Their comments seemed harmless enough at first, but the feeling of disapproval lingers and stings.
“How many times are you going to feed that baby, he can’t be hungry?”
“They better learn now; someone is not going to pick her up every time she cries.”
“You are spoiling that baby!” “No one is going to watch her for you, and she won’t ever take a bottle if you keep that up”
You need nerves of steel to keep the milk flowing and not take to heart when the people you know, and love don’t get it. Strangers of course are a different category of misery.
When I think back especially to those times, it was my first time as a woman when I decided to nurse that I stood up for myself and did day in and day out what I thought was best for me. A classic conflict avoider from birth, I usually remained silent and just did what I wanted to do anyway and hope I didn’t get caught in having to explain. Nursing my baby just because I wanted to… forced me in some ways to take a very public stand about my own values and beliefs as it related to my own well-being. I could rationalize from time to time that it was for the baby when in fact it was absolutely for me.
I remember once the little one was crying at a large gathering of extended “family” and friends. Most everyone thought they were being helpful by passing the fussy, cranky smelly one around, asking for a bottle, a pacifier, jiggling and shaking the baby and I heard my mother in a mildly annoyed way. “Give that baby to his mother please…” They belong together.
My mother’s defense of me caught me off guard, it was my husband who usually stood between me and the crowd of parenting style police. She had taken on a not so new role of advocacy for me that allowed me the courage to step in to my rightful place of connection with my own baby. I lost my fear, and I know longer cared what other people thought about the things that were within my power to do something about. It was my first and best attempts at consistently choosing love.
Being a mother made me fierce and confident and able to stand my ground. It would be many many years later that I would get my words and my voice on how being a mother made me feel. Until then, just claiming my space and nursing my baby was enough.
Please tell us your story and recollections. How did you handle harsh criticism of your desire to nurse and stay close to your baby? Especially when it seemed like the baby was seen as competition for your love and respect and you weren’t seen at all.