Talking to relatives about breastfeeding

8 April 2010 at 1:07 am Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I was visiting a cousin and her five-week-old baby. I was thrilled to see the baby –and my cousin, too, of course, but parents are always a little bit of an afterthought when there’s a new baby around. We were staying at a nearby hotel, but we would go over to my cousin’s house midday, and our main purpose for being in the city was in fact to visit her and the baby. At one point that first afternoon, my cousin said it was time to feed the baby. She took the baby and disappeared into another room, behind two closed doors, and did not emerge for a full hour. This pattern repeated itself every three and a half hours (she was feeding on a schedule, not on demand) while we were there, except for about once a day when she would announce that she wanted to “be social” and so would give the baby a bottle of formula so she “could be out in the living room” with us. When I gently prodded, she explained that nursing was a huge hassle because she had to take off her shirt, take off her (back-fastening, regular) bra, prop the baby up on regular bed pillows, and nurse naked to the waist.

Now, I’m not a lactation consultant, and I’m not a La Leche League leader–though I’ve contemplated starting down that route–but a number of things struck me as off about this entire set-up.

First of all, there was that pesky schedule–even my husband remarked on this one. She said vaguely that she thought a feeding schedule was “a good idea” because the pediatrician suggested it, and because “it helps [the baby] figure out when to expect to eat” and it helps her know when to change a dirty diaper.

Then, there was the total lack of any breastfeeding-specific product that could help make her life as a nursing mother easier. I’m a minimalist, personally, and I don’t think you need a lot of physical stuff to breastfeed (though, note, she did have bottles and pacifiers and cans of organic formula), but I do think there are things that can make the experience easier and–certainly for my cousin–far more pleasant. I suggested a Boppy or other brand of nursing pillow, so she wouldn’t have to fuss with bed pillows, but she demurred–the bed pillows which she had just been complaining about “were fine,” I was told. I suggested a few nursing tanks for wearing around the house, and underneath other shirts outside if you’re nervous about exposing stomach flesh to others, or at the very least two good nursing bras. My cousin nodded politely, with absolutely no interest in the subject, so I let it drop.

How do other people manage this? How do you manage to talk to relatives about (their) breastfeeding? 

–Christina

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The midwifery model and pediatric care Talking to friends about birth

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