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  • Cleo Marchese, IBCLC, RLC

Surviving The Holidays: How to handle criticism


Being a new mom can come with a lot of challenges. New mothers often worried about how much their new baby is sleeping or eating. Are they doing the right thing? Unfortunately, around the holidays, these fears can be magnified by the stress of the holiday season and sometimes friends and family. If you practice natural parenting such as breastfeeding on demand, nighttime parenting, or child lead weaning. You may find yourself in a storm of criticism disguised as advice. Others around you may feel your choices are unwise and without scientific merit.

Here are some tips on how to handle common holiday "stressers" at family functions.

Set limits before you engage in any activity. If you find holiday activities stressful, set clear guidelines as to what you are willing to participate in, when you need to leave and how much help if any you are going to contribute. Also don’t be afraid to say no to adults only holiday parties. If you are not ready to leave your new baby with a sitter, then others should respect your decision. At family gatherings, don’t be pushed into pumping and providing a bottle if you don’t want to. It is a myth that infants need to be bottle fed to bond with their grandparents and other family members. If you feel uncomfortable speaking up, say your pediatrician said no bottles or pacifiers for the first month or until breastfeeding is well established.

The AAP recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months of life. This means your baby needs no additional foods (except Vitamin D) or fluids unless medically indicated. Babies should continue to breastfeed for a year and for as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby.

Be firm with extended family members about your baby’s needs. Older family members can sometimes be critical of your parenting choices because they are different than the way they parented. If you have an older baby, set firm guidelines about such hot button topics such as feeding the baby table food or leaving your baby unattended to sleep on an adult bed. Understand any criticism of your parenting comes from misinformation about breastfeeding and what is safe and recommend for the breastfed baby. Let them know that solids are no longer appropriate for infants under the age of 6 months and research shows no benefit to adding cereal to breastmilk or formula to help babies sleep longer. As far as leaving babies alone to sleep, the AAP no longer approves of this in infants.

The AAP recommends starting solids around six months of age. Exposing a baby to a wide variety of healthy foods and offering a variety of textures.

Other common criticisms:

  • If you do not let that baby cry it out, they will become spoiled and needy.

The AAP stance on sleep training or meeting your child’s needs through the night, is that neither has any long term effect on children. So parent as you like, you are not damaging your child by picking them or going to them when they cry.

  • Your baby seems to nurse a lot, are you sure you have enough milk.

Newborns can nurse as often as 10-12 times a day and most do. It is rare that a really young baby can go more than 2 to 2.5 without eating. Three to four hours schedules are unrealistic for breastfed babies and can lead to underfeeding/poor weight gain.

  • Why can’t you just pump, so I can give the baby a bottle?

Early introduction of bottles can cause nipple confusion or flow preference in young infants.

  • Your baby is very clingy and won’t let anyone hold it besides you. You should wean so it will learn to be independent.

As a new mother you may be surprised or irritated to hear this when your child is only a few weeks or months old. You are probably looking at your six week old thinking, I just got past sore nipples and the early bumps of breastfeeding and now I need to wean. This advice comes from the belief that meeting infants needs causes spoiling. In young infants, a baby’s wants are a baby’s needs.

Remember confidence is the key to handling difficult family conflict. Arm yourself with the facts. Always refer to your doctor or the American Academy of Pediatrics if you are given outdated or dangerous advice. Stay calm, do not let others ruin the holidays for you and your new little family. If relatives are staying with you, make times to go to your room for some one on one time with baby. So you can refresh and get away from the noise. Also if you know Aunt Mable is going to be a problem. Enlist the aid of other family members to manage your more stubborn and eccentric relatives.

Happy Holidays.

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/10/20/peds.2016-2938


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