As a nursing mom, I've heard plenty of weird, offensive, and downright stupid things about breastfeeding. Fortunately, the people saying them are the minority in my life, though I know plenty of other moms who aren't so lucky. It seems a lot of folks feel they absolutely must comment on breastfeeding, though, so I figured it might be time to give them a cheat sheet of things people should start saying about women who breastfeed, instead. You know, to offset some of the silly and creepy things people say to breastfeeding moms.
I want to live in a world where all women can make free, fully-informed, and fully-supported choices about everything we do with our bodies, breastfeeding (or not breastfeeding) included. I want to live in a world where people feel like they can have normal conversations and seek advice from their friends, instead of getting pelted with unsolicited advice from all directions when they decide to start families. Sounds simple, but having been in the parenting game for a while now I can assure that, sadly, it's anything but.
So yes, I want to live in a world where people say fewer utterly and painfully ridiculous things to me and my friends when we're trying to feed our kids and otherwise go about our business. And, yes, that world is possible, folks. All we need to do, collectively, is agree to trade ignorant observations about breastfeeding moms for comments like the following:
“I'm Glad She's Doing What Works For Her And Her Family”
Whether we make the same choices or not, it's good to be happy for other people when they find a healthy choice that works for their family. Instead of assuming breastfeeding moms are trying to be superior or caving to outside pressure, assume that she made her own perfectly legitimate choice for her own perfectly legitimate reasons.
“I Hope She Has The Support She Needs”
Breastfeeding can be really rewarding, but it can also be really tough, too. Nursing is physically demanding and for moms who have to be separated from their babies to work, it can be especially challenging to express enough milk for their baby to have while they're apart (and to find a caregiver who knows how to handle and serve breast milk). Hoping she has the support she needs to meet her breastfeeding goals is way better than assuming (or even hoping) she'll fail.
“I’ll Ask Her For Advice Before/When My Baby Comes”
No matter what our feeding choices, nearly everyone can agree that unsolicited advice is typically really annoying. However, more often than not people are giving it because they've learned things they wish someone had told them before they became a parent (or did whatever unexpectedly challenging life thing they're now doing). Making a point of which of our friends have successfully done things we're interested in, like breastfeeding, and then asking for advice is a great thing, because it gives their friends a chance to share hard-won wisdom, and helps them steer clear of totally avoidable pitfalls.
“Women’s Bodies Are Pretty Amazing”
There's way too much shaming of female bodies in the world — whether it's regarding whatever size we are, how we dress, how old we are, and how we choose to use our bodies, breastfeeding included. All of us, breastfeeders and non-breastfeeders alike, would benefit from a world where more folks admired our bodies instead of judging them, or telling us how covered or uncovered we should be.
“Leave Her Alone”
“Does She Need A Place To Sit?”
Unless she's wearing her child in a sling, it's typically more comfortable to nurse while sitting (or laying down) than standing up. So if you see a flustered mom with a hungry baby frantically digging into her shirt, offering her a place to sit is way better than making an annoying joke ("They sure know where their food comes from, har har!") she's probably heard a million times before.
“Does She Need Something To Eat?”
If a mom in your life is breastfeeding, she's probably hungry. For folks who want to be helpful, asking her if she wants something to eat when she's done is way better than asking her something like if she'd "like to cover up." (If she wanted to cover up, she'd be covered up already, so that's usually a silly question.)
“Does She Need Some Water?”
Breastfeeding moms are thirsty, too, so if you're around a nursing mom you know, see if she's got a water bottle handy. If not, find and fill it for her or grab her a glass of water. Way more helpful than starting a potentially weird or unnecessary conversation about breastfeeding.
“I’ll Keep My Voice Down So I Don't Distract Her Baby”
One of the best things onlookers can do to support nursing moms is to use a softer voice while talking so they don't distract her baby. (Which often results in a baby turning their head, without always remembering to unlatch first. Argh.)
“What She Does With Her Body Is Her Business”
A lot of the heated conversations that erupt over breastfeeding happen because people take other folks' feeding choices personally, instead of recognizing that what one woman does with her body doesn't necessarily have anything to do with anyone else (but her and her family). While nursing in public or talking about breastfeeding issues can help future and expecting parents learn things that may help them make an informed choice, merely breastfeeding or talking about it is not an affront to anyone who can't or chooses not to.
Instead of jumping into a flame war any time they see anything to do with breastfeeding, it would be great if more people remembered that what any given woman does with her body is her business as long as she's not harming anyone else. If a particular breastfeeding conversation is irrelevant to you, just keep scrolling, or nod and join a new conversation. If you see other people breastfeeding somewhere, just mind your own business. Don't derail important conversations for other people who might benefit, and don't distract or agitate moms and babies who are just trying to live their lives.