10 Ways We Can Normalize Breastfeeding
Because enough is enough. Babies need to eat in peace!
Although society has come a long way in normalizing breastfeeding, we are simply not there yet. Breastfeeding, as natural as it is, is still a delicate relationship to build and requirse support from those around you. Sometimes it is sheer determination to continue breast-feeding in what seems like a conglomerate of anti-support from those around you. There are many misconceptions and public stigmas attached to breast-feeding that by this year 2020 should be completely gone.
It is shocking that there is still so much stigma attached to breastfeeding. Whether this can be blamed in part on the societies’ need to over sexualize the breasts or simply because many people are uncomfortable with seeing any part of breasts in public areas, or whether people simply just don’t know what they’re talking about, a lot of people have a lot of things to say about breastfeeding. And many times it is downright unhelpful!
Breastfeeding moms hear it ALL
I am a member of a Facebook mom’s group and I thought I would ask the group what the dumbest things are that people have said to them about their breast-feeding. Here are some of the ridiculous comments these moms have received over the years regarding their breast-feeding.
As you can see these comments come from total strangers, family members, friends, husbands and partners, and even other breastfeeding parents. Some are wrapped in the guise of helpfulness and some are downright insulting!
- It wasn’t what this guy said but how he was trying so hard to look through the hole at the top of my cover. It was my first outing and my first time doing it in public so I covered it with one of those things that go around your neck. Anyways. We were eating (at my work) and this “customer came up and started talking. No biggie til he started leaning over the table trying to see me.–Christina
- If you let him nurse while he sleeps he’ll never sleep without the breast.
If you would just pump more, you would get more milk
If you don’t train your baby to take a bottle, it’s not fair to everyone else that wants to feed him.
You can’t bottle feed and breast feed. He’ll only do one or the other.–Jessica
- Don’t you think you’ve done this long enough?
You can’t nurse both of them.
They will sleep better if you just give them a bottle.
Do you have to do that here?–Kristen
- Pumping isn’t breastfeeding–Julia
- Maybe it’s time to switch to formula–Kaitlyn
- I was in a department store and my mom was trying something on and my son (probably less than 3 months at the time) was hungry so I fed him. An older woman came into the fitting room waiting area and we chatted a bit. Then she asked if he slept well. I said not really. She said, looking at him, “well that’s because she’s not feeding you enough!”–Serenity
- My MIL told my husband I was being selfish insisting on breastfeeding from the boob when I was with our baby. She told him “feeding a baby forms a bond and it’s selfish she won’t let anyone have that chance.” 😑 She wanted me to let someone else feed our baby from a bottle, even if I was there.–Sarah
- When are you going to stop breastfeeding?–Joanna
- When you switch to formula you’re going to be so much happier because he’s going to sleep so much better.
Just use formula if you’re having a hard time.–Dee
- “There’s no way you can nurse two babies at once. And at your age??!! It’s probably just dust anyway.”
I was 34 when I had my twins.–Jamie
- My mom, throwing a blanket over my head and sticking her arms out in front of me like she is a goalie. ‘You’re making a scene!’–Erin
- My grandmother said (a week after my baby was born) “wow I’m surprised you haven’t given up yet.” And then after 2 months “really Alex, you know it’s going to be so hard to wean her off, why don’t you just give a bottle”–Alexandra
- Are you STILL letting him on the tit? That kid is going to be spoiled as hell. You need to start getting him on bottles and solids.–Shaena
- My mother, who nursed both us kids to age three and went to la leche league meetings regularly, often tried to get me to cover up when she was over, even in my own home because my father “doesn’t need to see that.”–Juliet
- Don’t you want to do that in the bathroom? Like–why would I want to feed my baby in the bathroom? Would YOU eat in a bathroom?–Christina
- I don’t know if this counts but…after I got comfortable with breastfeeding my husband started referring to my breasts as “milk bags”. I know he thought it was funny but we ended up having a conversation about how the term diminished the importance of what I was accomplishing by being able to breastfeed and how it made me feel bad about a body I was already struggling to reacquaint myself with after childbirth. He kept pushing back and the conversation took much longer than it should have because he really couldn’t understand what he was saying wrong.–Joleen
- Ever since my son turned 4mo my mom has been right up my butt telling me I need to start solids and that my baby is always starving. Never tell a breastfeeding mother that her baby must be starving 🙄–Ciara
- My mil kept commenting how gassy and colick-y my son was. So I had to hear 1000 times how her kids were the same so she just switched them to cows milk at 3 mos and didn’t tell the doctor😑–Hollianne
- I’m not breastfeeding anymore, but when I was, one family member criticised my low supply by telling me about how she produced SO MUCH milk that her boobs would leak if she bent over.I was just kind of like? Congrats? Way to discourage me, and make me feel inadequate?
- My sister came down to visit with my dad and brothers when my little was about 9 or 10 weeks. Every time I would breastfeed, my sister insisted that my little had thrush. ” it’s just milk tongue. It goes away after no more than 15 mins”. Again, every time I fed my baby ” oh look! Her thrush is back!! You need to take her to the doctor!!” After several hours of this and her implying I was a bad mom, it came out that she gave up on trying to breastfeed after 2 days because it seemed like too much of a hassle and went to formula (not knocking formula). Formula babies don’t get the little film on their tongue like breast milk babies because breast milk has those lovely natural fats.
It was a joke for the longest time between me and my partner about how my little had “acute, intermittent thrush “every time I breastfed her. 😂
- “You’re STILL breastfeeding?” (At 6m old)
“I think it’s time to give bottles.” (At 5 months)
“I think it’s time to put cereal in her bottles, she’s nursing too much.” (At 4 months)
“You really just do that in public? Shouldn’t you leave?”
“She’d sleep better if you gave her formula.”–Sierra
As you can see there are a whole lot of misconceptions going on with breastfeeding. These poor moms have certainly had to defend their decision to breastfeed their children both within their inner circle of family and friends but also out in public. Normalizing breastfeeding is something that we need to tackle as a society. These moms should not be left to defend themselves for making this very personal and medical decision for their baby.
10 ways we can all help to normalize breastfeeding
1. Make sure our laws reflect our values.
USA Today Released an article celebrating that it was finally legal to breast-feed in public in all 50 states. While we celebrate along with this, it is very sad that the article was released as recent as 2018. Seriously? We as a society can do better than this. Check with the laws in your state to see that they reflect positive breastfeeding laws. And if they don’t–write your congressmen and congresswomen and demand change!
2. Educate the public.
Most public stigmas come from word of mouth stories that are rooted in misconceptions. For each common misconception that you hear, have an answer ready that is not snarky but a quick way to educate people about the normalcy of breastfeeding. With a calm response, you can easily refute some common misconceptions.
3. Educate family members and friends
Family members and friends are typically the first to offer unwanted and unsolicited advice. You can talk with your family prior to your baby’s birth and explain to them what your perspectives about breastfeeding are and what your plans are to help avert all those pesky questions they may have for you later on. Sometimes people just say stupid things because they don’t know any other way to ask. They may not realize you’ve already had that question three times this week. If you let them know what your plans are it can help them to understand but also to be a part of the process.
For those who simply refused to get on board with your plan or who are simply anti-breastfeeding, there’s not much you can do to change their minds. You simply have to stand your ground and be consistent in reminding them of the health benefits to your baby.
4. Create breastfeeding support groups.
La Leche League has led the way in breastfeeding support groups. You can find a local chapter or you can create a breast-feeding support group of your own perhaps at your local church or other public organization.
You can host events and campaigns that will help to normalize breastfeeding.
5. Offer comfortable places for breastfeeding.
Encourage local businesses to incorporate a breastfeeding area. You can also visit local businesses and talk to them about what their policies are regarding breastfeeding. You can communicate to them what breastfeeding moms need and how they can best serve the public through a positive support policy for breastfeeding moms.
6. Speak out when places discriminate against breastfeeding mothers.
Put your money where your mouth is. If businesses and companies discriminate against breastfeeding mothers and babies simply refuse them your patronage!
7. Speak out when people discriminate against breastfeeding mothers.
Along with the previous point, use your social media and your social circles to let people know when there are discriminatory practices taking place. Public pressure can often cause companies and businesses to change their discriminatory stances and policies on breastfeeding.
8. Share your stories publicly.
The more you share your story in a positive and normalized way, the more other people will get on board and feel more comfortable. Things that we don’t see often make us more uncomfortable. In a way you want people to become “desensitized” to something they may not have a whole lot of experience with. The more normal we make it, the more normal they will be able to accept it. Share pictures on your social media. Write blog posts about your breastfeeding experience. Get your story out there!
9. Act like it’s a normal thing.
If we act terribly nervous in public when we are nursing our babies, that discomfort will affect other people as well. We all know it’s a normal thing so act like it’s a normal thing. Use a cover, or don’t use a cover, whatever makes you comfortable and helps you to feed your baby, then do it. Most places will want for you to be a little discrete, and you can use your own discretion as to how that should be done. This does not have to be done in a manner in which you have to be hiding in the corner and feeling shamed. You shouldn’t be ashamed of what you are doing but you can also be mindful of your surroundings. Be courageous and ask for what you need for you and your baby, and hopefully your comfort with the situation will translate to other people as well. You may find there’s a lot of really curious people that don’t know much about breastfeeding. This is your chance to show them it is beautiful, natural, and totally okay!
10. Put our babies first no matter what anyone says.
When it comes down to it, we have to put our babies first. Even with the naysayers and the anti-breast-feeding people out there saying ugly things to us, we have to remember that our babies are the reasons we’ve made this decision. Stand your ground about why you have made this decision. Share your reasons with other people but within limits. You don’t have to over-explain yourself and you don’t have to beat your head against a wall that simply will not be moved. When it gets very frustrating, focus on your baby.
Breastfeeding is a very personal decision but it’s also a very public issue. We can work to undo the stigmas attached to breastfeeding, many of which were put in place when formula began hitting the market and marketing professionals began pushing the formula trend. Very strong efforts were made during that time to encourage women to separate from the breastfeeding relationship and enjoy all of their newfound freedom, when the underlying pitch was to sell you formula. There are also a lot of misconceptions about the medical aspects of breastfeeding and many people have simply been misinformed about what it is all about. We’ve learned a lot about breastfeeding in the last several decades and some people just aren’t up-to-date on their information. You can inform them politely, consistently, and in a way that is helpful. Together, we can all make great strides to normalize breastfeeding.
This article is brought to you by our contributing writers and parents here at the Babienet Parenting Community, where we value the stories of parents just like you! We welcome you to share your journey with us.
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Christina M Ward is a mom, grandmother, and writer of lots and lots of words. When she’s not busy obsessing over writing poetry and well-living articles, she is out in nature exploring or doing needlepoint crafts in front of Netflix. She loves books and reading, learning geeky things about nature, and helping other people live their best life.
10 Ways We Can Normalize Breastfeeding provides a list of ways we can help to normalize breastfeeding in 2020.