How do I respond to and avoid criticism about breastfeeding?
Your attitude and tone of voice can make a world of difference in how people accept your responses. The approaches and phrases listed below are helpful for dealing with criticism. Review them and choose the ones that are most comfortable for you.
- Use "I" messages instead of "YOU" messages. (Rather than "You always criticize me" try "I really don't like to be criticized.")
- I'd like to discuss something. Is this a good time for you?
- I feel (angry, hurt, etc.) when...
- Having your support means so much to me.
- It's amazing how much research has been done over the years. It must surprise you to see me doing _______. I hope I'll be able to handle it well when Abbey starts her own family.
- Everyone has to make the decision they feel is best for their situation.
- I'm glad that you care so much about the baby. I've thoroughly researched the topic and feel comfortable with my decision. I'd be glad to share my info with you.
- I realize that this is an individual decision, and I'd really appreciate your giving me a chance at this.
- My doctor has stated...
- The American Academy of Pediatrics feels...
- That gives me a lot to think about!
- Your love and concern for the baby really shows.
- That's certainly another way of approaching it.
- I'm glad that ___________ worked well for you and your baby.
- We're really at odds here. Let's just agree to disagree and still stay friends, OK?
- I think we're losing sight of our goal here, which is the baby's well-being. Let's back up a little.
- This is a topic that has been debated and argued for generations. Let's not fall into that trap, OK?
- There are some valid points to both sides here.
- You could be right.
- I'd like some time to think about what you just said.
- Let's remember that we're both on the same side here.
- Can we save the arguments for truly vital topics?
- It's a very individual decision, and I'd never try to impose my viewpoints on someone else.
- Maybe the topic of _______ should go along with religion and politics: Not a good conversation topic for us.
- Discussing __________ can really get me worked up. I'm sorry if I said anything out of line. Let's change the subject.
- How about a compromise? You don't mention __________and I won't criticize your driving anymore.
- We're Abbey's parents and this is the decision we've made.
- You feel very strongly about this, I can see.
- This works for our family in our situation, but it might not work for you.
- Just Smile. :-)
Ways To Prevent Criticism:
- Be discreet if at all possible.
- Don't set yourself up for a discussion you don't really want to have.
- Avoid issues where you anticipate disagreement. Focus instead on areas where you have something in common.
- Offer an explanation of why you do things before you are asked. Do this in a gentle way, letting them know how happy you and the baby are. Be sure you give them permission to do things differently. (See #6 & 29 above)
- Appear confident and happy with the way you do things, even if you are not. Don't express doubts to people who don't agree with you.
- Rise above criticism as much as you can without a "holier than thou" attitude. A positive non-threatening reply works best. In rising above criticism, making light of things often works.
- Sometimes it's best to ignore the criticism and consider the source. People often feel defensive and attack when someone is doing things differently.
If you know you will be in a situation where your actions will be criticized, prepare ahead of time by practicing some of these responses. Create your own as needed. Practicing the responses you prefer in front of a mirror or with an understanding friend, will help you to be more confident. When you are in the situation, pause a moment and take a deep, relaxing breath before answering.
Resources for Additional Information
- A wonderful article called "Responding to Criticism" from La Leche League International magazine for families, NEW BEGINNINGS. The chart at the end of the article summarizes five methods for responding.
- Our resource page on Support for Breastfeeding.