When Your Parents Disagree With Your Parenting

by Alissa on July 1, 2010

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I am sure that no matter what parenting style a person chooses, their parents or parents-in-law will disapprove.  However, it has been my experience that attachment parenting sometimes gets the least support (and sometime the most upheaval) from the grandparental units.

My grandmother was told that her milk “was just water” and that she would have to formula feed her children.  So she did, all 5 of them.  And then they grew up and had babies and formula fed them too.  Then I came along.  I produced the first great-grandchild for my grandparents and the first grandchild for my parents.  When we told everyone we were expecting there was undiluted joy.  Not that baby is here, 10 months old, and still breastfeeding that joy has been tainted.   When my husband, son, and I travel across the country to visit them I am expected to go into the other room to nurse my son (with the door shut and preferably locked).  I am expected to tell my smaller cousins that he drinks formula but they can’t help feed him because he will only drink if I hold the bottle in a quiet room.  It is assumed that I am weak-willed because the only way a 10 month old would be nursing is if I can’t “make him give it up cold turkey” (the idea that I actually enjoy nursing is totally inconceivable).  I have answered the question “Are you ever going to wean him?” so many times that now I just say “I think we might have issues when he goes to college.” I have seriously considered not going home for the holidays this year because I feel like I am defending my decision to breastfeed constantly and not enjoying my family.  (I also have to defend my decision not to feed my infant son soda and Oreos, but that’s another post.) Not to mention the last conversation with my mother ended like this:

Her: Are you still nursing my baby?

Me: If by your baby you mean my son, then yes we are still breastfeeding.

Her: Well, he’ll be a year old soon and then you’ll HAVE to stop nursing him.

Me: Why?

Her: Well, you don’t want him to grow up to be a child molester, or gay, or be in therapy for all of his adult life.

Me: Goodbye mother. <click>

It seems sort of unbelievable that people could be against breastfeeding of all things.  Doesn’t my mom want the best possible nutrition for her perfect-besides-the-crazy-parents grandson?  I can’t even get into the ridiculousness and lack of support surrounding cosleeping and being adamantly against spanking.  And all of a sudden my decision to share a beautiful and nurturing experience like breastfeeding with my son has become gossip to my family.  They are planning an ‘intervention’ if (and by that I mean when) I continue breastfeeding past his first birthday.

I have no idea how to navigate this minefield.  On one hand I want my son to be close with his extended family, but on the other hand I want to just sever contact and not deal with the drama.

I have heard and witnessed many similar situations.  Are your parents supportive of your parenting decisions? How do you deal with family who is outspokenly against attachment parenting?  What is it about attachment parenting that gets people so worked up?

Alissa writes at A New History where she blogs about the challenge of authentic living with her husband, Levi and 10 month old son, Solomon.

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Alissa (15 Posts)

Alissa writes at A New History where she blogs about the challenge of authentic living with her husband, Levi and her almost two year old son, Solomon.


{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaclyn July 1, 2010 at 10:15 am

I think sometimes families feel defensive when children choose different ways of parenting or living in general, as though we’re communicating to them that they did it wrong, or we’re doing better. It’s really tough to find that balance between holding our own personal beliefs adamently, not representing them in a way that feels critical to others. And then, some families just were never OK with a member having “unapproved” thoughts, no matter the subject. I dealt with some of the same things with my first, and it was tough, but by the third people just don’t even ask anymore. Hold strong, create distance for a while if you need to (remember the parenting adage, it’s only a phase), and rather than defending your choices, give people factual information to help them understand, and remember that their responses are more about their personal insecurities than your choices.

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Alison December 28, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Thank you for the initial post on this. ANd thank you Jaclyn for your response with sensible, civil and simple suggestions! I am struggling with this on a more insidious stuff (vocabulary we are teaching our son, healthy/nutritious/food-guide-following foods we are feeding him, when I am changing his diaper, etc., etc., etc.) I am having an increasingly-difficult time containing my ‘inside voice’ with each interaction, so I really appreciate you sharing this experience, Alissa (although difficult!) and your wisdom, Jaclyn. Take care both, and thanks for helping me keep perspective with this.

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Amber July 1, 2010 at 10:18 am

This stuff is NO FUN. The good news, though, is that as your firstborn gets older the family antagonism usually dissipates. Once my firstborn was walking and talking and eating a variety of foods everyone lightened up. Once she eventually mastered the toilet and weaned, the criticism was pretty much done.

I think that a lot of family members are generally concerned for your baby’s well-being, even if they have a funny way of showing it. Once they see that you have successfully parented at least one child, your parenting style gains credibility and they stop worrying so much. At least, that was my experience. Now that I have another baby I haven’t had to fight the same battles, because I’ve already proven I can handle this.

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Molly July 1, 2010 at 10:23 am

The attitude of your family is absolutely ridiculous. How can anyone be so ignorant? As much as I can appreciate you wanting your son to be raised surrounded by his extended family, do you really want him to exposed to that kind of ignorant attitude? If this were my family, i’d have nothing to do with them. It is disrespectful to you and to your child.

My family is very supportive of my parenting decisions because, although they may not have done it the same way, they understand that it is MY (and my husbands) child. My mother and mother-in-law both breastfed their children, although in the 70s and 80s the norm was to stop after about 6 months and that’s what they did. Even my grandmother, who was told by the pediatrician that formula is superior to breastmilk back in the 40s and 50s when she had her babies, thinks breastfeeding is wonderful and wishes she had known better and had breastfed. I am still breastfeeding my 2 1/2 year old son, we are doing child-led weaning, and my family have no problem with this, or if they do they never say anything because they know that it is not their place.

I’m sorry you have to deal with this, but please know you are not doing anything wrong. Keep on with your AP lifestyle, your child will thank you. Break the ignorance cycle of your grandparents and parents.

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Kathleen July 1, 2010 at 10:49 am

It’s difficult when those we love are critical of our decisions. However, when we engage in defensive dialogue, the problem can escalate. I think some people have issues with attachment parenting because it somehow challenges the decisions they make or have made with their own children.

I sometimes felt anger toward others who criticized my breastfeeding (into toddlerhood with both children), co-sleeping (still at times even though they’re now 9 & 10), and comforting practices (they’ll ALWAYS get hugs from me when they’re sad or hurt!). Yet, I found that the easiest and most peaceful way to halt those exchanges was to respond, “I realize I may parent differently than you, but I need to follow my intuition and do what I think is best for MY children. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise.”

I understand why the author would resent her family, especially when they’re assertions are sooooo far out there! She admitted that she had no idea how to navigate the minefield.

My opinion is to stay out of the minefield to begin with! I don’t mean by cutting off her family, rather, by setting strict boundaries. I would be inclined to tell them that I feel hurt by their comments, and indicate that I am not willing to discuss my parenting decisions with them. I would let them know that I am not going to lie or deceive other family members. Then leave it up to them if they are willing to respect your boundaries. As far as an intervention goes, I wouldn’t mince words at that point. “It’s my business. You need to butt out.” Explaining your decision to breastfeed will fall on deaf ears; obviously, they have chosen to ignore all the evidence that supports your decision up until now. You most likely won’t convince them.

In my opinion, it is sad and disturbing that those who advocate violent and detached approaches to parenting seem to be the most vocal and righteous.

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Jennifer July 1, 2010 at 10:58 am

You should post this problem on Babycenters “Dealing with the In-laws and FOO (Family of Origin) board (link above). You will get great advice from the ladies there.

But I’ll go ahead and tell you what I think. It sounds like your family needs a “time out” (Yes – they aren’t just for children!). You should tell them that, until they can respect your parenting decisions, you will not be visiting. Some might say you should cut of all contact for awhile, like no talking on the phone, but then I don’t know how they could apologize and agree to respect you. Maybe you could agree to talk for just a few minutes a week and only if they are respectful. If they realize you mean business, they’ll probably come around. If not, then it’s their loss – obviously you, and your son, are getting nothing out of the relationship but trouble.

They are totally overstepping boundaries and hassling you about something that is none of their business. I couldn’t even believe the conversation you wrote about! I think you did the right thing by hanging up. Stick with what you’re doing b/c you know it’s best for your son!

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Dawn July 1, 2010 at 11:03 am

I’m sorry your family are insane and meddlesome. :-P Do they just refuse to read the literature, or hear the facts about it? I make it very clear to my family that I intend to BF as long as she wants, even if she’s 4 or 5!! And NO sugar or “bad” stuff, including baby food!

Thankfully, both our parents haven’t said much. My parents raised me basically AP anyway– before it had a “name”– and his parents are… cautious. Though the last time they came up, they almost forced a crib on us. :-P Even went so far as to take us to Babies R Us to try and make us pick one out!! lol But when Ella (9 months at the time) ate the same stuff we did, and went potty on a “big girl” toilet at lunch, I think they were pretty impressed, and figured we aren’t doing so bad after all.

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Larissa July 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

That’s quiet spectaularly screwed up!
I know my family don’t agree with us not smacking our children. My Mum thinks our daughter should eat everything placed infront of her and stay at the dinner table till everyone has finished (she does relax this rule sometimes). They havn’t agreed with co-sleeping or us sitting with her daughter till she went to sleep. They think I should let my children learn to ‘self sooth’. And that at the age of three it’s madness to sit on the stairs while our daughter goes to sleep. ‘A waste of time’. She’s 4 now and goes off to sleep quite hapilly by herself. With our 5 month old son we will co-sleep when he needs it. We will stay with him when he goes to sleep and we will not let him ‘cry it out’. Even though they won’t like it.

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Larissa July 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

Re Amber “Once they see that you have successfully parented at least one child, your parenting style gains credibility and they stop worrying so much”.
I wish!!!

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Amber July 1, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I’m sorry that didn’t happen for you. It did for me, and for many other parents I know. But of course, every case is individual, and there is no one size fits all.

No matter what, though, you’re the parent and the one who has to make the decisions that are right for you, no matter what someone else thinks.

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Teri July 1, 2010 at 11:18 am

I am sorry you’re having to deal with this. I agree with Amber that they will probably lighten up with the second child. I would recommend that you take a polite but firm line with your folks and let them know that these issues are no longer up for discussion. You can remind them that have have researched this well, and that you are committed to these choices. If you are visiting, and they start to give you grief, you will pack up and go to a hotel. If you are on the phone, you will hang up (as in your example above). I would also recommend telling your aunt that you will no longer lie to your cousins on her behalf. When they ask why they can’t give the baby his bottle, you can simply direct them back to their mother for an answer.

I hope that helps some, and I wish you relief.

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Andrea July 1, 2010 at 11:32 am

I’m pretty sure I heard a similiar comment out of my mother’s mouth this morning. She said something like “Geez, Anna is going to be nursing until she is 10 at this rate! She is way more attached to nursing than Abby ever was.” My family doesn’t go to the extreme of an intervention, but I hear many disapproving comments from them regularly. It has gotten better, since my (almost) 4 year old has nursed since birth (and still nursing, a few times a month) and I think they have finally given up. I honestly don’t think they (being my mom mostly) feel like I’ve proven myself or trust my decisions, they have just given up nagging so much because I’ve shown them that I don’t care what they think. Plus, from my point of view (being the mother of my 2 children, who has been with them everyday since they’ve been born and know them better than anybody) my youngest is actually less attached to nursing than my first was and I won’t be suprised if she weans sooner than my first will (when she does).

It is a tough situation, and unfortunately, some people seem to be very stuck on their point of view and refuse to change it. I feel like its’ been a matter of showing confidence in my decision and developing a thicker skin to the comments. I’ve also stopped talking about my oldest daughter nursing, which helps with the comments. I think most people just assume that she has weaned since they never see me nurse her. I won’t lie if someone asks, but I usually avoid the subject if possible.

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Jenni July 1, 2010 at 11:32 am

My pediatrician asked if he could come over for a home visit. My mother asked if someone had called social services on me, because I don’t feed the baby enough solids. She asked if I have made sure that everyone knows the baby eats solids when I do. (I offer her table foods when we eat.) She *JUST* turned one.

I may go all mamma bear and smack the next person that says something to me upside the head. I’m quickly losing the self control to just smile and leave the room.

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Sarah July 1, 2010 at 11:37 am

You need to set limits – respectfully but firmly. Print out the WHO recommendations and explain once more why you are nursing and plan to continue doing so. Then tell them the topic is no longer up for discussion. If it comes up again, hang up the phone or leave. Also explain that you will not be segregated to nurse or lie about your feeding decisions to your cousins. If you have to, print out some of the laws that protect the rights of mothers to NIP. Explain that if they want to visit w/ you and your son, they will respect your feeding (and other parenting decisions) and allow you to feed in the living room. In my experience (with fights regarding co-sleeping and co-napping with my in-laws) this straightforward approach works wonders. They may still give you the looks, but they will keep quiet if that’s the only way for them to spend time w/ you and your son.

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PhoebeMomma July 1, 2010 at 11:40 am

I wish I could help. I face similar criticisms especially co-sleeping. I personally would have an intervention with your family and let them know that YOU are his parent and YOU will raise him how you see fit and that if they do not respect your choices, you will cut off ties with them. Good luck!

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the Grumbles July 1, 2010 at 12:06 pm

we’ve faced similar criticism though not quite to the intervention stage, holy crazy! it does get under my skin, especially coming from my mom, i really try not to think about it. i have confidence in my decisions and then shut down all discussions about the taboo topics. change the subject, don’t bring it up, walk out of the room, just don’t engage. you’re the parent now regardless of how they feel about whatever you’re doing.

but frustrating? hell yes.

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Denise July 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm

My own mother is mostly very supportive of my assorted AP practices, the only one she doesn’t get behind completely is discipline but even with that she mostly holds her tongue. My now ex-in-law family was not at all supportive of extended nursing & were also of the mindset that nursing should be done in the closet or something. But I have to say with time they came around. My eldest daughter nursed until almost 5 and by the time she hit about 3 they stopped bugging me about it. By the time she weaned they were moderately supportive of the concept. Just keep doing what works for you & your family and ignore those that don’t support your choices. They may come around in the end or they may not, but it’s not their choice to make.

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Udo July 1, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Alissa,
the only way to deal with this is going cold turkey. For your parents. Every single family in our wider circle I know, who practices some form of attachment parenting (breast feeding, family bed, sling) have had the same issues you had. Including us. All of them have sorted it out. Including us. By telling their in-law or parents that they can make a simple decision. They either accept this form of parenting or there’s no contact with their grand-children. Easy as that.
It took my in-laws 8 years and 3 grandchildren (not ours, but my sister-in-laws) to accept it. They saw them only on Christmas and perhaps the odd birthday. It today works brilliant with our son. It took my parents (for which our son is the first grand-child) half a year of no contact with him to accept. This half-year is roughly the average in my experience.
And, important, no discussion, none at all. Because the whole issue is ideological on their side, there can be no rational argument.
Take care.

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nicole July 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Alissa,

This is a tough one ot be in, and my heart really goes out to you. Based on my person experience, I would say that if you have already tried in earnest to explain to your family the right and good reasons you are breast feeding your son, and they refuse to understand, then I think you have to make peace with the fact that they are not going to change onthis subject. Continuing to argue the matter with them will probably only result in more frustration for you all, and a continued sense on their part that its even their place to have an opinion, which technically it isn’t.

My advice, again from my own experience with family on various subjects, is to try your best to avoid the topic of parenting in general. Work at becoming a master of changing the subject politely. If they bring up breastfeeding, answer them in the affirmative with a positive response, like, “Yes and I love it, Im so blessed” and then quickly change the subject. If you remain polite and friendly but don’tallow them to get very far into the subject matter, soon they will do one of two things. If they are truly beligerent, they will make a fight about it and insist that you discuss the issue, at which point I think you are free to be clear that he subject is no longer up for discussion. If, however, they are more reasonable, they will get the drift and change the subject and eventually they will stop bringing it upas they know they can’t get anywhere with that. I’ve had to do that with my family members over things like gossipping about other realtives, etc…just be religious about changing the subject, but politely, and that shoudl work.

The trick is, however, that you really have to let go of the expectation that your family is going to support you, and that can be really tough on an emotional level. We all want our parents and families to support us, even if we don’t respect their opinions, because that is an emotional need we all have. So you will have to do the tough emotional work of being totally assured in your choices and willing to accept that they disagree and not have it bother you, and accept it and move forward with your choices.

And I would never agree to lying to children about how you’re feeding your son. Instead, perhaps just redirect them to their parents if they have questions, and let them sort out what they want to tell their kids. As for nursing in a different room, while its rude of them to ask you or tell you, personally I would suggest if you can get to a place where you can visit them and the subject isn’t being brough up anymore becuse you are smiling and changing the subject, not getting emotionally involved, then I would think you would WANT to go to more private area where you and your son can enjoy bonding without the watchful, judgemental glare of your family. Just preempt their suggestions and excuse yourself without even declaring what you’re doing. Again, not allowing them an opportunity to comment, and thinking it is their place to do so, is probably going to be key to continuing a relationship with your family and making your own right choices about parenting.

Blessings

Nicole

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Cristina July 1, 2010 at 7:27 pm

We are born into a family, and then may discover another “family” on our travels through life. We may be enlightened, but our blood family is closed to new ideas; we may discover a way of life that is foreign to those who came before us, therefore causing anxiety to their sense of reality and structure in life. We are blessed to find close friends and chosen “family” who we can bond with and relate to, those who have discovered a similar truth as us. Holidays and special events may be rough, and if it is too difficult perhaps you can limit your contact, knowing that you are making the best effort to care for your children the way that you have learned is best for them, and also for you. I pray that you have the support in your spiritual “family,” enough to carry you through the negativity you receive from your relatives.
Some people find comfort in the traditions, rituals, expectations, and ways of life passed on from parents/relatives, while some people decide to research the facts and make their own decisions on what is the most intelligent/emotionally sensitive option. I hope they can come to accept your choices for what they are, as they are causing themselves stress in the end; you may have to accept the fact that they are closed in their journey and you will continue to be enlightened…
Hope this helps…God Bless

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Natalie July 1, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I dealt with similar issues with my parents — the way I finally went about addressing the issue was to have a little ‘Come to Jesus’ with them during which I stated plainly that the next comment would result in them not seeing me or my family. Ball was totally in their court after that — I don’t go to them for parenting advice or to vent when issues arise, thankfully they took me seriously and no longer comment. As far as visits, I don’t know how I would handle that, except to stay in a hotel or not visit. Thankfully my family lives a great distance so we’ve made it plain that they’re more than welcome to visit us on our turf with our rules, but we won’t be traveling there with small children. Can’t BELIEVE your mother would suggest that your child will turn into a molester for being breastfeed! Ugh, I’m so sorry that’s your situation. SO very demeaning to you as an intelligent adult.

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Alissa July 1, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Wow. I am so blessed and encouraged by each of your responses. First I just want to agree with you ladies that lying to my cousins is not okay. I have been asked to lie and have refused. I have agreed to nurse in another room because frankly, it’s their house and it is easier to nurse in a quiet room with no distractions anyhow.

I also am going to have to agree with all of you who said that my defensive stance isn’t helping anything. I really do need to set some firm limits and just not argue. It just seems so RIDICULOUS that there are people who still think breastfeeding is a bad idea. I feel like if I could just explain it right they would say “Oh! Well that totally makes sense, no wonder you are so pro-breastfeeding.” So I keep arguing and sending articles. But I just need to give it up. I am making things worse by being defensive and engaging in their nonsense. It is just so hurtful to not have their support.

I know that I am doing the right thing. Thankfully, we live across the country from everyone, so we only see them occasionally. I have decided to go ahead and do the trip we have planned for this summer, but I am going to stay home for the holidays and enjoy my husband and son. Hopefully when I say “We’re not visiting because it is too stressful/ we just fight/ I will still be breastfeeding” they will start taking things a little more seriously.

I grew up having family around constantly, and I already feel like I am depriving Solomon of that by living across the country. So cutting off contact seems like something I just couldn’t live with. But on the other hand, I am also worried that it is going to get worse as he gets older. Right now he can’t understand what they’re saying. What am I going to do when he’s 3 and his grandpa is telling him how “big boys sleep in their own beds” and all that nonsense? Any mamas with older kids in this situation?

I really hope you all are right about the first kid being the hardest because I think my head will explode eventually. Thanks and keep the ideas/advice coming!

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Heather July 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I’m a mama with older (21, 18, and 2 1/2 year old) kids.

You’re probably not going to like what I have to say, but I am going to say it anyway because I am concerned about you and your son and want to save you from my own mistake.

Homeschooling was the issue with my parents. I wish that I had slowly weaned myself off of contact/dependence with them when they first expressed their “concern” that it “didn’t work because dd wanted to sit and talk about politics with the adults at the family reunion instead of giggling about movie stars and make up with her cousins the way teenagers are supposed to do”.

Their intervention was harsh and cruel. The ultimate result is that my older son became “their” baby, I was disinherited, and they do not even know that my youngest son exists.

I think that in my parents’ case, they never got the love and nurturance they needed as children and they dealt with their pain by believing that “everybody” had to go through the same experience. All children have to be harshly weaned at a year, go to school and learn how to be like the other children so that they “fit in” and don’t get bullied, and grow up to work jobs they hate so they can buy stuff at the mall and fit in so the Homeowner’s Association doesn’t bully them.

I owe it to my younger son to break the cycle. I will always regret being unable to protect my older son and my daughter.

Yes, I worry about them now that they are 75, but they have enough money to pay for assisted living facilities and my mother says that her purebred obedience trained show dogs are “just like the daughters I never had”.

Human beings are not a solitary species. We are hardwired to need a sense of connectedness and community. There is nothing wrong with trying, working, and striving to build an “intentional family” for myself and my son and as i reach out to others, I find many stories that are similar to my own and many people who learn from and value my experiences. There is no need for me to live the rest of my life playing the role of “foolish failure” that my parents have cast me in.

My older son is 18 and someday he may see more in me than what he has been told: “I don’t know what is wrong with your mother that she isn’t smart enough to know that men these days want working wives instead of housewives so no matter what the wife’s druthers are, the children have to go to school so that the wife can work. Even doctors, who could afford to have housewives if they wanted them, would rather have sailboats and vacation houses instead.”

Perhaps he will notice that I wasn’t married when those words were spoken. Perhaps he will notice that i was working and not receiving a dime of child support from his father.

Perhaps he never will.

Either way, i will have to live with the consequences of the intervention for the rest of my life and go on to raise my minor child in the best way I can and know that I also did the best I could for my adult children with the information and tools that were available to me at the time.

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Rachel July 1, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I remember walking into the living room and my grandmother was asking (in baby-talk) my newborn son, “Does she feed you enough? Are you hungry?” She was definitely showing concern, but it was coming out of ignorance.

Establishing boundaries is really healthy and will be required later for other topics. I’ve had to repeated state and explain my choices about spanking and not having a third child.

I do yearn for validation from my family.

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Marcos July 2, 2010 at 2:39 am

Hi Alissa,
I’m sure you are doing OK.
No matter if things are easy or difficult, you should first think from your child’s perspective. His relationship with you is a thousand times more important than with his grandparents (especially if their attitude is not supportive, generous and open).
YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PARENTS’ HAPPINESS; it’s up to them to take an approach that is constructive for both you, your child and them, within the frame that you provide to them (where do you meet, when, etc.). Maybe there is not much you can do to influence them anyway.
If you live in the USA, there are more diagnosed child conduct disorders around you than in the rest of the world altogether, which means that mainstream thinking is not very valuable over there (a shame). Just don’t let it bother you, and chin up!
Marcos

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Selina July 2, 2010 at 4:19 am

Like you I live far from my family and have worried about depriving my baby of the close contact I enjoyed as a child.

But just think – the loving and supportive people you can choose to surround yourself with, where you live, will form a community for your son. Not a family substitute, obviously, but something akin to the network of ages and genders and types of people you get within an extended family.

And the best part about it is – living far away gives you a measure of control over your son’s exposure to view and attitudes you cannot support. When your mum lives next door or your granny over the road, believe me, there is no escape!

Good luck and while I hope your family come to understand your viewpoint, stay strong in your own beliefs with or without their agreement.

-Selina

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Kayris July 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm

For the most part, my parents and inlaws are respectful of our choices, even if they differ from their own. They don’t have to agree with us, but they do have to respect us as the rule makers when it comes to our kids. And I agree with a previous commenter who said that sometimes making different choices makes our parents and grandparents feel as if they are being judged, and that’s just not the case. I know I never wore a bike helmet growing up, but I wear one now and so do my children and that’s just the way it is.

I also think sometimes it helps us to step back and examine our rules and if it’s actually a big deal if they are bent or not. Not obviously with breastfeeding, but perhaps with other issues like treats or bedtime. I would prefer that my mom not feed my kids hot dogs when she watches them, but I also realize that a hot dog here and there never hurt anyone, and at least my children have grandparents that are willing and able to be a part of their lives. I have a friend who has limited her parents access to her toddlers because she feels they ply them with too much junk food. But is it truly worth it to withhold a grandparents love over a few Oreos?

Their stance on breastfeeding is clearly wrong, but you also won’t be nursing forever. If the relationship is otherwise healthy, I would rethink some of the suggestions here to cut them out of your life.

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CHuang July 2, 2010 at 7:38 pm

My mother told me my milk wasn’t good enough for my son when he was a newborn and had jaundice. My husband was upset that I had our son in bed with us. It’s 4 years and another baby later now, they learned to keep their opinions to themselves and now I wake up with 2 kids in bed with me. None the less, I was very hurt that I receive no support from the people I needed most. But I stood my ground and did what I thought was right.

I agree with other on creating some distance with your family if needed. (Remember: Mama happy, then baby happy. So the most important thing is to keep yourself happy.) Also keep in mind that, they really meant well. They’re very ignorant and wrong, but they meant well and care about you and your family. A lot of the un-AP parenting techniques are based on how convenient and not tiresome we can make this baby business to be. People want their freedome, energy, and privacy as close as to pre-baby days as possible. So they come up with these ways to train the baby to fit into adult’s schedule and life style. I feel sorry for them and their children.

You’re doing great. Be the mama bear and be proud of it!

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Kitty July 4, 2010 at 2:48 am

Alissa,
I am so sorry to hear all that you and your son have gone through because your family does not support your parenting decisions.

Neither of my parents are alive, so I have not had to deal with this from them. I co-slept with my mother for several years (who was born in 1925 when co-sleeping was more common place) and I know she would have liked to have breastfed, but there was not the support she needed in the 1960′s to do so. I know she would have been supportive of my decisions. I do not have to see my in-laws enough to worry about it and my husband and I set boundaries long before we became parents.

I have not lived in the state where I grew up in over 20 years, so I have made a “new” family in my new state. I have dealt with some negative comments from some of the neighbors. Some of these are women who had their children in the 1960′s and 1970′s and by the way had their children when they were like 19 years old or in their early 20′s. I was in my late 30′s when I had my child and now am in my 40′s. So basically, I was twice the age they were. Some of the other neighbors are the age of my husband and myself and have older children, but are not necessarily aware that we are as old as we are. Yet with my age, background in medicine, and having cared for my dying mother, they still judged me and I think may be they have talked about me behind my back. I have tried to educate them some about AP and my reasons. I think they have accepted it for the most part, but I wonder what I will have to put up with when I officially do not send her to preschool, kindergarten, and start homeschooling? At least the ladies in the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group I am apart of will be very supportive of the homeschooling, because at least half of our scholarships have gone to homeschoolers. So sometimes some groups of my friends are supportive of me in some ways and others in other ways.

I guess what I am saying is that you definitely need to find a “new” family that supports you. “Kindred spirits” as Anne of Green Gables would say. I would even be distant from your family for a while and not go for a visit. When you used the word “intervention,” it really made me scared for you. Interventions are in my opinion something done to confront someone about an addiction or mental illness who needs to get professional help or even being forced to change their ways. May be they have been watching too much reality television about interventions, but then again they may even try to get social services or the police involved by making up all sorts of lies about you. By the time you could even prove that you are a fit parent, the damage could be done and your son could be weaned. Please do not go to visit them. They sound like very sick people who do not want to respect you as someone who is an individual with differences from their group. They sound like they have a lot of insecurities and bonding or attachment issues themselves.

The fact you know specifically what the doctors told your grandma about her breastmilk, says to me that she has issues deep down that she has not dealt with about the fact she did not breastfeed her children. She was told what to do by an authority figure rather than listen to herself, so as a way of dealing with it rather than supporting you (which some people would because they do not want you to go through what they did and are empathetic) she actually becomes the authority figure who tells you what you should do. And she and your mom are telling you in a condescending way by attacking you just like that doctor attacked your grandmother by saying she was not good enough. I think this is referred to as transference. I even wonder how your mother made her decision to feed you?

Take care of your nuclear family and do what is best for you.
Kitty

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mumma2one July 4, 2010 at 9:47 am

I too have had issues with my immediate family and also one of my close friends. I agree with a few other posts that you are being critisised because as parents it undermines their parenting methods. I have my aunt (never to my face always to other family members) saying that I should not co-sleep. Even though she does co-sleep with her grand-daughter. But it seems you can only co-sleep if you complain miserably about it. I have been told by my sister not to complain about being tired if I won’t use CIO or put my son in a cot. Even though her son is 7 and already been expelled from two schools. My step-dad was recently saying my boy should be in his own bed now. Even though he lets his dog sleep in his bed. Today my mum told me that my son doesn’t know who the boss is and needs to be disiplined more. Even though my sister STILL has issues with being over- smacked by my mum as a teenager. I just remember that I am doing what I know is the best by my son. Even though at times I have questioned myself. We are practicing child-led weaning, co-sleep and gentle disipline and I just know that even though it angers me people will always have something to say about the way you parent even if you use the ‘mainstream’ methods. I have found that making a very ambiguous statement about the rising rates of depression and criminal activity may be linked to un-attached parenting methods I also have a great memory and spout off studies that have proven this stuff ‘WORKS’. I am sorry that I don’t share the opinion of withholding contact. As children need to see parents interact with people who do share different opinions as us and see how we cope with negative criticism as children need to experience both sides of the coin. Think how empowering it would be to you child to see mum or dad standing up confidently and strongly for what they believe in.

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Anna July 6, 2010 at 5:50 am

I agree that as your child gets older and your family notice how great your relationship is and what a grounded child he is, they’ll relax. One thing you could try the next time your mother, for example, starts to criticise you is to ask her if she did anything different from the people around her, or her own mother, when you were a baby/growing up. Or if she ever felt as though she was swimming upstream as it were, and what that was like for her. Or say to grandma, what were the biggest worries when you had kids? Was it that kids would grow up to be ‘soft’? Was it illness? Maybe by making room for discussion on childhood/parenting – but without focusing on how *you* parent *your* child, your family will feel like they’ve been heard – and they’ll be more willing to hear you.
Also, you can always answer criticism with a sweet smile and say, hmm, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of that before. And then carry on as normal…
It’s extremely painful not having family approve because of the feeling of disconnection. So it’s important to reconnect, even if it’s focused around another subject/area.

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Maria Ping July 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I totally feel your pain. I am *STILL* tandem nursing my 4 1/2 yr old and 2 1/2 yr old! YOu can imagine the comments from my mainstream family and worse my CIO, wean early, don’t pick up the baby! sister. Maybe it’s just my family, but they’ve started to get used to my hippie ways and have realized that my kids are pretty great and not turning into the serial killers that they imagined :)

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MamanADroit July 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm

My parents actually took me for a “walk” while Hubby watched 4 month old Baby last Thanksgiving and told me all my relatives were concerned and thought my mom needed to stage an intervention. So my heart goes out to you and I really empathize. I totally understand that even though they are unsupportive, there is still that desire for their approval and to have them in your kids’ lives. What eventually happened with us is that Hubby stood up to my mom and told her she needed to respect our sovereignty as a married couple of adults to make our own parenting decisions, and that if we want advice, we’ll be sure to ask her, but otherwise to refrain from commenting on our parenting choices, and we explained that if she couldn’t stop criticizing us, we were going to leave and never come back.

They didn’t believe us until in a phone conversation a few days later when I told my Dad that I had been packing up our things so we could leave as soon as Hubby was done talking to my mom.

They’ve been nicer since.

Don’t know if it’d work for you. I do also agree with other commenters who say to be sure to keep the conversation away from rejecting your parents decisions-your baby, your situation, and the current state of medical and psychological research are totally different from when you were the baby, and your choices are your own, not a criticism of your mom.

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Anneke October 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

I got the same off my family, inlaws and friends. All saying I was doing wrong and digging myself a massive hole. Disapproving shaking heads when they question me about how he feeds and where he sleeps. co sleeping was a no no babies in cots thats how it should be to them and that I wouldnt get him out of our bed. We dont care he still sleeps with us and we like it that way. He is consident and not clingy despite everyone saying he would be clingy from being breastfed, co slept and loved. Funny they didnt do any of that and their kids turned out like that and they have loads of probs where as I have none just a pleasant happy intelligent child. Then again no one speaks to me any more because I choose not to listen to them. I got fed up with justifying and when I tried to explain why I done things like attachment parenting I was shot down and made to feel ridiculous. Never accepted. some of my family got offended I didnt formula feed as it was like me saying to them there was sometihng wrong with what they done and forever they said how their kids where fine and all us where on it. Never thought did they that I wanted not to formula feed? I spent enough time pissing poeple off with what I was doing in fact i was far better at it than pleasing anyone and all they done was make me feel wrong and miserable. Accusing my son of having a social disorder when he was younger because he was just wanting breast milk not to be passed about and pinched in the cheeks. Saying he was weird because he didnt like certain people who roared and told him off for nothing for even crying. To my parents kids whould not be seen or heard, no toys in livingroom, no places to play and even when my son asked what sometihng was he was scolded that he couldnt have it but he never asked for it just what it was. But good news is these poeple are not around my son any more they have up and left and choosen to stay away because they just cannot except it. The inlaws think he is great! if i ever hear a word from them about his breastfeeding and co sleeping i will remind them how he got how he is because of that. But i think they can see that for themselves thats why they dont mention it any more.

I do as i please, i always have done. I walk alone for it in my family.

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Jessica October 18, 2010 at 11:51 am

I am just a little surprised at all the people who say “just stop talking to them or visiting”. Is THAT really what you want to teach your children? All the breastfeeding in the world won’t save them if they grow up not understanding how to navigate the world of people who disagree with them.

Just take the high road. Regardless of how asinine it may seem, go in the other room to breastfeed- just like you would ask a family member who smoked to go outside at your home. And before you think I am saying breastfeeding and smoking are the same, I am just talking about respect- not quality of behaviors.

I do agree with the above commenter who said you shouldn’t lie to the other kids- just direct them to their mother for an answer.

The point is that you are doing all these healthy things to help your child- your attitudes and reactions to other are just as important to the long term development of your child as anything else you do.

Extended family is important. As long as they are not truly dangerous to the health of your child, it is an important lesson in a child learning to love people that are different or that we may not always agree with. And an important lesson from you as the parent: The lesson being that we do what is right and healthy even if it is inconvenient sometimes.

If you focus less on “what is best for ME” or “what will convince them” and think about everything through the filter of “what message am I sending my child” it will become easier.

It doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat, just give them the same level of respect you wish they would give you.

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Reggie October 19, 2010 at 7:05 am

wow – wow – wow. I am so sorry, this must be incredibly painful, I really empathize. I have been so fortunate. My Mum gave birth to me and my brother, in hosp, but naturally, vaginally and breast fed for close to a year and had us in her room until 6-9 mnths and then free to visit and sleep with them afterwards. I mean this was before AP was AP, was just natural to her. She is a little uncomfortable I am still bfeeding a 2 y 2mnth old, but more b/c she sees me becoming quite exhausted and overwhelmed at times (with this being a tough yr for me anyway). She completely gets the home birth I tried to have (moved after 29 hrs ro hosp, but at least it was still a vadginal birth) and positive discpline, responding/holding babies – instict for her and my Grandma (RIP). My Dad is pretty cool too, but struggles a little with + discipline and my father in law did – but is coming round to the idea, now he sees my daughter is nit hanging from the rafters with her head spinning, ” manipulating” us at every corner ! LOL. I expected some of this with cultural and generational diffferences and they have been so so so respectful, as have my formula, scheduling, traditional discipline, separate room friends – I feel v fortunate.
I hope that it has got easier and I hope you have support – well, you do from all of us here!! Kuddos to you for continuing, when it is so difficult in the best situ.
As for the woman who was given an ‘intervention’ for her AP parenting, well… I don’t know what to say.

I think keeping ties and communication with unsupportive family is healthy and sends a message of acceptance and respect – that will hopefully – eventually come back. Focusing on what is agreed upon and maybe some little tid bits of info. My father in law really was open to this when I wld insert things… one day he asked what it was all about that 2 and 3 yr olds insisted on climbing and he was fascinated by all the brain and scientific reason…. and trust me he was not AP in the slightest!! ( ask my hubby) but you know what, he had a really authoriatarian father and is doing the best he can as he grows and changes and I say hats off for being open to what I have to say.

He even says to his wife now when she wants my daughter to wear shoes (its a sweet concern thing, thinking she’ll catch a cold from their marble floor) “Her mother is OK with it and she is a free, bare footed spirit – let it be”. so… change can come folks!

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Greta November 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm

When we meet resistance from those we love about our parenting choices, we simply say, “you know, there’s been so much new research since we were babies…” or “well this is our first (baby), we’re allowed to change our minds later…” Then if it persists I say, “I’d love to email you some articles…”
I have them all bookmarked, so sending an email with a ton of overwhelming information is no problem at all! :)

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Lauren August 4, 2014 at 10:30 pm

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I deal with this a lot. Most of the comments are behind my back now and not to my face anymore (or to my husband). They know that after 3 kids now I’m not changing my ways. I am expected to go in another room. I have gotten the many many comments to wean (or asking when I will), telling me that breastfeeding is no good after 6 months, etc, etc. At first, it really HURT me. I got defensive. I tried to explain it but realized that people are not open to listening to what I have to so. So now, I know they are going to talk and it doesn’t bother me as much. I mainly feel sorry for them, because they don’t understand how awesome breastfeeding can be and they have missed out on it themselves.

While I was really the first on one side of the family to nurse, a couple others have followed my lead after. One person didn’t make it past the negativity but I know now she GETS it, when they used to make negative comments about it. So that has been rewarding.

Bottom line, I have now become more comfortable with my own decisions instead of them making me feel defensive. I decline a lot of events at other ppl’s houses because I don’t want to sit in a room by myself the whole time. If I’m in my house I do what I want. My husband has become more supportive over time which has helped.

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