How do I encourage others to breastfeed with out seeming fanatical?

Aideen - posted on 10/27/2009 ( 12 moms have responded )

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I find it so frustrating as my friends and family have new babies and decide not to breastfeed either due to lack of support in the hospital (a nurse told my sister in law it wasn't an option since she had a c-section and had too many meds) or just because they don't seem to realise the benefits and don't like the idea! A friends who is expecting has also said that they are so pushy about breastfeeding in the hospital and this is turning her off. She should have a choice.

It seems so odd to me not to put your tiny baby's needs first. I actually find it upsetting that these little babies that I care about have no immune support from their moms, they have less than ideal food for their brain and eye development, will have more infections and illnesses and so on.

Do others feel the same? How do you deal with this? How can I encourage without being pushy too or fanatical? How do you make others see what a lovely thing it is to be able to do! It is definately the most empowering thing I have done as a young mother. And although I never bottle fed I do think breastfeeding is quite easy, handy in comparison.

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Elle - posted on 10/29/2009

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Take your audience into consideration. If you are talking to a friend/ family member then you know that person pretty well. A mom to be thats all about health benefits, tell her about how BF helps the immune system. A friends thats always takes the easiest option, tell her how much easier it is to never have to prepare,wash, carry, etc bottles. Talk about what personally applies to that person instead of a long drawn out lecture about how BF=good, formula=bad. (not to say that you are lecturing but sometimes advice can come out sounding that way). Sometimes a "I BF my kids and it was great. If you ever have questions are need anything..I'm here" is the best kind of encouragement. Also positives of BFing sound better than negatives of formula.



I think its great you want to positively influence you friends and family but realize sometimes offering advice can sound condisending. I think most people walk that thin line on issues they really care about!

Rachel - posted on 10/27/2009

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I have to be careful about how I approach a conversation for fear of overwhelming my conversation partner. I get really into certain topics because usually I don't have a strong opinion about something unless I've done my homework. But, that can really turn people off! So, here is my advice based on my experience:

I think the biggest thing is your approach. Instead of giving advice, just share your experience! When someone says they aren't sure about breastfeeding, talk about how much you enjoyed it, how bonded you felt to your child, how your child was rarely sick, etc.

Just sharing positive experiences instead of pushing the ideal takes a lot of the pressure off. A lot of people hate to be told what to do, even if the other person has convincing evidence. But, if you can get someone interested in or excited about something, that is a whole different matter. In marketing speak, it is about engaging your audience.

Ask non-confrontive questions. Get to know how they feel without having an agenda. Sometimes people just need to know they are loved and accepted regardless of their choices. Saying things like, "Yeah, I can understand the feelings of pressure with the push to breastfeed. What are your thoughts on it? How do you feel about it? How does it make you feel to be told _____?"

Let your friends express their emotions about this topic without feeling judged by you. Talk a little about your experience and then give them space. If they seem interested, invite questions from them. Don't gush, or you will risk overwhelming them and making them feel pressured again.

If they are interested in breastfeeding and you know (or suspect) that they don't/won't have enough support, offer to let them call you (assuming you feel comfortable with this). Offer to go with them to a breastfeeding class or to be with them when they talk to a consultant.

Also, learn more about how moms who have bottle fed. Learn about why with a more open mind. I've done both, though my goal was to breastfeed exclusively for at least one year. For various reasons, we stopped bf at 5 months - not for lack of trying! I was really sad about that. But, there are times when that is just the reality. If you can understand the other perspective, you should be able to speak without sounding condemning of moms who, by choice or necessity, formula feed.

Being a support person who listens to their feelings and is there when needed will go a lot further to help your friends than just championing a cause.

That's my 2cents!

Ulla - posted on 10/27/2009

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I guess I was fanatic about breastfeeding when I was younger; formula was never an option for me when I had my babies. I'm more tolerant now but still like to tell people about my own good experiences. I don't preach or lecture but tell them how great it was for me and my kids, and then I add some facts about the benefits (people are usually surpised).

Many women formula feed their children because they don't have enough information, friends and relatives talk them into getting bottles and formula "just in case", formula companies send new moms free samples (doctors' offices sell their names and addresses) so that it's easy to quit breastfeeding when it feels difficult. Most of all people seem to accept formula feeding as an equal alternative to breastfeeding, especially in the U.S.

I encourage moms every day at my job at a child care center to continue b'feeding as long as possible. I answer their questions and tell them stories about my own kids and my experiences as a nursing mother. But I still remember those hurtful and ignorant comments I used to get, and the disgusted looks from other women. Thankfully many young women nowadays like to do some research and educate themselves before they make the decision about feeding their babies (well, at least the more intelligent ones do). And once they have the information, they will hopefully make the right decision. And they need encouragement and help, somebody to be there to answer questions when it gets difficult. I'm happy to say I have encouraged both my daughters (who are breastfeeding moms right now) by being there to help when (and if) necessary. I try to be positive, not irritating. Tell a mom how wonderful she is if she's willing to nurse her baby even for a week; not how stupid she is if she doesn't do it your way.

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Marcy - posted on 10/29/2009

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Aideen-

I am all for nursing but I think its a personal choice. I have so many friends who would never in a millino years think of putting their child up to their breast to feed them. I have heard them say its "gross", "not for me", "too weird". etc etc etc. In my heart and my gut I think that you either want to nurse or don't (medical issues not included in this decision). Where I think you could be the most help and offer the most encouragement is when someone does make the decision to nurse their child to be there for them 100% and help the, through the first few weeks/months. I know for me I was by myself with a newborn who refused to latch, exhausted and to make matters worse I happen to get a speder bite on my leg which got infected and had to be treated. My mom was of no help (she kept telling me to switch to formula) and I was ready to have a breakdown. Fortunately, I was able to go to the lactiation consultant at Dr. Sears office (they are in the new town over from us...how lucky for us right?) and she saved me....literally.



I have people who call me now that are friends of friends. When they hear I am still nursing my 3 year old they have questions/problems/etc. I can only tell them what I know helped me and offer encouragement. I think that is about the best you can do as well.....

Shaulah - posted on 10/29/2009

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i think all u can do is keep positive about your own breastfeeding and enjoy it, soon enough others around u might do the same...but if they dont i think u have to respect that...

Anna - posted on 10/27/2009

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Some people just aren't into it, and you're probably never going to convince them. The others who are interested but who aren't confident about their ability to do it, those are the ones you might win over. The thing is to be understanding about the fact that some women do find it really hard and some have physical issues to content with. It seems there are a lot of doctors and nurses who knock mother's confidence, telling them their milk is no good, that their baby won't gain weight. So I'd say acknowledge that it can be difficult and that it can take some time and support to get the hang of it, but that most women are able to do it and that it is a wonderful thing to do for your baby.

Susan - posted on 10/27/2009

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I wouldnt push anyones decision not to. I know how you feel tho. I think that bf is the most amazing thing. I feel so connected with my son, I feel that he is getting everything he needs.

Maybe you should approach it on a less "thats the worst decision ever". Formula isn't bad. Just tell them the benefits of what breastfeeding gives, like the bonding the extra immunity. Show people how you are when you breastfeed.

I have an open door policy so to speak. Family friends anyone who im around or who comes over sees me breastfeed, and then they ask questions like what its like how it feels just things like that. and i openly talk about breastfeeding at work. people that formula fed their kids say that they wished they had bf and friends of mine actually are considering it.

But i think that people do feel pressure about bf and ppl choosr not to because formula is easier quicker and all this. but maybe if you said you should try it and see if it works for you and if not then you can do what you want. bf isnt for everyone but trying nvr hurts

Lori - posted on 10/27/2009

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I agree you should share your own positive experiences, which helps it not seem like you're trying to "teach" them something. No one likes to feel lectured to, even if you have the best intentions.

And about this part of your story: "a nurse told my sister in law it wasn't an option since she had a c-section and had too many meds"...

Gah! That is so infuriating! When people - particularly those who are in positions of "authority" and who should know better spread such stupidity, it really makes me want to pull my hair out!!

Aideen - posted on 10/27/2009

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Ok I have to say I respect the choice and if a family makes a choice to bottle feed for whatever reason, well thats fine and obviouly I'd never criticise that choice, it has nothing to do with me and I do realise it would be very insulting....At times I find myself overcompensating for this and almost souding like breastfeeding isn't great at all and I believe it to be great for babies and quite handy for mums. I think this is what im finding frustrating actually...not saying anything. And the misperceptions and bad advise given to those who were all set to give it a go walking in the door of the hospital.
On the other hand I do have to smile through lots of comments from both friends and family that I consider insulting...I have lost count of the number of times I've been asked if he really needs to be breastfed still (8 months now), I don't know how you feed him in public...you're brave (with that look on their faces) and so on. I can't mention any difficulties of course as I'm told 'well, you can always get bottles'. When their children have a third ear infection in 2 months or problems with dairy intollerance I wouldn't dare mention that breastfeeding might have helped somewhat.
Thanks Lisa for your advise...It's good to hear that I'm not the only fanatic out there...unintentionally!

Jennifer - posted on 10/27/2009

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As a mom who has had difficulty breastfeeding, I can understand the feeling of not wanting to do it. And, I hope that you understand the frustration and difficulty in making the decision one way or the other. Breast feeding is a very personal decision that has to be made by each set of parents. For some families, it just doesn't fit with their personalities. For others, they can't see formula feeding as an option.

As far as encouraging them without seeming fanatical, I don't think it's a possibility because it is such a personal decision. But, if you want to talk to them don't approach it from the point of view that they're making a bad decision. People don't want to be told that they don't know how to take care of their children.

I think the easiest way to convince people is to tell them all of the benefits. It's not just about immune support. Tell the new moms that it will help them lose weight. It will help prevent breast and ovarian cancer later in life. It may help prevent your child from needing braces when they get older.

Sabrina - posted on 10/27/2009

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I only formula fed my oldest 2 children and decided to bf this child with the support of my partner - the problem with your approach is your attitude. I dont want to sound insulting but you sound insulting. children have been formula fed for decades and have been fine. The benifits of breast feeding are many and are great and I am happy with my decision to exclusively breast feed my daughter but for you to approach a person whom you consider a loved one with disdain and pity is off putting and an attitude like that is the reason I refused to bf my sons bc I wouldnt be talked to like that by someone who has no business making those decisions for my child.

Minnie - posted on 10/27/2009

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I find I have a hard time talking about nursing without others perceiving me as being fanatical- in fact, one of my good friends refers to me as a "La Leche freak." Lol.



I guess the best way I can promote breastfeeding and show others what a good and necessary thing is is to let others see me nursing my daughter (and they'll be seeing her nursing for quite some time). And to let them know if they have any questions that I'll be more than willing to answer them.



Here on these communities I don't really beat around the bush about my stances on breastfeeding, but with my family and friends a little bit of discretion is needed and I understand that sometimes even when I talk about breastfeeding in a positive light that others perceive it as judgemental (why?).

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