These days it seems like everyone feels entitled to their opinion about how other people parent. Everyone. Especially about what and how parents feed their kids. From the time you're pregnant, and strangers ask you if you plan to breastfeed your baby to the toddler years, to the school-age years when you struggle to get your kids to touch anything other than mac 'n cheese, let alone a vegetable. It's time for people to mind their own damn business, as there are so many things you can do instead of critiquing a mom on how she feeds her kid. Why? Because, being a mom is freaking hard, people are allowed to make different choices from you, and, frankly, your opinion isn't welcome or valid.
I've heard all kinds of criticisms. I've been lectured by a stranger in the formula aisle at Target about the supposed "dangers" of formula and GMOs. (Spoiler alert: there are none.) What this person didn't know is that I was not making enough breast milk, my baby was sick, and I already felt suicidally guilty about breastfeeding not working out, mostly because of judgment from strangers like her. Ironically, I've also been told to cover up or go to another room, while breastfeeding, because I made other people (including my now ex brother-in-law) uncomfortable. Nope. If you are uncomfortable with how I feed my baby, you leave the room.
Then there was the time that the person in line behind me in the grocery store check out lane decided to tells me how many grams of sugar there are in Lucky Charms. "Oh really? I thought the cereal with marshmallows was health food. Thank you so much for telling me." And, don't even get me started on the nasty comments I have heard when people find out that our family is vegetarian. "But, what do you eat?" The answer: pretty much everything that's not meat.
Unfortunately, I can't go back in time and give nosy people some unsolicited advice of my own, but the next time you think about commenting about what or how a mom feeds her kids, consider one of these options instead:
Respect Their Choices
Instead of judging a mom for how she feeds her kid, why don't you try commiserating about how hard parenting is, instead? We're all just doing the best we can, and everyone has a right to make their own choices about how to feed their kids, based on their values, culture, food traditions, lifestyle, ability, income, access, and desires. As long as they are feeding their kids, it's not appropriate to say anything, even if they make different choices.
Offer Encouragement, Not "Education"
If you have a friend for whom breastfeeding isn't working out or who *gasp* chose to formula-feed their baby, try to not ask them how hard they tried, imply that they did the wrong thing, or tell them they should try again. Seriously, don't. Instead, offer to give their baby a bottle so they can get some damn sleep, or ask them how they are coping with new parenthood.
Ask If They Want Your Advice
They probably don't, but if they do, this gives them an opportunity to get help without having to reach out and say they are struggling. Whether it's information on how to increase breast milk supply, which formula to choose, or how to get their toddler to touch a vegetable, try not to offer unsolicited advice before you know it's welcome.
If they do want your advice, offer solutions and not just criticism. If you are an experienced mom, you might have some great ideas, so share them. Nobody wants to hear you brag about how your kids once only ate chicken nuggets, but now will eat anything you serve or how you can make kale taste like nachos (lies), unless you are willing to share your secrets.
What we eat is personal and often connected to our culture, values, and family traditions. I would love to tell you why our family is vegetarian and share our favorite recipes. That is, with people who respect our choices and lifestyle.
Offer To Help
The only thing you should say to a mom who is struggling is, "How can I help?" Don't judge her for another night of take-out but, instead, offer to cook. Don't criticize her choice to feed her baby formula, instead bring them a can of formula, because new babies are freaking expensive and they probably could use formula over more swaddling blankets (seriously, I have like 50 of them).
Try Things Their Way
Read Up On Science
Seriously. Formula is nutritious. GMOs are safe. Organic food is expensive and well-marketed. Vegetarians can get enough protein. Most people can eat gluten. Everything is a chemical. Literally.
Say Nothing At All
Repeat after me, "Not my circus, not my monkeys." Also, none of your business if those monkeys eat bananas, bread, formula, breast milk, fast food, or nothing but cereal with marshmallows. Their mom doesn't need your advice.
Say "Good Job"
Being a mom is freaking hard. Just say, "Good job, mom, for feeding those kids." Period.