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Barb's guide to breastfeeding etiquette at Christmas

Posted by Barbara Glare on

If you are a breastfeeding mother, this is not for you to read. All you need to do is hit "share" and wander off humming Christmas carols.

Grans, aunts, uncles, cousins and anyone who will share a table with a breastfeeding mum and baby listen up. Barb's guide to Breastfeeding etiquette.

Christmas is one of the times breastfeeding mothers (and lactation consultants dread the most). The Breastfeeding Casualty list is usually at it's highest over christmas.

Breastfeeding is a very short but precious (and often nervewracking) time in a mother's life. Let's face it, most mothers will only have one or two children - and we "old chicks" know it's over in a nanno second. Mothers, of course, want to do the very best for their child. And this often makes them quite sensitive to comments which seem like casual chit chat to others. And in our society at the moment, fueled by social media, *everyone* seems to think it's OK to question a new mother's parenting approach. The seeds of doubt can be planted so casually, but grow like weeds in the fertile conditions of a mother's mind. And breastfeeding counsellors and lactation consultants deal annually with the post christmas onslaught of calls by mothers who feel their baby should sleep longer, feed less and so on.

So here is my list of does and don't for a peaceful and harmonious Breastfeeding Christmas.

Don't's

1. Don't ask if the baby is "A good baby". Even the newest of new mothers know this is code for "Is he sleeping a lot" And, no, he isn't because he is a baby. It's not the way it rolls. Babies need to wake frequently and feed day and night. And despite popular belief there is no gold medal for a baby who sleeps a long time. In fact it could even be problematic in developing a robust milk supply.

2. Absolutely DON'T expect a new mother to go to another room, cover up or be discrete. If anyone at Xmas dinner expects that, Nanna, you need to have a word to them. We are all grown ups. We've seen everything and done everything (and so has great grandma) Our whole lives we've seen boobs draped over cars as a selling point, barely held in by bikinis at the beach or in big M ads. There is absolutely NO excuse to lose your shit over seeing a women breastfeeding.

3. DO NOT comment on the baby's weight or size. This particular worm burrows deeply into a mother's psyche and grows into anxiety and irritation. Babies (and in fact humans) come in all different shapes and sizes and it's all good.

4. Don't make comments like "Feeding again?" or "he can't still be hungry" or "He's using you as a dummy" or other inane comments may well earn you a stab in the eye with a fork. Don't say I didn't warn you.

5. For the love of god, DON'T suggest her baby needs formula. Just don't go there at all.

6. I know it seems like it would be fun, but DON'T offer the little guy pav and icecream as first solids. It's not your call, it's his parents'. All babies need for the first 6 mnths is breastmilk. Nothing else.

7. On the topic of solids, DON'T suggest he needs solids at 2mnths, 3 mnths, 4mnths etc. Yeah, we know - your doctor told you to start solids with your little one and we know you are going to say "And you turned out alright" but think that through carefully before you actually let the words out of your mouth. The baby does NOT need water, either, regardless of the temp on Christmas day - all he needs is a bit more boob.

8. If the mother asks for a sav blanc or sparkling to celebrate the season your only question should be "Would you like ice with that" (It'll be hot) Yes she can have a drink when she's breastfeeding. No she doesn't have to pump and dump. She's a grown up. She can decide this by herself.

9. Don't roll your eyes if she is avoiding dairy or wheat or whatever. She know's her stuff. And really, don't offer the allergy kids anything their mother doesn't want them to have. It won't be you up all night with a screaming, itchy kid with a gut ache.

10. Don't give her a breastpump for Christmas. Do give her a breastpump if she wants one - but not for Christmas. it's not a suitable gift.

11. Make Zero references to cows. Yes, we all know how you treat cows with mastitis and were you send them when it happens again. She's not a cow she's the mother of you grandchild. Show her some respect.

12.  Comments like "When are you going to stop breastfeeding" "He's too old for that now"  "Babies shouldn't breastfeed if they can talk/wear shoes/have teeth are TOTALLY out of line.  It's just none of your business.  The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 yrs and beyond for as long as the mother and child desire.  The normal age of weaning is is between 2.5 - 7 years.  

Ooh, that is a really long list of don't...and I could go on. Here are some do's.

1. Tell her how proud of her you are, that she is breastfeeding your baby. Ask genuine questions about how it's is going - let her talk. Don't be judgemental. Understand that mothers sometimes just want to vent. They are tired, Christmas is exhausting - they don't generally need or want you to solve their problems, just listen.

2. Offer to hold the baby while she eats. Absolutely don't let her do the dishes. Offer her a wine, soft drink, cuppa or water. If Christmas is at theirs - bring the food. If they are coming to yours suggest they bring a couple of bottles of wine, or a cake from the shop. She doesn't need any extra stress.

3. If her choices in parenting are different to yours, it's OK. It's not a criticism. Parenting is not a competitive sport. We are all doing the best we could/could have. And kids pretty much turn out to be what they will be.

4. If you breastfed your kids, tell her about it. If you regretted not feeding your kids, talk about it. If you found it a relief to stop - no-one is judging. Keep the big picture in perspective.

5. If she really is struggling, offer to help her get to a lactation consultant next week, or phone The Australian Breastfeeding Association's 24 hour helpline and then hand the phone to her. (1800 686 286)

6. Give her something she really wants - a voucher for a cleaner for a few weeks. A voucher for a massage and offer to mind the baby for an hour - don't worry he won't need a bottle.


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8 comments

  • Absolutely spot on. THANK YOU

    Suzie on
  • Couldn’t agree with you more Lisa Peters!

    Sarah on
  • I love this post. People can be quick to judge and so to praise. We need to everyone a break from being judged and told what to do. Mothers just need to be. Baby just needs to be. Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year.

    Ruth Wagstaff on
  • Thank you! Thank you! This is everything that people need to know and it’s written exactly as I would explain it to a family member. I’m planning on sharing it with everyone! Merry Christmas ?

    Amy young on
  • Love love love this ❤️️❤️? You are the Bomb Barb!!

    Have a fabulous Christmas and I hope you get at least one baby to cuddle. ??

    BTW agree with every statement and sentiment in this.

    Pauline on

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