It’s one thing to be shamed for public breastfeeding by a stranger, an ignorant shop assistant or waiter or a spiteful internet troll. But when your own parents try to make you feel bad for nursing your child… wow. That’s really, really not cool.
That’s what happened to 23-year-old Kelly Stanley recently. The Tennessee mom, a yoga teacher, was nursing her 9-month-old daughter, Maya, in a restaurant during a meal with her husband and parents when her father threw a cloth napkin at her and told her to “cover up.”
Stanley shared the experience on Instagram, revealing that when she questioned her father on his actions, he told her the restaurant they were in was too “nice” for her to breastfeed her baby uncovered and suggested she continue nursing in her car. Stanley got mad. And every breastfeeding mom who’s been made to feel embarrassed or inappropriate or self-conscious by other people’s ridiculous reactions to their feeding their child got mad right along with her.
We all hope we’ll have the support of our parents when we become parents ourselves, but sadly it doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes grandparents bring a whole lot of their own customs, prejudices and hang-ups to the party. That’s fine, but when you raised your own baby decades ago, you have to be willing to accept that we might do things a little differently these days. Or at the very least, leave your judgment and unreasonable expectations at home.
It doesn’t apply just to breastfeeding. Every aspect of raising our kids, from what they eat and where they sleep to how they spend their free time, can be quite different to how our parents did it. Generally, different doesn’t mean wrong. There’s more than one way to raise a child and still have them turn out OK. It’s perfectly acceptable to have different opinions, even if it’s only a knee-jerk reaction to something you’re simply not used to.
But shaming a woman for giving her baby daughter what she needed? That’s the last thing a supportive parent should do. Stanley said her parents’ lack of respect for her right to breastfeed her child freely at the restaurant that night hurt her more than if a stranger had reacted in a similar way. Who wouldn’t feel the same? When you’re trying to negotiate your way through the early months of parenthood and keep it together when you’re basically at the beck and call of a tiny, demanding milk fiend, you need understanding and support, not judgment and negativity.
Stanley’s father hasn’t yet apologized for his actions, but she said he does now understand her position. Hopefully their experience will give other people who think public breastfeeding is in any way indecent something to think about. It’s every mom’s right to breastfeed her child freely, and for anyone who has a problem with that, it’s their problem and theirs alone.
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