The holidays are filled with fun traditions, special recipes, beautiful decorations, visits from family... and comments from said family about your parenting choices, the fact that you are "still breastfeeding," and how you should have handled the meltdown at the dinner table. Breastfeeding can be as controversial as politics at family holiday festivities, but this isn't a topic you can so easily avoid. Similar to politics, it can be tempting to want to educate those you are socializing with on all of the reasons you have made the choices you have made. Still, at the end of the day, this is often a relatively futile path that leaves you exhausted, frustrated, and lonely. What it boils down to is not whether or not Aunty Sue understands the benefits of breastfeeding but whether or not she respects you and implicitly trusts that you can navigate adulthood, like, well, an adult. The toughest pill to swallow is that if she *doesn't*, it says more about her than you. So, what options are you left with if you can't educate her or earn her respect? The discomfort from the glances you clock as your child pulls at your shirt, the comments about how "big" your 14-month-old is, and the outright undermining of your parenting is not something you must endure. The key to your comfort isn't in your nosey Aunty Sue; it's inside of YOU.
The power of supporting yourself.
To learn how to insert the key into the lock and turn it, you first have to understand why you are so uncomfortable with the looks & comments. When the comments and passive-aggressive looks begin, it's not their mere existence that is causing you pain. It's what they touch inside of you that hurts. They touch feelings of not belonging. They touch your need to be loved and accepted. They touch your desire to have a family that "gets" you. They touch your own insecurities in your parenting choices.
All of those things truly have nothing to do with your family members. They have to do with your own needs. You WANT your family to be able to meet those needs. Perhaps your family SHOULD even be the ones to meet those needs! But the reality is that right now; they can't. They are humans who have limitations, and this is one of them. But, my sweet friend, you have the power to meet all of those needs for yourself.
How to meet your own needs
I'm going to walk you through a simple exercise you can do before you head into a holiday event that you feel uneasy about or during one that is going a bit sideways. First, take a moment and place your hand on your chest, close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths in and out. Next, imagine that relative that you seem to feel so uncomfortable around. Imagine them as you WISH they could be. See them walking towards you with a gentle smile and kindness in their eyes. What do you wish that they would say to you? How do you wish that they would act? Perhaps you just wished they would act oblivious to the fact that you are breastfeeding in general! Or maybe your heart desires a hug and the words "I am proud of you." Take your time really painting that picture for yourself. How does it feel? Now, whatever words you wished they would say - say them to yourself.
Tell yourself that you are proud of you. Tell yourself that you are a great mom. Tell yourself that your child is in the best hands. Imagine hugging yourself. Meeting those needs inside of yourself means that those comments, looks, and actions have less pain to bump into inside of you.
It doesn't mean it will be easy. It doesn't mean you have to stay. It doesn't mean you can't ask them to stop. But, it means that whether you leave or stay, keep quiet or speak, you will be doing so from a place of confidence and peace - not stress and discomfort.