Ask: How to cope when you’re feeling pressured in your parenting decisions

Posted by Pam Diamond on April 29, 2014 

Q: Now that I’m returning to work, I’ve made the decision to pump exclusively and bottle feed. I’ve been getting a lot of pressure to keep breastfeeding from other mothers in a support group I attend and it’s really concerning me. I’ve told them my husband and I are comfortable with the decisions we’ve made. What else can I do?

A: I am so sorry you feel pressured to make decisions that may not be best for your family. To address this, I’ve decided to revisit an old blog post. But first, let me say that this is the beginning of learning to advocate for your family. You will come across this feeling of “pressure” many times in the years to come. Learning how to handle it with grace, confidence and clarity will go a long way toward your peace of mind. That comes with listening to your gut as well as listening to your baby. He will help you know what is best, not your neighbors.

So to those who are not supporting your decisions, here’s what I know about parenting and raising children: regardless of what you may believe, there is NO one right way. Your way is not the only way to do things.

There is not one way to feed. Yes, I am a breastfeeding advocate and hope for all mothers and babies to have the experience as well as the long list of health benefits that come from it. But I’ve seen many circumstances where, for one reason or another, it wasn’t working, including because the mother simply didn’t want to breastfeed. It’s my place to provide knowledge, information and guidance, and then ultimately to support the mother’s decisions that are best for her family. Not my family. Hers.

And for those who think they must criticize the breastfeeders, get over it. It’s feeding a baby. Food, sustenance, fuel, nutrition. Let it go already.

There is no right or wrong about staying home with your child versus going back to work. Or using an in-home nanny versus daycare. Or hiring help to get your baby sleeping better instead of toughing it out on your own. These are personal decisions that have many, many subtle – or not so subtle – components factoring into them. They are not up for discussion by outsiders who don’t walk in the same shoes or have all the facts.

What difference does it make to you anyway? How does your neighbor’s choice affect you? My unprofessional analysis is that others judge because it makes them feel better about their own different decisions. In some weird way, those who are judging and ridiculing others must subconsciously think that THEIR choices may be wrong, so they criticize to feel right.

And since I’m not a psychologist and I don’t play one on TV, I decided to ask a real one what her take is on these mommy wars I’ve seen play out over and over again.

“People resort to harsh or negative judgments of others for various reasons. Some people are convinced of the ‘rightness’ of their stance, others are insecure and only feel OK about what they’re doing if they put down others. And honestly, some people just like gossip,” says Lisa Sacco, a licensed psychologist in Cary. “Regardless of the reasons for it, it’s a waste of time and energy.”

Agreed.

We don’t know where others are coming from – what their life with baby (or babies) started off like. It could have been a miserable, colicky beginning. The parents may have done whatever they could in the early months just to survive.

Good for you for the choices you make for your family. Now let’s practice supporting others in their choices as well.

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