Making It Work
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 2, March-April 2004, pp.62-4
"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
I have just given birth to my second baby. My first child is almost eight. My mother very much wants to watch the baby during the day while I am at work, and to be honest, this would be the ideal situation, as we will not have to pay her. She loves her grandchildren a great deal and wants nothing but the best for them, but she doesn't believe in breastfeeding. How can I make this situation work?
You say your mother wants the best for your children, and I'm sure she does. She is probably just not as aware of the benefits of breastfeeding as you are. Share some articles with her. Let her know how much breastfeeding means to you, and point out how healthy your baby is because of it. Let her know, however, that support of breastfeeding is a prerequisite for watching the baby.
It may be that your mother wasn't able to or didn't breastfeed her children and is simply unaware of the benefits. Providing her with a few undeniable statistics may help, as would spending time with her while you breastfeed so she can see how happy and comforted her grandchild is. I am sure she wants the best for you, too, so be sure to stress that this is something you want. Make sure you have her understanding before you leave your baby with her. If she truly wants to watch the baby and wants the best for both of you, she will come around.
Laguna Hills CA USA
My mother also didn't really support my breastfeeding at first. I think it's because she had tried to breastfeed and quit, largely because of the lack of support she experienced at the time of my birth. She also was the type of person who thought that La Leche League mothers were "fanatics" without really know what the organization was about. Now, she has changed her opinion completely.
I sang the praises of breastfeeding to my mother while I was pregnant. I explained to her the immunological benefits, the allergy protection, and the perfection of human milk's digestibility. My mother witnessed my daughter, Vivian, and I develop our nursing relationship from the very beginning. I invited my mother to a La Leche League meeting, where she realized, in wonderment, "They're all like you, and they all have such close relationships with their babies!" I'm not sure what she expected exactly. Attending a meeting helped her see that La Leche League mothers support each other as we learn and grow in our nursing relationships.
Now she just loves to watch Vivian nurse. She can't believe how much my daughter loves nursing, and how we communicate through nursing. I've explained to her that I plan to breastfeed until Vivian weans herself, and she seems to understand that this decision is based on how important the nursing relationship is to Vivian.
I think that my mother's ability to share in my nursing relationship with Vivian has allowed her to "heal" from wounds created when she tried to breastfeed all those years ago. And, she has become an outspoken breastfeeding advocate. I am proud of her.
Lafayette IN USA
You are fortunate you are to have a loving grandparent willing to provide child care. If your mother truly wants the best for her grandchildren, it should be easy to help her understand the many benefits of breastfeeding -- both for you and your daughter. Ask your La Leche League Leader for reading material on the benefits of breastfeeding as well as for tips on working and breastfeeding and share these with your mother. The La Leche League Web site offers a forum for mothers to share ideas on working and breastfeeding. Provide your mother with tools to help her comfort the baby, such as a cloth baby carrier. Be sure to let her know how much you appreciate her help and her love for your children. If your mother is still not willing to support you while breastfeeding even after you provide her with information, let her know you will look elsewhere for child care. Free child care will not be the ideal situation if it undermines successful breastfeeding.
Mary Ellen Gates
Richland WA USA
It's hard for us breastfeeding advocates to understand why people don't "believe in" breastfeeding. We understand both the physical and psychological benefits. If breastfeeding were not capable of sustaining an infant, we would be on the extinction list.
I think you should simply tell your mother that, if she would like to care for your child, she needs to respect your wishes. She has raised her children in her own way, now it is your turn to make the decisions.
Please, do not let her compromise you and your family's wishes in hopes of saving money. If you do, I fear this issue is only the beginning. She will always second-guess your authority and feel as though she merely needs to apply pressure for you to do as she wishes. How comfortable would you feel if you are always wondering if your mother can be trusted to respect your wishes, on this issue or any others? Best of luck to you.
Summerville SC USA
I was in the same situation you are now. I had to convince my mother through education and example that breast was best.
Have you tried explaining all of the advantages there are to breastfeeding? She might not be aware of all of the wonderful benefits. You can also show her information from your pediatrician or La Leche League, which will be another source to back up all that you will be telling her.
Be an example to your mother by providing all that she will need to take care of your baby when you are away. I labeled the containers of my milk, which I faithfully pump twice a day.
Human milk lasts for up to eight hours and it's far better than any formula, which has to be dumped out in one hour. Once my mother realized all the things I was doing, she understood how important breastfeeding was for me and for our baby. Be firm in your beliefs.
Santa Ana CA USA
I am not sure what you mean when you say your mother does not support breastfeeding, so I will share my thoughts on a few levels. A good first step would be to share with your mother the many advantages of breastfeeding, not just during infancy, but throughout your child's life. You said she wants the best for her grandchildren. Take some time in the coming weeks and months to share with her how important human milk is to her grandchild. Involve her in your nursing experiences in the weeks before you return to work. Maybe she could go along on your baby's early check ups and hear what your child's pediatrician has to say about the value of mother's milk. Encourage her to attend La Leche League meetings with you as well. Explain to her how important it is to you that your baby gets only your milk, and that you're grateful for her willingness to help out by watching your baby. Helping her to feel like part of the process may increase her support of your choice.
It may be, too, that because she didn't breastfeed, she resists seeing the value of it because it's unfamiliar to her. She may also feel that you think she made a poor choice in her parenting by not breastfeeding you. Sometimes, a grandparent's reluctance to support breastfeeding is just more comfortable than examining their past choices.
Often, when the extended family members are only familiar with formula feeding, they encourage working mothers to skip nursing because they worry a new mother will do too much. They genuinely believe that formula feeding would make life easier. It helps to remember, sometimes, that people offer us the advice that worked for them, with a real desire to help us as they remember being helped.
You will be pumping human milk and leaving it in bottles for her to feed your baby, so for her the process should be no different from formula feeding. It would be helpful to start building up a supply of milk before you return to work so there will always be enough bottles for your mother to give. If there is always enough milk on hand, your mother will never feel the need to give formula. A bonus might be that your mother will be able to see just how much baby is taking in at each feeding, a concern advocates of formula feeding often share. In addition, nursing your baby just before you leave for work and as soon as you return to your baby will ensure that your baby takes fewer feedings while with her grandma.
Let your mother see how much you and your baby enjoy nursing, and how much the entire family benefits from your choice. You'll likely be better rested, baby will be in overall better health, and everyone will have a little more financial ease. By involving her in the process on a day-to-day basis, you may find she becomes your biggest advocate in giving her grandchild the very best!
Albuquerque NM USA