10 Perfect Comebacks to Silence Breastfeeding Critics
Updated: Jun 5
Family gatherings can be stressful at the best of times. The heady mix of multiple generations cooped up together in a confined space, a splash or ten of alcohol, and the frustrations of being in the constant company of people you love, but who you wouldn’t necessarily choose to be with 24-7, can mean tensions escalate.
For those breastfeeding, especially if friends and family are either unsupportive or unused to the idea, there’s an extra layer of anxiety.
However confident you are in your parenting path, it’s likely your choices will come under scrutiny if you nurse around those with little knowledge or experience of it.
Sometimes people mean well, (and sometimes they really don’t). Sometimes people are misinformed (and sometimes they’re just downright ignorant). Sometimes people can’t help but just get all up in your business even if all you want to do is comfort your child.
The core point is this: If people say they support breastfeeding, there should be no ifs or buts, dictating where, when, or how they deem it acceptable.
Usually, the witty comebacks of all the things you wish you’d said, only come after a few hours of stewing… so we’ve put together a handy guide to help you beat the critics.
I support breastfeeding but…
1. Not in public
Be funny: Yes, you probably have eye-strain from the effort of searching for a tiny slither of nipple to get upset over. But did you know you own an excellent device to avoid witnessing the horror of me comforting the little one? Eyelids.
Be factual: Breastfeeding is a natural and normal part of child-rearing. I understand it can make some people feel uncomfortable but that is because for too long we’ve been told that breasts are to sell and seduce rather than nourish. It’s time to change the conversation. If you’re upset by a mother meeting her child’s needs, the problem lies with you.
2. Not when it’s attention-seeking
Be funny: You got me! I decided to go through the engorgement, sore nipples, and cluster-feeding because I realised nursing offered the perfect opportunity to flaunt my fantastic hooters to the world. The trials of pregnancy, labour, and learning to breastfeed – all a ruse to enable my flagrant exhibitionism.
Be factual: Good parents react to their child’s cues to see if verbally, or non-verbally, they are telling us they’re in need of sustenance, comfort or reassurance. Breastfeeding is an excellent tool to address one or all of these basic needs and avoid unnecessary distress. Whether I’m dressed in a ballgown or in my pyjamas, what I – and any other mother – is wearing while nursing, is irrelevant. The sole intention remains the same: helping my children.
3. Use a cover
Be funny: Good idea. I’ve taken the liberty of bringing a number of spares so that we can all use them during dinner. I hate the way that Uncle Jack chews with his mouth open, and Aunty Peggy is a drooler. This way no one has to witness anything they feel is inappropriate. Limits the inane chat as well.
Be factual: Would you want to eat with a blanket over your head? Covers are fine if that’s how parents and kids choose to nurse, but a lot of children hate them and make more of a fuss than if they just fed normally.
4. Not when they can walk
Be funny: You’re right, arbitrary guidelines and imagined cut-off points seem ideal ways to parent. In fact, seeing as baby is now nine months and has taken his first steps – it’s time to cut the apron strings – I’ll cuddling him altogether.
Be factual: Children hit developmental milestones at different times and learning a skill has no link to weaning. In fact, breastfeeding helps children cope with the emotional complexities of exploration and learning – it’s a safe place in what can be a scary world. If the World Health Organisations advocates breastfeeding exclusively to six months, and then in combination with food beyond two years – why would you deprive my child of something good for him simply because he’s learned a skill?
5. Not when it means family can’t feed the baby
Be funny: You know what they say… the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world. I don’t want anyone else to bond with her, or it’ll interfere with my masterplan for global domination.
Be factual: I need to nurse on demand so my body works with baby’s to produce and supply the optimal amount for them. Breastfeeding’s a learnt skill and something I need some time to get a handle on it all. There are lots of other ways you can bond: burping them, changing them, or holding them when I need to have a shower, a pee, or some hands-free time. But the best way to assist – would be to help look after me.
6. I don’t want my kids seeing it
Be funny: Your kids will see more boob walking past a Victoria Secret advert, on Youtube, or in a music video but yeah, glimpsing their cousin nurse is the real problem.
Be factual: Breastfeeding has been hidden in the shadows for too long and is seen as an unusual act rather than the biological norm. Like any skill humans have to master, we need to see it in action first, and we need to be paying attention to the pitfalls in order to know how to avoid or cope with them. I think it’s a good thing that children grow up seeing this, without fuss, so they know the reality of it.
7. Not if they’re old enough to ask for it
Be funny: I assume you mean with words? So when my baby masters the skill of talking, and expands his vocabulary, you’re saying I should reward him by saying NO…. because it might offend you or someone equally ignorant?
Be factual: What you’re really saying then is don’t breastfeed, because babies know how to let caregivers know what they need very early one. Baby’s can sign for breastmilk from around six months, and many have specific pre-verbal babble that they assign to nursing soon after. Why is your cut-off point when they can use words?
8. She should be on cow’s milk by now
Be funny: Absolutely, it is time for her to try what’s available from other mammals. Why restrict her to just cow’s milk though? We’ll see what cats, dogs and hamsters have to offer.
Be factual: Breast milk is the wondrous result of millions of years of evolutionary biology, a superfood uniquely tailored to each human child, and breasts are the original zero-waste packaging. Why do you feel that milk tailored for baby cows would be better for my human child?
9. Fed is best
Be funny: Why didn’t you say so? All this time I’ve been trying to eat a balanced diet for optimal health when actually from what you’re saying, it sounds like I could just have a daily binge on a bucket of KFC and a family-sized chocolate tin.
Be factual: Reductive phrases don’t help anyone but if you want to discuss it this way: Fed is the bare minimum. Informed is best. If you believe in a woman’s right to education, then it should be all education, including maternal and infant health. Once women have access to all the support and information they need, they can make the best choices.
10. It’s just for babies
Be funny: I plan on nursing until he’s at least safely in college.
Be factual: Breast milk loses none of its nutrition just because a child gets older. It simply compliments their diet until they are ready to wean. The natural age for humans to wean is, on average, anywhere between two and eight. In fact, experts and scientists say breastfeeding into early childhood contributes to your child’s nutrition, health, emotional and intellectual development, and also has benefits for mama too. This has been proven time and time again, by a wide range of scientists and sociologists. So no, it’s not just for babies.