Be gentle but firm. Blaming your pediatrician ("Our doctor says to wait to start solid foods") might take the heat off. You can also smile wanly and chant, "This is what works best for us. This is what works best for us," over and over again. Eventually, they'll get the message and leave you alone -- till next time.
Handling Grubby Mitts
Lani Holgersson of Maplewood, New Jersey, remembers her first outing with 3-week-old Lailah (which happened to be my birthday party. Whoops.) "Your sister had a cold, and she sat right next to me," Holgersson grumbles, adding that she immediately fled to my bedroom, where she and the baby hung out.
In my defense, though I'm sorry my friend missed the party, Lailah did not catch her first cold at my house. Believe it or not, newborns are fairly robust. While no one wants a stranger in the grocery store poking his microbe-laden fingers into her child's face (it feels somehow like a violation, though the baby probably doesn't mind), a sniffly toddler in the checkout line is no reason to flee the premises.
Still, sometimes strangers get too close for comfort. Says Carlin, "People are nuts. In our Realtor's office, a crazy lady came at my sleeping three-week-old shaking a giant keychain and yelling, 'Wake up, baby!' Other people have tried to touch her without my permission. An icy glare can work; I'm also holding in reserve, 'Please don't. She's going through a phase -- when strangers pinch her cheeks or touch her feet, she throws up all over them.'"
Wearing your baby in a front carrier or sling may help; even people who love to pester infants will often hesitate to invade your personal space to do so. "I'd pull the sunshade way down on Milo's car seat when I carried it around, so that she was invisible," says Nelson.
Holgersson got the jump on potentially germy visitors to her house by making sure she was always holding Lailah when they arrived. "They'd have to ask to hold her, instead of just swooping her out of her bassinet. 'Sure,' I'd say. 'But would you mind washing your hands first?' I had my next line -- 'Because the doctor says it's a good idea' -- all ready, but I never had to use it."
'Have You No Shame?'
Nursing babies are like ticking time bombs -- any mom who ventures out for more than a couple of hours will eventually have to pop out her breast away from home. Sure, you'll try to breastfeed in a public bathroom the first few times, but it's such an unappetizing experience, eventually even the most modest among us tend to throw caution to the wind and bravely nurse wherever hunger strikes. But how to do so with confidence?
Pearl Yu, who works as a lactation consultant in Menlo Park, California, and nursed her daughter Avery, now 8, in dozens of unorthodox locations (including a blimp!), advises moms simply to practice. "Find a peaceful, child-friendly location, like the children's room at the library or a mothers-only playgroup. The more you nurse in public, the more comfortable you'll feel," she says. A nursing top or well-placed blanket can also help you feel less exposed.
Know that to most people, a quietly breastfeeding baby is practically invisible. "When Jack was two months old, I nursed him right at the table through a dinner party," says Hale. "I felt very self-conscious, but you know what? I found out later that everyone else just assumed he was sleeping in my arms the whole time."
What if a stranger pipes up and tells you, "You should nurse that baby somewhere else"? Yu suggests trying to sweetly deflect the comment. "Smile and say something like 'Yes, isn't she cute? She's such a happy baby.'" If the person persists, politely remind him or her that your legal right to breastfeed in public is protected in every state. Then do your best to ignore the person.
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