Who is that breastfeeding my kid?This headline caught my eye because, as I'm sure is the case with most of us moms out there, the image struck horror deep into my soul. Relationships between daughters- and mothers-in-law are complicated to begin with, so imagine the territory war that would be triggered by such a situation as this.
A mother wrote into Emily Yuffe, aka Dear Prudence, at Slate, after discovering her mother-in-law 'nursing' her two-month-old son in the middle of the night. Her husband wasn't home, and she ordered her mother-in-law to leave the house first thing in the morning and even considered calling the police because she was so upset by what had happened.
Yuffe thought that calling the police would have been going too far, as it isn't a matter for law enforcement, but the mother's disgust is certainly justified. Yuffe writes, "The fact that this letter is about your mother-in-law's nipple is enough to give anyone feelings of morning sickness. New parents get into all sorts of hassles with the grandparents over different styles of raising the kids... Your husband needs to have a very serious talk with his mother about boundaries - emotional and physical."
Read More: Are You Comfortable Breastfeeding in Public?
This grandmother's understanding of her role in both the child's and parents' lives is not clear, though it would be interesting to hear her perspective on it. Does she view breasts as easy pacifiers, a convenient way to calm a screaming baby in order to give its exhausted mother a break? Does she feel some longing for the days when she nursed her son, or, if she didn't, does she just want to try it out?
What this grandmother doesn't get is how sacred breastfeeding one's child truly is. Nursing mothers know well that it represents something much more powerful than a necessary transfer of nutrients; if it didn't, many of us probably wouldn't bother doing it. Because breast milk is meant to come from only one person, anyone else's nipple in a baby's mouth would feel like a invasion of very private territory, not to mention how confused a baby would be by not getting any milk.
I hope for the sake of this family that daughter- and mother-in-law are able to make their peace, though I imagine an incident like this is not forgotten easily.
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