When you sit down to a nice holiday dinner, having a family member hold your baby can be a refreshing change of pace that actually allows you to eat with both hands. Even if you know how to tell your family you need to feed the baby, you still could be met with resistance from people who feel entitled to continue holding your baby under the guise of "helping" you, even once you finish your plate of turkey. Unfortunately, that type of help only prevents your child from getting fed if you're breastfeeding or if you simply want to give your own baby a bottle.
Grandma Ida may mean well, but this situation can be stressful for moms. Having a few statements tucked away in the back of your mind for when it's time to feed your baby can help ease the tension.
While I sincerely hope that your family is understanding of your baby's need to eat and your right to do so in the way that you please, sometimes they just won't be able to help themselves (or so it would appear). "Advocating your baby’s needs seems like a lot to navigate, particularly if your relatives use emotional manipulation communication techniques," Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC, CLC with Oasis Lactation Services tells Romper. "You can set boundaries," she adds, emphasizing that clear communication is key. The following tips for how to tell your family you need to feed the baby might come in handy around the dinner table this holiday season.
1. "I'm going to feed the baby now."
"Simple statements of fact are all you need. 'I’m going to feed the baby now.' Done. Your family members are adults. They are responsible for their emotions and manners, not you," Spradlin tells Romper. "There will be thousands of times that you have to put your child’s well-being ahead of adult comfort. Anyone who is offended that the infant needs to eat has an emotional maturity problem."
A-freaking-men. It shouldn't be hard for an adult to understand that when a baby needs to eat, they need to be fed. Your Cousin Betsy should just focus on eating her pumpkin pie instead of pouting about not getting to hold the baby while they're being fed.
2. "My lactation consultant says I have to."
When all else fails, Spradlin says you can always blame it on her. "Worst case scenario, tell them I’m your lactation consultant and I said you have to. Throw me under the bus," Spradlin tells Romper. "I’d love to get a reputation for demanding the baby gets adequate nutrition."
I basically want to cheer "You go girl!" upon hearing this advice. Your baby needs to be fed. Period. Whether you have to give the excuse that your lactation consultant told you to or not, putting your foot down to make sure your baby gets fed is not rude, it's a necessity.
3. "It's been 3 hours, I need to feed the baby now."
Feel free to insert any number of hours you need to here if you need to take the baby from a family member who won't easily hand them over. "You can say as a new nursing parent that you're feeding the baby on a schedule," Jenn Simms, a doula practicing in Austin, Texas tells Romper.
If they argue with that logical explanation, you can explain even further. "Sometimes, blaming the pediatrician or lactation consultant can help because it can be harder to argue with a medical authority," Kristin Gourley, IBCLC with Lactation Link LLC tells Romper. "When grandma says, 'Well, I only fed my babies every 4 hours and they were great!' you could say, 'Actually, our pediatrician says our 2-3 hour schedule is absolutely perfect for her and we should continue. So I'll just take her and feed her and you can definitely hold her when I'm done!'"
4. "Are you currently lactating?"
If someone in your family just isn't giving up your baby no matter what you try, you can always take this route. Even if you say it in a joking way, you'll still get your point across. You can also follow this one up with "Yeah, I didn't think so," when they give you a blank stare to make an even bigger splash.
5. "I'm going to go someplace quiet to settle down and feed the baby."
Jody Segrave-Daly RN, MS, IBCLC, co-founder of The Fed Is Best Foundation, tells Romper that parents can "ask for a quiet place, away from the main activities to be able to take care of your baby's feeding needs. Even good stress can complicate feedings and babies can be extra fussy and not feed or sleep well."
Sometimes, completely removing yourself from the room where all of the holiday hustle and bustle is taking place is your best bet. Making this statement confidently can go a long way.
"The best advice I can give is to be confident with however you need to feed your baby whether it's breastfeeding, pumping, or bottle feeding," Segrave-Daly says. "A holiday gathering environment is very stimulating and can be overwhelming for babies."
6. "My boobs feel like they're going to explode. I really need to feed the baby now."
Although not every mom will be comfortable making this statement in mixed company, it is likely to garner enough shock factor to make your relative who is holding your baby hostage hand them over immediately. "If you're a nursing mom, you can always blame it on your boobs filling up with milk and needing to express that," Simms tells Romper. "Or blame it on needing to feed baby more during the day so the nights are easier."
7. "He doesn't eat turkey yet, so I need to feed him now."
When you see grandma trying to sneak your 3-month-old a nibble of her drumstick, it's time to pull out this handy comment. "This also goes for when family wants baby to try foods that parents are not ready for yet. They need to trust and respect the parents' wishes," Simms tells Romper. "Just always know that you are baby's parent and you have the right to say and/or do what is best for your baby and family."
8. "It's time for mommy now!"
"My biggest tip is to remember that you do not owe the gift of holding your baby to anyone! If baby is hungry, overstimulated, or you just want to hold them — it's okay to say something like, 'It's time for mommy now, huh? Wasn't it fun hanging out with grandma? She'll have to hold you again soon!' and then take baby," Gourley tells Romper. "Some people can be forceful and try and take baby or say they can't be hungry yet or that they should be able to feed a bottle, so you might have to be very confident and direct with them."