Comebacks to Confront Breastfeeding Ignorance
By Shel Franco
Picture this: A young mother and her baby hunker down for a feeding at a family event. Despite the fact that Mom is very discreet in getting Baby latched on, some folks in the room are obviously uncomfortable. They start cracking jokes about nursing, acting as if the mother and baby aren’t even in the room. Finally, a relative directs her comments at the now flush and embarrassed mom. “Are you going to let her do that once she starts kindergarten?” she says. The rest of the room erupts with sneers and laughter.
Sound familiar? It might. Many breastfeeding moms find themselves fending off rude comments about breastfeeding. Unfortunately, some moms are at a loss for words to combat these nasty remarks, so we’re taking the liberty of offering you some advice.
In the Beginning
Trying humor is a great place to start. It lightens the mood and helps change the subject.
When you are asked: “How can you stand to breastfeed?” Answer: “How can you not?”
The Frequency of Feeding
Newborns eat a lot. Breastfed newborns eat even more. Breast milk is the proper food for a baby, so it is digested properly – quickly and easily. But our formula-feeding society doesn’t seem to view this as a benefit. How can you answer obnoxious questions about how often – and how much – your baby eats? Zeretzke offers this advice:
When you are asked: “Didn’t you just nurse that baby?” Answer: “Hmmm, she must have forgotten already.”
Public Displays of Affection
Breastfeeding in public is always good for a few glares. Occasionally, those giving the glares feel compelled to make their disgust known. Breastfeed.com community member, Shara Ward, points out that non-breastfeeding children can be downright foul when eating in public, “…as their 2-year-old throws his ketchup on the floor for the third time!” Ward offers this advice:
When you are told: “You shouldn’t breastfeed in public.” Reply with: “You really shouldn’t feed your kids in public either.”
Ellen Watson of Salt Lake City, Utah, also has a suggestion for rude comments about breastfeeding in public. “I once had a woman approach me at a mall food court to tell me that watching my son breastfeed was making her uncomfortable,” says Watson. “I simply said, ‘Please don’t watch him eat, then. That’s only good manners, isn’t it?’”
Too Old for Comfort
“Once when I was giving a talk about nursing the older child, I asked the audience just what they considered an ‘older child’ and asked them to raise their hands when I mentioned that age,” says Zeretzke. “I was stunned and saddened when hands started to go up when I called out 6 weeks.”
It’s no surprise that breastfeeding moms are often questioned about the length of time they plan to nurse. Ward likes to combat this one with humor:
When you are told: “Your child is too old to nurse.” Reply: “Really? Well darn! I guess breastfeeding him through high school is out.”
If humor isn’t getting through, Zeretzke offers the following suggestions:
When you are asked: “How long are you going to continue to breastfeed that child?” Answer: “Until she can tell me she doesn’t want to anymore.”
When you are asked: “Are you still nursing that child?” Answer: “YES!” while looking the questioner straight in the eye.
At first, you might be reluctant to speak up in your own defense. Trying humor is a great place to start. It lightens the mood and helps change the subject. After a while, though, you might find that your humorous replies aren’t enough, and you might be surprised at how easy you start to get defensive. Don’t apologize for your chosen comeback, even if it comes off sounding equally as rude as the original remark.
Ward doesn’t make any apologies: “[My comments might] sound a bit cynical, but sometimes when you’re met with rudeness for the 10 millionth time, you just have to show them their advice is not going to alter your choice to give your baby what is best.”