The following is a contributed article…
Since my friends and I have become parents, I’ve noticed significant differences in the ways we have chosen to raise our children. In the early months of my pregnancy, I didn’t it would have much of an impact on us because we had all been friends for many years. However, I soon realized that being the first breast feeder (amongst other parenting firsts) would introduce some new qualms within my group of friends.
The biggest challenge for me has been to find a way to explain why I chose to breastfeed, co-sleep with, etc. my daughter without my friends feeling as if I am implying that I’m a better mother or criticizing their parenting choices. Throughout my first year of motherhood, I found myself in this situation quite often.
So how to you defend your parenting choices without offending your friends? I set a few guidelines for myself, which have helped me get through a few sticky situations.
1. Use the word I when explaining your choice. For instance, instead of saying “Breastfeeding is the best food for newborns” I would say, “Based on the research that I did, breastfeeding is the best option for my daughter and I.”
2. Make it a point to never say anything negative about the alternative to your choice (which may very well be her choice). It can be hard to defend your reasoning without occasionally using the negative aspects of the converse choice, but if you value your friendship it is better to say, “My breastmilk is designed to meet the specific needs of my child” rather than “Infant formula is a poor imitation of breastmilk.”
3. Be sure to give your friends the opportunity to explain their parenting choices as well. I’ve always found that when my friends and I discussed a certain parenting situation everyone seemed to be more engaged and interested rather than overly defensive. This was especially true when my friend Anna asked where she could find the best crib and I brought up the idea of co-sleeping.
4. Remember to be supportive. Parenthood comes with several challenges and although you may not agree with all of their choices, giving a little support can make a big difference.
I do believe that breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers can remain friends (and possibly even become friends) as long as everyone can agree to disagree and remain non-judgmental.