. I had never been shy about nursing in public, and
my family knew that well. I would proudly lift my shirt anywhere and
everywhere. Thanksgiving that year, I'm at my aunts house, trying to eat my
food, get my then 3 year old to eat anything I could get him to try, and my
8 month old was hungry.

I put him in the ring sling and situate it so no one could really see anything other than his
head, just out of respect for it not being my home. My uncle got up and left, came back
and grabbed his children. That made other family members take notice and they all got up
and left. Then designated my aunt to come in and tell me how inappropriate
that was to "whip out a tit" at the family table. And how no one felt
comfortable eating in the same room as me, if I could please go eat alone,
in another room. I smiled and said no, and continued eating. After that, I
didn't speak to anyone. I made an extra plate to take home and packed up
and left.

By Christmas I thought it was settled. We arrived at Christmas dinner though, and
the first thing out of their mouths was asking if I brought a bottle so I wouldn't flash people

I wish I could say that my story has a happy ending, but it never happened. I went on
to breastfeed my son fora total of 29 months. My family is still very unsupportive of
 breastfeeding but I don't let it bother me, and I have no plan on adjusting my "behavior" for
their needs, as my job is to fulfill my child's needs.'

Lisa says: '"You're STILL breastfeeding? Isn't he going to become too dependent on you?! (said of my then 1.5 yr old)…"'

Jennifer writes: "My husband’s parents came up for a belated Christmas this past January. At the time, my daughter was 5.5 months old and still exclusively breast fed. I didn’t think anything of nursing her in the living room with my in-laws in the room. Apparently, this made the step dad uncomfortable, but we didn’t know that until a couple days later when my husband's mom called to tell him. They expected me to go into another room to nurse my baby, in my own house. My husband was appropriately outraged, as was I. His mom even went so far as to say, and I quote, “I don’t appreciate her whipping out her breast in front of my husband.” As though I was trying to seduce a man twice my age by feeding my baby. Since then, the relationship has been strained, at best. It’s unfortunate that people are so narrow minded and prudish about the act of breastfeeding, but I refuse to alter the way I feed my children simply for someone else’s comfort, especially within the walls of my own home. I’m still breastfeeding my daughter, now 15 months old, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon."

There is also attire you can wear, so that if it's not practical or comfortable to cover, you can go uncovered without showing much. When in public, I do not cover because we are not comfortable that way. I wear a tank top under a shirt and pull up the t-shirt and pull down the tank top. Of course, there is nursing attire, but if you're on a tight budget, like me, you work with what you have. There is often little to nothing shown when I use the shirt-tank method and we're both happy that way.

While these situations are often unavoidable, there are ways to diffuse them. Here is a list of 10 things you can do or say, if you are comfortable:

1. Using a cover is always an option, if you and baby are comfortable.
2. You may use this time to educate family members or friends. Just a short blurb about the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding or extended breastfeeding.
3. You may say things like "That sounds like it worked out for your children, but this is what works for our children and we are happy."
4. Get the support of another family member or your spouse beforehand to intervene, so you have an advocate.
5. Laugh and make a joke about how you promise not to wave your nipple like the breastfeeding banner without a child attached.
6. If they mention that there are children in the room & they don't know what to tell them, offer to explain to the children what is happening so the parents don't have to try to answer their questions.
7. When talking about breastfeeding, remember to smile and sound light hearted. Hopefully, putting off the defensive stance your family member or friend may have.
8. If you're asked why you haven't put it in a bottle, explain that you (and these are just examples) a) can't pump b) baby won't take a bottle c) you couldn't pump enough for baby for the holiday gathering d) you forgot your pumped milk
9. If they offer solids, say that you're worried about an allergy or tell them that it is not recommended by AAP or WHO to introduce solids before "X" months or that they can't have (insert name of food) until "X" age.
10. Your baby may have teeth and this also may prompt comments about solids: "Your baby should be eating food since he has teeth." "You're breastfeeding AGAIN? Here, give him this." You could say: "No thank you, we haven't introduced that into his diet yet."

I hope that giving these examples and experiences have helped you go into your holiday season a little less stressed and more confident in your choice to breastfeed your baby. Happy Holidays!

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