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Has anyone won round a family that were uncomfortable with the whole breastfeeding thing?

(64 Posts)
MrsTittleMouse Wed 20-Aug-08 12:47:43

I've posted a bit about this on my AIBU "postnatal" thread. I thought that I might be able to get some more practical help here though.

Short background - I come from a family that has very few babies and even less BFing. Only other BFer in the family did it for a short while for the good of the baby, but didn't seem very comfortable with it and seemed relieved to stop even though she didn't have practical problems - so no peer support.

Last time I BF DD1 for 10 months. My parents were fine (they're quite open about bodies and stuff generally) but my extended family and the ILs were obviously very uncomfortable about BFing and assumed that I would want to feed "in private" in a very embarrassed way. So with a very greedy DD1 I ended up feeding in bedrooms on my own whenever we visited anyone, and for Christmas etc. Which I found very lonely and to be honest I felt like a bit of an outcast doing something very shameful.

I'm now due to deliver again soon and I want to give BFing a good go again. I don't want to make a big issue over this if I can, but the thought of being banished for 10 months like last time makes my heart sink. Has anyone ever gently managed to win around their family? I BF in public with no problems, even though I was a bit shy at first, because I taught myself in front of a mirror to be very discrete - in fact sometimes people didn't even realise that I was feeding.

tiktok Wed 20-Aug-08 12:49:55

Is this something your DH can help with?

MrsTittleMouse Wed 20-Aug-08 12:57:44

I don't know. I told him last time that I didn't want to be stuck in a room on my own, but I think that he just went with the flow when it actually happened. I think that I would have been OK if he'd come with me for company, but that would have been thought weird, as though I couldn't feed without him and he was trying to join in the whole experience like some hippy!

I've already pissed DH off by admitting that I wouldn't feel comfortable with my ILs staying with us when I'd just given birth. He doesn't understand that it has nothing to do with favouring one side over the other, but everything to do with the fact that I'll be leaking from every orifice and that DD2 is unlikely to pick up BFing straight away (resulting in boobs on show all day). So I suppose that I'm nervous about bringing the whole BFing thing up with him now.

funnypeculiar Wed 20-Aug-08 13:04:05

This may not be hugely helpful, as it's of the 'feck 'em' approach smile My IL were clearly uncomfortable with me bfing at first. And them being uncomfortable made me uncomfortable, so I retired upstairs. I hated & resented it. And after a while I realised that if I didn't just sort it out, it would effect either my feeding, or my desire to see the IL (who are generally lovely) So I just took a deep breath next time they were there for a feed and just carried on downstairs as I always would. My FIL would head off to the garden for a while, but got used to it fast enough. And my MIL now boasts to her mates about how long I managed to bf both of mine for smile Tbh, I think it was partly about me expecting them to find it difficult. Once I decided they would just have to cope, low & behold they did.

Fwiw, I suspect it'll be much easier with a second one - if they explicitly offer upstairs space, you can just say that you don't want your first born to feel excluded, so are being very careful to stay with her while you're feeding.

funnypeculiar Wed 20-Aug-08 13:05:01

lo & behold even smile

tiktok Wed 20-Aug-08 13:09:00

Hmmm. Taking on ILs about anything should never be done without full knowledge and active support from one's DH....without him backing you in every way, it will become unpleasant and isolating and it just isn't fair for you to fight that particular battle alone.

Choose your moment and bring it up again with him, maybe? I'd suggest becoming tearful and sad rather than confrontational and logical, but maybe that's just me

You are right, you know you are, and you have the moral high ground well and truly sorted. But playing that card (moral high ground) is prob not the wisest way to actually get things changed.

You and DH might just decide to say nothing to the ILs and just to bf whenever and wherever. Going to a separate room is going to be more difficult in practical terms, as you will have to ensure that someone is around all the time with your first child - or else take first child with you into the separate room ('why are you in here away from everyone, mummy?'is an understandable question, and why should DD1 grow up thinking bf a baby is somehow 'rude'??).

Good luck! Hope you get other replies. I had some comments and looks from both sides of the family at first, but I just ignored them and did my own thing. People just got used to it. Blimey, is it gonna kill them to get over their hang-ups???!!

lou031205 Wed 20-Aug-08 13:16:56

Is the issue brought up with inferences, rather than direct instruction? i.e. "The spare bedroom is free if you want to feed x..." rather than "Please leave the room if you want to feed x"?

If it is inference, then a breezy "Oh thanks, but we'll be fine here, x is a good feeder..."

might do it. Your ILs would have to be quite brazen given their embarrassment to then go on to ask you to leave the room.

Mungarra Wed 20-Aug-08 13:40:36

My FIL was a bit uncomfortable the first time he saw me breastfeed at the dinner table (MIL didn't breastfeed) but he doesn't bat an eyelid now. He even once asked me if I could feel the milk coming out.

MIL sometimes shepherds FIL out of the room when I start feeding like I'm doing something shameful, but I suppose she thinks she's giving me privacy.

As to your problem, just feed wherever you happen to be and it's up to them if they want to leave the room. It's not fair to exile you for feeding your baby. They'd have to be very weird if they actually ordered you out of the room - and that would give you an excuse not to visit.

MrsTittleMouse Wed 20-Aug-08 13:48:38

I've never been directly given my marching orders, just told that the bedroom is available, and obvious embarrassment all round. With the ILs, it probably doesn't help that we were visiting when DD1 was as young as 10 days old - when I wanted to go out of the room as it was all a bit difficult and I couldn't get her to latch on without having my boobs on show. But even when it was discrete, it had become a habit, and everyone else was happy for it to continue as they felt very awkward. It was just me that didn't do very well out of the situation!

It isn't just my ILs, by the way, it's my extended family too. And there wasn't the reason that I had started leaving the room when it was early days, as we didn't visit until things had calmed down. Sigh. I wish that it was more "normal" in our family and I didn't have to be the person to get everyone to chill about it. My Mum can remember being banished to the other room too. I don't know how she felt about it, but I know that she didn't BF for as long (I suppose women just didn't in the 1970s) so maybe it wasn't an issue for her.

mrz Wed 20-Aug-08 13:50:16

My mother in law told me breast feeding wasn't "natural" grin

TheProvincialLady Wed 20-Aug-08 13:55:52

If people feel embarrassed at your BF then sometimes you just have to let them feel embarrassed. You can't be responsible for everyone's feelings when you have the practical work of BF a baby and looking after another older child. You have to put their needs (and yours) before the embarrassment. If it is truly excruciating for them, they can leave. I bet they don't though. After a while they will develop an uneasy tolerance. Either way you are not responsible for their reactions and inhibitions.

ilovemydog Wed 20-Aug-08 14:03:23

Could you possibly have a chat with your mil and get her 'on side?'

In their own way, they may feel that they are being respectful, as you say, there isn't a precedent here...

What about something inoffensive like, 'sure would be nice to have some company when I'm breast feeding this time...'

I think that when you are establishing b/fing, then you shouldn't have to worry about your il's feelings.

Perhaps later, you could express and bring a bottle? I do this sometimes if going out with DD and DS - like going on the train when you may have to lunge for toddler and having a baby attached makes you slower smile

lilymolly Wed 20-Aug-08 14:06:52

My mil was not particularly Pro bf but I just bf dd where ever I wanted in their house and tough tittys to anyone who was bothered.
I dont think I got any neg looks/criticism in fact I remember fil telling me that I had leaked on my top

Lo and behold 2 milk stains on each breast grin

MrsTittleMouse Wed 20-Aug-08 14:26:14

Both PIL are lovely (as are most of my family). FIL can be a bit old fashioned. MIL has had a bit of a sheltered life in some ways, but is more open minded and is usually very willing to listen to a point of view.

Interesting that I've made it my problem, when really it's the problem of people who find it strange. After all, I don't go around with everything hanging out! I hadn't thought about it that way.

Expressing is a good idea too, when it just would be too awkward (I'm thinking my grandmother here, who has no boundaries and is far too interested). I found expressing very hard with DD1, but there's no reason not to give it another try with DD2 as things could well be different.

StarlightMcKenzie Wed 20-Aug-08 14:39:22

Message withdrawn

bohemianbint Wed 20-Aug-08 14:39:38

Nope - my family were all arses about it. It's only now am about to have my second child that I think I've reached a point where I feel up to just doing it wherever. If they don't like it that's fine, but woe betide them if they come out with the kind of crap I was subjected to last time!

The only exception is with the in -laws, they don't even say hello to me so I don't feel comfortable around them at the best of times, and I used to love being able to pick up my son and go to my room and read for a bit to get away from them! Won't be so easy this time now DS is older, I guess. sad

I guess I would just say do what you're comfortable with and don't let anyone push you out or make you feel guilty. It can be hard though, but I really think it's good for people to see BF so it becomes more normalised.

tiktok Wed 20-Aug-08 14:47:15

MrsTM - do think before going down the expressing route! What a hassle - and time consuming, too. And what about your DD1? 'Why is Baby feeding from a bottle, mummy, and only when we go to granny's?' 'Why are you not giving the baby milk from your boobies, mummy?' 'Does granny think you are a Rude Lady, mummy?'



Just Do It.

expatinscotland Wed 20-Aug-08 14:49:14

Is this in your own house?

If it's in your own house then they either put up with it or don't visit, IMO.

FioFio Wed 20-Aug-08 14:49:50

Message withdrawn

halogen Wed 20-Aug-08 14:52:41

My ILs were very very uncomfortable with me breastfeeding at first. There were lots of comments about 'oh, bottle feeding is so much easier', 'you'll be too tired to look after the baby properly', 'don't you want to be able to have some help with the night feeds' etc etc before I'd even given birth. I just smiled and said 'But breastfeeding is better for the baby' and nothing else. When my daughter arrived, I just decided to brazen it out and when they said 'Oh, wouldn't you be more comfortable upstairs/in the other room?', I just said 'no thanks, I'm very happy here'. It took a while but they gradually learnt not to bat an eyelid. You do have to be a bit firm about it all, though.

ilovemydog Wed 20-Aug-08 14:54:01

starlight is right though - if you're confident, it makes other people less anxious.

I have this great nursing tank that unhooks at the top and covers my tummy.

but whatever makes you comfortable...

andiem Wed 20-Aug-08 14:55:33

my ils were very anti with ds1 but I just brazened it out
ds2 they were more relaxed but pil did say when you were doing it with ds1 it was all new fangled and I didn't understand it shock

moondog Wed 20-Aug-08 15:00:31

As long as you keep on going, I think they will think it alittle weird and almost shameful. Next time someone suggests the spare room i would just smile and say 'Gosh, I'm just fine here thanks, but another glass of wine would help' or similar.

In my own home i have had people ask where they can feed the baby and i tell them there are comfy chairs in the living room or they can go upstairs, leaving ball in their court.

moondog Wed 20-Aug-08 15:02:03

And don't express or even discussit. Perpetuates myth that it is all a bit beardy weirdy.

expatinscotland Wed 20-Aug-08 15:03:01

why should you express when you don't have to?

this is THEIR problem, not yours.

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