My Mother-in-Law Has Feelings About My Breastfeeding Decisions... WWYD?

By Lauren Tetenbaum

Welcome to Babe’s newest advice column, featuring guidance from perinatal mental health and relationship expert Lauren Tetenbaum (AKA The CounseLaur). The information herein does not and is not intended to constitute mental health, medical, or legal advice. Please contact your healthcare provider if you have specific needs, the Maternal Mental Health Hotline for on-demand support, or 911 for emergency assistance. Want to submit a question? Email

Q: My mother-in-law has “FEELINGS” about the fact that I’m not breastfeeding. How do I keep myself out of jail but explain to her politely (or semi-politely) that it’s not her business?

A: Welcome to motherhood, where everyone will have an opinion about what you do or don’t do for your family, and you need to learn to listen to your gut and tune out the noise. You owe no one an explanation about your child-rearing choices, as long as they are safe and made with your co-parent if you have one. And if that co-parent’s mom has something to say? Well, she can try to be helpful and then back off because you, new mama, have no time for haters.

In all seriousness, this is not the time to be concerned with how you are perceived by others, including parents or in-laws. It’s the time to focus on yourself – including your healing and growing family. Maybe you’re not breastfeeding because you find it tedious, or it hurts, or it’s affecting your mental health – or you simply don’t want to (but if you do want to and are struggling, consider getting help from a healthcare professional like a lactation consultant).

Fed is best, whether through nursed breastmilk, pumped milk, formula, or some combination. Remind yourself that you are taking care of your baby in the way that works best for you. And remind yourself that your MIL presumably wants the best for your baby, her precious grandchild, too. It sounds like she’s not expressing herself in the most thoughtful way, and that’s frustrating. But you’re right; your decision whether to breastfeed is not her business.

Setting boundaries in line with this value is easier said than done, I know, yet it would serve you well to not worry so much about being polite or disappointing anyone. Try to make clear with direct language (or via your partner, who should step up here) that while you appreciate her suggestions, you’ve made your decision. Your body, your choice. Your baby, your choice. Good luck asserting yourself, and know that your Babe community has your back!