“My Mother-in-Law Won’t Stop Criticizing My Parenting”

I am a first-time mom, living in Spain with my Spanish husband in the neighborhood where he grew up. My MIL has been pressuring me to leave my 5-week-old with her so I can go out and do errands or have some alone time. I am exclusively breast-feeding at the moment and, frankly, am not ready to leave the baby with anyone other than his father. She has already said that she will give the baby a pacifier when I am not around and I worry that she might give him a bottle if I am not there, too. It doesn’t give me much confidence in leaving him with her, EVER, but she just won’t let up on me leaving her with him alone at her house.

Additionally, I feel like she criticizes me every time she comes around and is full of very old-school parenting advice. She insists that, if I supplement with formula, the baby will be better off and, if I got him trained on a pacifier, he would sleep better. (She even suggested putting honey on the pacifier to get him to take it). She says my nipples are too small to satisfy him. (I have an 11.5 pound 5-week-old in the 75th percentile for weight and height. Baby boy IS satisfied by my unimpressive nipples.). Mind you, she has always said unkind things to me about my body, cooking, or how I manage my household, but I was able to let them slide more than the latest attacks on my decisions as a new mom. Every time I see her she repeats the same remarks and I feel like I am constantly defending myself.

This is all compounded by my feeling like her three sons, my husband included, don’t spend much time with her and my feeling responsible over the last couple of years to make her feel involved in our lives and cared for. I usually roll with the punches with her, but my patience is running thin on little sleep and I’m not sure how much longer I can tactfully respond to her repetitive comments. Am I being too sensitive? Or overprotective? Do I keep saying no to her watching him alone, or try to leave him for a short period of time with her? Will I feel better about this when he is a little older? Help!! — Not Feeling so Patient Anymore

I can’t say that you’ll feel better about this when you’re older, if what you mean by this is your MIL’s meddling and criticism about your parenting. In fact, that may actually get worse. But what will get better – I promise! — is your overall well-being, your comfort in your role as a parent, and your trust that your child is going to be ok, even if things aren’t done perfectly. You’re only five weeks into this parenting thing and it’s totally normal, especially given your fluctuating hormones and sleep deprivation, that you’re feeling very sensitive and “over protective,” as you say.

This is your baby! Your very first baby! Of course, you want him cared for exactly a certain way, and, of course, the thought of someone caring for him in any way that is different than how you’d care for him right now gives you anxiety. That will change eventually. Your feelings toward your MIL may not change, but I do think the idea of her watching him alone and maybe giving him a pacifier (or, say, a lollipop when he’s a toddler or whatever else you might not be 100% on-board with at home) won’t be such a big deal. As you relax as a parent in general, you will relax about your MIL’s role and relationship with your son as well as about what happens to him in the world when you aren’t with him.

And, as an aside, you will probably relax on some of your own behavior. Most new parents do. What seems like SUCH. A. BIG. DEAL. when a baby is five weeks old is not a thing a couple months down the road. Pacifiers, bottles, formula? You just might find that the positive effects of those things on your family’s quality of life outweigh whatever negative impact you’re afraid they might have. (I don’t want to start a debate on these practices, but I will say I gave my son all of these from day one and, at 3 1/2, he’s pretty much the most perfect kid who ever existed, so just that anecdotal evidence should convince anyone that pacifier, bottles, and formula are FINE. Kidding! But, honestly, no damage done at all by these, and I DO really think, for our family, the benefits — my husband sharing in the feeding, my son learning to take a bottle early on so there was never any problem leaving him with someone else, having an easy way to pacify and soothe him when he was upset — were well worth it).

Anyway. It’s obviously out of line for your MIL to be making the comments she has been making and to insist that you leave your 5-week-old baby alone with her. It’s ok for you to not be ready for that. And I think it’s time for your husband to step in and communicate with his mother and to draw some boundaries. He IS her son, after all. Even if he’s typically taken a more back-seat role in maintaining a relationship with her and you’ve taken on more responsibility in keeping her involved in your lives, when you’re regularly upset by her, he needs to step up and defend you, and in this case that means talking with his mother about her behavior and letting her know that criticism will not be tolerated and, if she wants to spend time with her grandson, she will cease giving unsolicited advice.

In addition, you yourself need to tell your MIL that in time you will be happy to let her babysit her grandson — that you are so excited and happy that he has such a loving grandmother in his life and you know theirs will be a special relationship. But for now, as you are still adjusting to new motherhood, you aren’t quite ready to leave him alone with anyone other than your husband. Let her know you can’t say for certain when you’ll be ready to leave him with her but that, as soon as you reach that comfort level as a new mom, you will let her know and she will have the honor of being his very first babysitter. As long as she can understand that your feelings aren’t personal against/toward her, and that this is more about you finding comfort and confidence as a new mom, you minimize any defensiveness on her part and help create some space for a better relationship with her.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. All I can think of is if this is the LW that wrote in about being so uncomfortable with her husbands relationship with his sister.
    Several things seem to add up.

    1. The letter says that she has three sons.

      1. She does say “her 3 sons”, not “her 3 children”.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I don’t think they are the same because they aren’t all living in the same house and this family has three sons, no mention of a daughter.

  2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    As a mother who breastfed I wouldn’t leave my baby with her either. Formula is great is you want to use formula but it messes up breastfeeding if that is what you choose to do. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand type of thing so if the MIL starts feeding the baby formula the baby will breastfeed less and so the mother’s body will make less milk and that can become a crazy cycle where the baby needs formula because the mother’s body doesn’t make enough milk because the baby is drinking formula. If the MIL wants to babysit a lot then she will mess up breastfeeding.
    Neither of my kids would take a pacifier. They spit them out immediately until I quit bothering to try. A pacifier doesn’t feel like a breast and some breastfed babies won’t accept them. How would your MIL know anything about whether your son was happy with your nipples. She sounds jealous and controlling and you have to set boundaries with her now. You are the mother and you decide, along with your husband, how your baby will be fed. Your MIL gets no say in it. It is a totally different thing than give him candy after he is on solid foods, but again, it would need to be candy that wasn’t a choking hazard. She will have to understand that times have changed and that there is a consensus that some things are not good for babies and small children. Honey is out before the age of one. Would it help if you could find medical advice online or get a brochure from a doctor outlining why honey is considered bad for infants and would she disregard that information?
    The bottom line is that you are the parent and she isn’t and if she is insulting and rude to you she will have to realize that she will see less of her grandson. There is probably a very good reason why all three of her sons have distanced themselves from her and you are seeing that reason right now. She is controlling, domineering, and insulting. Allow her into your son’s life on your conditions.

    1. With you on the bottle feeding and pacifiers. My eldest only accepted a pacifier up to 2 months, my youngest refused it completely. And neither of them took a bottle.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        My son would take a bottle but my daughter wouldn’t. The other problem with the MIL feeding the baby formula is that the mother’s body will settle down to the “right” level of milk for the baby and then if the MIL feeds the baby formula the mother will be uncomfortably, to painfully, engorged. If this keeps happening the mother’s body will quit making enough milk because it isn’t being used. When the mother is ready, she can pump some milk for the baby and if the baby takes a bottle the MIL can then feed the baby a bottle of breast milk.
        My mom always said that babies should be given cereal very early or they would be hungry through the night. I think she put cereal into the formula to make us sleep longer at night. Of course, babies can’t digest cereal at that age so yes we would sleep longer because the stomach didn’t empty but I don’t think it did much for our health or our growth. She didn’t approve of me breastfeeding and she thought I was cruel for not feeding my son cereal from early infancy.
        I understand that when my kids have children they will get to choose how they are fed and it won’t be my decision. Grandparents have to realize that they aren’t the parent. If the LW doesn’t set up boundaries with her MIL she will have constant battles over all sorts of things because the MIL will never approve of what the mother does because she will be trying to exert her authority over the daughter-in-law and the baby. Partly this may be cultural. Maybe she had to let her MIL rule her life and now feels she has earned the right to be the matriarch of the family who gets to make the decisions.

      2. I am realizing how lucky I am that my mother and I agreed on a lot of parenting things (breastfeeding, cosleeping, etc).

      3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        My mom didn’t approve of any of that. I ignored her comments and did what I thought was best. I didn’t argue with her or try to point out why I did things in a different way. I didn’t insult her choices. I just ignored the advice I considered wrong for us and did what I thought was right. It helped that we live 1000 miles away from them so the comments were limited.

      4. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I wholeheartedly support a woman/family’s decision to feed their baby any way they choose/can/want and no one should interfere with that decision unless it’s a doctor for medical reasons. I will say, just for the benefit of women reading this who might be considering supplementing their breastmilk with formula, for whatever reason, it absolutely can be done and in a way that doesn’t cause as much discomfort and pain as maybe these comments might suggest. (Totally no offense intended at all!). Women’s postpartum experiences are so different. Not all women produce a ton of breastmilk, so supplementing with formula really IS sometimes the best way to go and it doesn’t necessarily cause engorgement or pain because for some women, there’s not a lot of breastmilk building up anyway. I know this from personal experience and just want to provide another perspective here.
        Breastmilk is best. But formula is a really good alternative for women/families who choose to supplement or even go exclusively formula. Having had so much trouble breastfeeding (after a breast reduction surgery nearly 20 years ago, I am unable to produce much breastmilk), I always feel like I need to defend that choice a bit.

      5. I must say I hate that anyone feels they need to defend their choice to formula vs breastfeed (or really anything else as long as the kid is being taken care of). It makes me sad that as a group, women can’t just support each other and our choices! I mean, right now I plan to breastfeed, but I’m not necessarily prioritizing it. I’ll be ok if I have to (or even choose to) formula feed. And I hate the idea that I may have to defend that decision. I’ve already had to defend my decision to go back to work after the baby to someone who basically told me that if I couldn’t afford to stay home then I just shouldn’t have kids.

      6. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I don’t think all women feel the need to defend their decisions. I don’t feel the need to defend many of my decisions, but I am sensitive about the breastfeeding one and hope I will be more gentle with myself this time around than I was before. I just happen to live in an area where it’s practically unheard of to formula feed a little baby. In my mom’s group of 20+, I was literally the only one who wasn’t breastfeeding her newborn when we all got together and I really beat myself up about it — like I was being a bad mom or whatever. But in retrospect, I can’t help wondering what it is my son missed out on that all the other babies were lucky to get with all that breast milk they got. He doesn’t seem to have suffered one iota.

      7. Our area seems to be pretty evenly split, but leaning more heavily on breastfeeding. One I get a lot of flak for is my choice of using a midwife instead of an OB. I figure if he gets here safely, who cares who I used? They have OBs at the hospital in case there is an emergency. I just see a lot of people who have to defend themselves to people on their decisions and it makes me sad. Cosleep or not, breastfeed or formula, work or stay at home (or a combo), pacifier or not, etc. As long as our kids are happy and healthy and taken care of, it doesn’t really matter.

      8. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        Exactly this. Every family has to find their own way and do what works for them. That is often found through trial and error.
        A lot of women here breastfeed at first and then switch to formula when they go back to work.

      9. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        Nobody should criticize you. You find what works for you and your baby and family and do it. I do think that those who feed formula don’t understand the way breastfeeding works and so they make assumptions that are problems for breastfeeding. It isn’t a criticism to explain how breastfeeding works.
        I think in Wendy’s case, because she had breast reduction surgery, her supply and demand wasn’t the same as the average woman. There was a physical reason why her body couldn’t make more milk that won’t apply to the vast majority of women. Formula was the perfect solution for her and she shouldn’t at all feel bad for choosing it and we aren’t trying to make her feel bad for choosing it.
        The average woman will have trouble with supply if someone is feeding the baby bottles of formula. The body will make the amount that the baby is taking. If the baby is taking less breast milk the body will make less. There will be uncomfortable engorgement, unless the mom pumps to relieve the pressure, until the body makes the adjustment to the lesser amount. The body will make make the milk and unless it leaves the body it builds up to the point it is uncomfortable.

      10. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        It’s true that my experience will differ from the majority of women, but since my breastfeeding trouble, I have met quite a number of women who also had very low breastmilk supply or were not able to breastfeed their babies for a variety of reasons (that often had nothing to do with reduction surgery). It’s common enough that I feel that sharing my experience and perspective will be helpful to some.

      11. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        There are some common reasons for low supply. One is that the mother isn’t breastfeeding long enough. Whenever the baby has a growth spurt the mother will need to breastfeed more often and for a longer period of time. If she doesn’t her body won’t make enough milk and she will have a supply problem. Also, if the baby doesn’t latch on properly the mother’s body won’t have a good letdown reflex and the baby won’t get enough milk. Most supply problems are caused by lack of knowing how breastfeeding works because our culture shifted to an almost exclusive use of formula for at least one generation. Most women don’t have anyone to ask when they are having problems breastfeeding and lactation consultants cost money and when you need information you need it now, not in a week when you can get an appointment.

      12. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        Pumping can also be another reason for limited supply. Pumping often doesn’t stimulate milk production in the same way that breastfeeding does and so the body doesn’t produce as much, maybe not enough, milk.

      13. Anonymous says:

        Lots of people get supply issues. My SIL had to pump a lot for her 3 kids and she has never had any breast surgery. I know she tried regular breast feeding a lot but must have had trouble. I’m pretty impressed with how long she pumped for it seems to be a lot of work to have to do all the bottle cleaning plus pumping (and supplementing with formula.) it does save you some money to pump instead of using formula though.

      14. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Yeah, for the money it saves alone, I wish I could breastfeed more successfully. And, honestly, for me, that’s the biggest plus for breastfeeding vs. formula. I hear so often and so much about how breast milk is far superior to formula and while I don’t doubt that it IS better, I question just HOW much more superior it really is. I don’t say this to knock anyone’s choice to breastfeed, exclusively or not; I know what a challenge it can be, how hard women can work at it, and what an admirable and beneficial thing it is on multiple levels. At the same time, I’ve known women (and have been one myself), who really beat themselves up about not being so successful at breastfeeding or really bending over backwards — sometimes to the detriment of their emotional and physical well-being and the energy and time they have to bond with their babies — to do it/ do it better, and I can’t help but think it’s maybe not as worth it as some people might argue it is. I have my own anecdotal evidence to go by, as well as studies that suggest that, you know, formula-fed babies turn out pretty great, too, and their bonds with their mothers (and fathers!) are every bit as strong as those who are mostly or exclusively breastfed.

      15. I wholeheartedly agree with this. I have three kids. #1 was formula fed, #2 was exclusively breast fed, and #3 was breast fed but had to be switched to formula pretty abruptly after we discovered he had many many very severe food allergies. All three of my kids are healthy and happy, and I’ve noticed no difference between them in terms of the breast fed child being better off or however you want to say it than the two that were given formula. When #3 was switched to formula I endured so much criticism from everyone (think strangers in stores and such), and the consensus among these people was that I should have tried to just eliminate his allergens from my diet and carried on. Never mind that the pediatrician and the nutritionist had cautioned me that it was next to impossible, or that it was easier to determine his allergies and troubles if we removed the variable of my diet from the equation.

        For my babies and for me, breastfeeding was great when it worked, but not superior enough to be worth my sanity when it didn’t.

      16. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        @sturk, but admit it, you like the kid who was exclusively breast fed more, don’t you?

      17. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        ^ come on, that was funny! ^

      18. Hahahaha. I’m so excited about the famous Addie Pray answering me that I needed a minute!
        And it’s funny that you say that, because my exclusively breast fed child is also my most mischievous. I spend my life keeping her from injuring herself and others. It’s exhausting.

      19. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Hahaha, oh go on you. (Go on.) Well shoot that blows my theory! Or maybe it’s too soon to tell. Maybe what we should do is wait until your kids are old and gray and then decide who turned out better. And we can conclude how they were fed as babies determined the results. That seems like a good plan!

      20. Sounds like a plan to me. They’re 9, 2, and 1, so we have a ways to go!

      21. Anonymous says:

        I would not let your MIL have the kid alone until the kid is past 1 year. She doesn’t seem to respect your (very rational and not extreme) views and choices and I would worry that she would expose your baby to honey behind your back. I wouldn’t worry too much about pacifiers and formula, the baby would very likely reject it (mine cried for hours when dad tried to give a bottle at 4 months and I wasn’t there.) but since honey could literally kill the baby, just say no (and you can be very nice about it but maintain that it’s no.) It will establish a boundary, which sadly it looks like you will need with this grandma.

      22. Sue Jones says:

        I breastfed my son for THREE YEARS! If I hadn’t cut him off (on his 3rd birthday, no less) he probably still would be breastfeeding at almost 12. And my mother and MIL who came from an era when only “poor country people” breastfed kept trying to interfere and suggest that I give him cereal and formula at 2 months…etc. They were from the Mad Men era when there were no carseats and mothers smoked and drank during pregnancy! Sometime you just need to assert yourself and ignore well meaning advice from those who have different philosophies. Once your baby is an energetic toddler you can bring your MIL more into the loop so that you get well needed breaks, and believe me, you WILL need breaks then!

      23. Monkeys mommy says:

        I agree. I gave all three of mine formula and two of the three are honor students and the third (who isis doing things 1st graders do. I’m a full time working mom, and it sucks that there are parents out there who want me to feel my decisions are not the best for my children. I am the breadwinner of my home; trust me, my kids want me working, even if it means taking a bottle and formula!

      24. Neither of us were bashing formula. But, every time a letter liket his comes up there are several comments “one bottle won’t hurt”. But it is true that some babies will simply refuse to take a bottle.
        I know I was terribly lucky to stay at home with the girls until they had started on semisolids. And to have a mother closeby willing and able to look after them (and respect my choices), and I also know a lot of women aren’t as lucky as I was in that respect.

      25. And, in this case LW is choosing to exclusively breastfeed. Why is that wrong?
        I really don’t feel I was being judgy with my comments. I simply stated the facts, in my case.

      26. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Is this directed at me? I didn’t say exclusively breastfeeding babies is wrong! Actually, I said that breastmilk is best. And I didn’t say anyone was being judgy at all — just maybe giving perspective that doesn’t apply to all women in their postpartum period and i wanted to provide a different one for any women who might be considering supplementing with formula.

      27. No, not at you. But there are some comments that LW should get baby used to a bottle. And, like I said, in every thread where this comes up there are similar comments.
        I get that this is a difficult subject for all involved. And it does suck that people feel they have to get defensive over the choices they make. Or sometimes it isn’t even a choice.
        I think I’m just going to not comment anymore on parenting threads.

      28. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        If you are breastfeeding there may be no need for your baby to get used to a bottle. This is one of those areas where each family finds their own best solution. Some will need their baby to take a bottle and some won’t.

      29. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        Your experience is as valid as that of anyone else!

      30. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I think that when many women go back to work they do a combination of breastfeeding and formula. Maybe one breastfeeding in the morning, formula through the day and then one breastfeeding in the evening. The mother’s body will adjust to that and make just enough milk so that the supply is perfect for that situation.
        The problem is that when a woman is exclusively breastfeeding and someone keeps feeding the baby formula the mom will have too much milk each time that happens because her body doesn’t know that someone is going to choose to feed the baby in a different way. If the MIL babysat the baby every afternoon and fed it a bottle of formula every afternoon the mother’s body would adjust to that level of demand. In this case it just isn’t the MIL’s choice what the baby is fed.

      31. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Oh, I totally hear you on how formula would mess things up for a woman who has chosen to EBF. And there is NO JUSTIFICATION at all for anyone forcing formula on a baby whose mother/family has chosen to EBF (unless, as I said, it is medically advised by a doctor). In your comment earlier though, you said: “Formula is great if you want to use formula but it messes up breastfeeding if that is what you choose to do.” I didn’t think this was specifically directed to the LW, or necessarily to solely anyone who exclusively breasfeeds, but if it was, then I apologize for misunderstanding and please disregard comment. It seemed to me like is was kind of a general statement, like anyone who breastfeeds will find that the introduction of formula, even with the intention of supplementing as a choice, is going to mess things up. And in case any other woman read it like that, I just wanted to provide the perspective that that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, rather than mess things up, supplementing with formula is a very helpful and necessary tool in feeding one’s baby and making sure she or he gets the nutrition it needs to thrive. Again, I realize that doesn’t apply to the LW specifically bc she has made clear she is exclusively breastfeeding, but I wanted women who might be open to/considering supplementing their breast milk with formula to know that doing so doesn’t mean their breastfeeding will be messed up or that they will be in pain, etc.

      32. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I wasn’t clear. I was talking about a woman who is choosing to exclusively breastfeed. Women find all kinds of combinations that work for them specifically and that is great. It is the MIL interfering in what the LW has found to work for her and her baby that isn’t great. The MIL slipping in a bottle of formula here and there would be a problem for the mother and if the baby doesn’t tolerate the formula it would also be a problem for the baby. If the baby had problems tolerating the formula the MIL would probably not see it unless it caused immediate projectile vomiting and she might insist that it was causing no problems because she wouldn’t be around hours later when the problems were happening.

      33. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I agree with you!

      34. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        I can’t wait to try breastfeeding. I have a feeling I’m going to like it. (Ask me if I do later.) I hope I’ll be able to do it, that my kid will be able to get enough milk doing it, and that it won’t be too hard to keep up with the pumping while I’m back at work. But if I can’t or I just choose not to, I doubt I’ll feel bad about it (and I don’t think anyone should!). But maybe I will? (Ask me if I do later.)

      35. TippyTooToo says:

        Breastfeeding definitely has a steep learning curve at the beginning, but now that I have been breastfeeding for 8 months I love it. And honestly, one of the biggest reasons is that breastfeeding let’s me be kind of lazy. I don’t have to shop for bottles and formula and remember to get more when I run out. I think I would go crazy if I had to wash bottles all the time and always have a clean one on hand. I pump while I’m at work, and just that much extra to clean is a pain! Also, I breast feed and cosleep which means all I have to do is roll over and feed my baby. So in my experience breastfeeding makes my life a little easier and I love that aspect of it as much as the bonding and health/nutritional benefits.

      36. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I too found that there was a steep learning curve for breastfeeding. It was hard to do until it got easy and then it was very easy. I loved not having to clean bottles or carry them around or worry about mixing formula when out because the bottles couldn’t be kept at the right temperature for long enough. I loved not having to get out of bed to feed the baby in the night.
        I have never seen why a mother would bond better with her baby by breastfeeding. Bonding is bonding and it is based on love and interaction and both moms and dads bond with babies.
        The two things I most appreciated about breastfeeding, besides always having it available, was that it doesn’t cost anything and my children were super healthy. My son was sick for the first time as he was turning two. He didn’t have colds or the flu or need to go to the doctor for anything but well baby visits. My daughter needed one trip to the doctor for an illness during her first two years. It is so much easier day in and day out to take care of an infant that isn’t sick. It is easier to not need to go to the doctor and financially it is nice to not need to buy medications or make copays.
        I think both breastfeeding and formula have their pluses and minuses and each family finds the pluses that are the most important for them.
        So AP, if you want to do it I hope it works for you. Don’t be surprised if it is hard at first. It seems like it should be so naturally easy but it isn’t.

      37. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Did you find there was a steep learning curve with each kid (like, both you and the kid had to get adjusted) or with subsequent kids, after you mastered breast feeding with the first, you were able to do it sooner with the next kids?

      38. Not that you were asking me, but I personally had a horrible time with breastfeeding with kid 1 and wasn’t able to, had a tough time with kid 2 but got through it through sheer force of will, and kid 3 it was cake (until I had to stop but that was his allergies, not because of any difficulty).

      39. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I think that in this specific case, with this LW, she mentions no problems with breastfeeding and in her case there is really nothing to be gained by the MIL trying to force formula. Until you try formula you don’t know whether your baby will tolerate it. You don’t know if it will cause problems. I know people who have gone through various formulas because the baby couldn’t tolerate them. I know one mom who said they bought the baby’s formula and then ate Kraft macaroni and cheese themselves because almost all of their grocery money was spent on the formula that the baby had to have. Probably the baby would tolerate it fine but why push it when the baby and his mom are doing great the way they are. For this family this decision is working. It is the MIL’s nagging that isn’t working and I think that is where the real focus should be. It would be an equal problem if they were feeding the baby formula, and it was working perfectly for them, and the MIL kept making comments about her poor grandson who wasn’t being raised right because the LW was too lazy, stupid, selfish, etc. to breastfeed. The problem is the critical MIL.

      40. Alright, I’ll bite because everyone is saying that the MIL wants to supplement with formula. Granted, I haven’t had a baby… but I’ve been around a lot of new mothers who have breastfed and who needed to go back to work. Instead of supplementing with formula, they pumped and then when baby was at day care or with nanny or wherever, baby still had breast milk and mom’s supply was fine.
        Now, I’m NOT saying the LW needs to do this. I just wanted to point out that there is a possible third option to be considered if the LW, or any mother, can’t stick to a strict breastfeeding schedule.

      41. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        This works for many moms. The biggest help in this situation is having a place to pump at work, the time to pump at work, and some way to store the milk until mom gets home.

      42. Yeah, I know there are a lot of factors to consider. I mostly wanted to mention that as an option in case the breastfeeding mom really couldn’t be around baby for all his or her feedings, but also didn’t want to go to formula. I’ve known several woman who had to go this route because they had to go back to work after the three months, or whatever horribly short pregnancy leave a lot of U.S. companies have.

      43. TippyTooToo says:

        You are so right Skyblossom, and if I were the LW this is exactly what I would want to hear! There is absolutely no need for the LW to supplement. If she wants to or needs to then that is a different story.

  3. WWS. One note: please stand firm on the honey issue. Babies under one year of age CAN get botulism from honey. It’s potentially deadly if not caught early, and the treatment for it is expensive and tedious. I’ve seen several babies at the hospital where I work who got botulism from honey because their parents didn’t believe the medical advice regarding honey. Not everything doctors say is equally important, but the no honey rule is very significant.

    1. And there needs to be a clear boundary on the things that are now known health hazards that weren’t known back in the day (e.g. no honey before 1, sleeping on their backs etc.). Those aren’t a preference thing, they’re a safety of your kid thing. If your husband alone, or both of you talk to her, you can frame it in a “safety of the child way”. My mom took a grandparenting class here that updated the info, is there something like that available for her? Or maybe an online presentation your pediatrician could recommend?

      Good luck LW, and congratulations on your new little person =)

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      The problem is if she sees the information and has the attitude that we always gave babies honey and they are all fine and healthy. I’ve seen my own parents make these comments. It is like the comment, we never had seat belts and we survived. The trouble is that those who didn’t survive aren’t here to say we had no seat belts and it killed us.

  4. judge sheryl says:

    While maybe the things the MIL wants to do are tame in the long run, the thing that would worry me is the lack of respect of the MIL for the opinions of the mother. The parents of the child should call the shots… and while sometimes something a grandparent does might not be always the explicit preference or pre-approved by a parent, complete and utter ignoring or defiance of a rule is not cool. What if the child develops an allergy, but the grandparent doesn’t think it’s real (true story). Set precedent now, or else no alone time.

    I think the LW should have her son speak to his mother and set rules. One way to ‘test’ her compliance it to invite her over while you are home so you can clean (with 2 hands!) Read a book or take nap. Once she completes these successfully maybe you will feel better about leaving her alone with your baby for an hour or two.

    Also, pumping is your friend. . Allows baby to get experience with a bottlle, and detaches you for at least one feeding, and still gets baby essential mama’s milk. If you can get your MIL on board with respecting your parental boundaries, a few hours out can be a huge refresher.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Yes. This is about establishing the parents as the decision makers and the MIL as the loving grandmother. I can’t think of a worse way to approach babysitting a grandchild than constant insults of the mother of that child.

  5. I don’t think this is an issue about whether it is okay for a baby to have a pacifier, bottle, or formula. The LW has chosen a different method of parenting her infant and the MIL needs to respect that. To me, this goes beyond grandma giving a child a lollipop when mom doesn’t let him have lots of sugar. The LW is making hopefully educated decisions about what she feels is best for her child. Maybe in the future she will re-evaluate her decisions based on her needs and her child’s needs, but she should not have to do that to pacify her MIL. It is a trust issue. If you cannot trust your MIL to follow your parenting methods, it is understandable that you wouldn’t want to leave your child with her even if she was a way nicer person. I tend to feel that the person whose family it is raises the issue initially, so your husband should speak to his mother. He needs to have a conversation with her privately and if she continues to criticize you, he needs to speak up immediately. If that doesn’t work, you and he can discuss how you handle it forward. Preventing a grandparent from seeing their grandchild is a huge deal and a final step.

    1. Oh, one more thing I found helpful with the different baby-raising philosophies – I told both my mom and MIL that I was doing exactly what they did, following the doctor’s/medical community’s advice, it was just that the nature of the advice had evolved over the years.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I like this. It compliments them and says you’re doing what they did but in a different way.

  6. I dunno, I’m not a mom, but I see the MIL’s reaction as being at least partly due to her fears of being not needed, not useful, marginalized, left out. Especially since her sons seem to be drifting away. She was important in her son’s life, and then you came along, with your different ways of doing everything. And now she’s got a grandson (her first?), and she feels pushed away. None of her advice is being taken, it’s treated as antiquated.
    When she was growing up, I bet that grandmothers were VERY involved in their grandchildren’s lives. Mine were. They were my only babysitters. They taught me how they cooked, and how they gardened, and how to knit and crochet and sew and embroider. There weren’t all the worries about honey and formula and pacifiers back then, either. She might have been looking forward to the kind of relationship she had with her grandmother.
    I’m not blaming you, LW, not one bit. Her behavior is over the line. But you have two choices here – cut her out of your lives, or figure out how to manage her. And if she is feeling left out and un-valued, a little reassurance and inclusion might go a long way towards making things better between you. Don’t do things you’re uncomfortable with, but try to find ways to let her spend time with her grandson, and try to find some advice that you can take, and thank her for. Ask her questions about her own childhood, and how she raised your son.
    Or maybe she’s just a controlling witch, I don’t know. 🙂 But this is at least something you can try.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I think this is at least partly cultural. At the same time I know that if she approached the LW in a more positive way she would get more time alone with her grandson. If she told the LW that she was a great mother she would get a lot further than she does with all the insults. I think that she likes to insult, that is who she is because that is what she turns to as a method of control. She will have to learn that the insults will no longer work.

  7. I’m not a mom, so I don’t know that I could necessary give advice to this letter. But, I would be curious to hear advice from those living in Europe (or really outside the US?). It sounds like the LW isn’t from Spain, and I’m wondering if some of the MIL insistence to watch the baby are cultural?

    I know I have seen with friends/co-workers from other countries a heavy involvement from the grandparents the first few months up to a year in taking care of the baby. If this is similar in Spanish culture, then maybe it is just a cultural mis-understanding.

    Either way, I think the LW should still sit down with the MIL (and her husband whom she should talk with first so they are a united front) and talk about involvement. Like someone said above, maybe telling the MIL that in the future she would love the help, but right now she is enjoying this time together with her new son.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      My husband is from Europe, not Spain but England. My MIL has never been insulting of my parenting. She had a basic respect for the mother child bond and knew that the parents are the parents.
      I think part of it is cultural and part is this specific MIL and her approach to the LW. She sounds like a bully.

      1. I agree – I don’t think her comments are appropriate. Maybe the critical comments (which it sounds like started even before she became a new mom) also need to be addressed. I was speaking only from the desire to want to watch the new baby.

  8. I didn’t have the luxury to be picky. I was back at work 6 weeks after my son was born. I am fortunate enough to have my MIL and my mom as my son’s caregivers. My MIL’s style is WAY different than mine. In the beginning when I had an issue with something I would bring it up to my husband and if it was something we felt strongly about he would bring it up. His mom=his problem. My mom=my problem. You have to pick your battles. Not everything is worth it in the long run. Unless his parents are abusive, or doing something to put the baby in danger it is best to let them bond with their grandbaby. Having someone watch your baby for a couple of hours (or in my case 20 hours a week) will not significantly change how your baby and you bond or how you chose to parent. It’s a learning curve for everyone (your MIL included). My MIL did cut my son’s hair without permission and I was furious, but now 10 haircuts later I can laugh about it.

  9. Laura Hope says:

    Your baby, your rules. Period. If you set boundaries, she’ll fall in line. This is her grandchild and she needs to be in your life. Personally, I wouldn’t put up with her bullying. I would be civil and respectful to her and demand the same from her.

  10. Avatar photo something random says:

    I don’t have too much to add. I really liked Wendy’s response. But I feel for you, letter writer! Some grandmas have very strong cultural-based expectations that daughter/ in-laws should be highly reverent and respectful in listening to grandma’s unsolicited opinions. That’s what they had to put up with when they were mothers. And they probably feel they did okay if you went on to marry their son. Modern mothers usually have a very strong expectation of being fully in charge and having their authority 100 % respected. Moms now feel strongly they should no longer have to stay sweet and be submissive or pretend to care about the advice of other women in the family.

    My thoughts are you are being about as sensitive as a lot of new mother’s I’ve known. You have the same uncertainty about being protective as a lot of new mothers I’ve known. If you don’t want to leave your baby, then don’t. Things will get easier because in time you will see for yourself how resilent and adaptable babies can be. The longer you parent and see good results, usually the confident more you feel (and then a new phase starts :)). You will be less terrified of making mistakes after you make a few and everything is still okay. So the stakes won’t feel as high. But, my guess is that if you continue to harbor resentment towards MIL it won’t just go away on its own. If it were me I’d make my husband talk to her, I’d let him know that all the advice and judgment wasn’t working for me. I’d tell him he needed to run interference with his mom. Basically, her harassment/loving advice would be primarily his problem to buffer and shut down. There may come a time when grandmas advice doesn’t feel so intrusive and you are very grateful to get some time with your husband. In the mean time, kindly deflect and try not to let insecurity eat at you. You sound like you are doing very well with your new baby. Congratulations.

  11. TippyTooToo says:

    LW, I know where you are coming from. I had a good relationship with my MIL before my daughter was born. But once I had my daughter, I couldn’t stand my MIL. She did little things here and there that just really got under my skin, but honestly my dislike is probably a little overblown. I think it’s hormones and maybe just feeling protective of my kid. I do know that a lot of my friends have described going through the same thing. Luckily, my MIL lives very far away and we only visit twice a year. In your situation, just try to ignore the comments as best you can, and maybe let her come over and watch the baby while you are home. I too felt a lot of pressure from friends and family to get out of the house and leave my baby, but in those first few weeks and months I had zero desire to leave her. People need to understand that you and your baby are a package deal.

    I think that Ani Nani said it best. This is a trust issue. I really hope that your MIL can earn your trust, because once your baby is a little older there are times that you will absolutely need and want someone to watch your kid. Good luck to you and enjoy these early weeks and months with your baby.

  12. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

    This sounds a lot like cultural and generational differences. Taken from that perspective I think one of the best ways to handle this mom, especially in Spain is to have the song speak with her directly on how the couple wants to parent and set that boundary early on.

    Also don’t discount your MIL completely—you are only 5 weeks in to this parenting thing–my guess is by 6 months, 8, 1.5 years old you are going to be very grateful you have someone so close willing to help out with any and everything baby-care related.

  13. Bostonpupgal says:

    LW, your baby, your rules. I think Wendy is spot on in saying that your husband needs to have a talk with his mother about her behavior. Some of this may be cultural, and she probably means well, but telling you she will go against your express wishes, and outright insulting you, is not ok. I think it would be helpful for you to start shutting down conversations with her when they veer into hurtful words or being a broken record. When she says your nipples are too small, or anything else about your body, you say “Mother in law, it hurts me when you say that about my body. My body brought your amazing grandchild into this world. I don’t want to hear negative talk about my body anymore “. If she continues, then you cut the visit/phone call/whatever short. You say “I’ve asked not to have this conversation with you anymore, thank you so much for stopping by/the phone call/whatever, but it’s time for me to be alone. I’ll see you another day”. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The next time she insists you let her watch the baby, say exactly what Wendy suggests. Then, when she inevitably asks again, say “I’ve already had this conversation with you. Nothing has changed.”, then bring up another topic.

    I also think it’s ok if you stop feeling that it’s your responsibility to involve your mother in law in your lives. It’s taxing you and making you resent her. Maybe invite her over or do things with her, make phone calls, whatever, about half as often as you are now. Ask your husband to step up and spend some time with her. Having some space will make it easier to be around her when you do see her. When you do see her, ask her advice on some small baby matters. Even if you don’t take it, she will love being asked. Praise her for the things she does well and how loving a grandmother she is. And, again, when she’s rude, insulting, or insistent just shut the conversation down and cut the visit short, she will learn quickly not to say those things anymore.

  14. I’m obviously not mature enough to be married or have a baby, because my first reaction to your MIL criticizing your nipples is “My son is doing just fine with my nipples, and YOUR son is more than satisfied by them”.

  15. Seriously? Seriously! says:

    I may be wrong, but it might help to consider that MIL’s suggestions of leaving the baby while the DIL takes some TLC be motivated by affection and sympathy for the DIL, rather than just ignoring boundaries. I don’t have a baby, but basically 24/7 with an infant for 5 week straight (it seems like dad works full time, but DIL is at home with the baby for the time being), in a country that is not her own, seems a little intense, and a few regular breaks may actually do the DIL some good.

    Yes, the MIL’s comment suck. And i have no idea why MIL would basically say “please leave your child with me, I promise i will disregard your child-rearing choices” , as it seems especially ineffective, in addition to being rude and inappropriate. But the repeated suggestions might not be “not letting up”, but rather, reiterating that she is willing to take on a fairly important and significant duty of babysitting the infant. If I saw my sister running herself ragged with a new baby, I would repeat that I would happily babysit every time I saw her, because her refusal might be because she doesn’t want to inconvenience me, or be a bother, or “it’s not that big of deal, I’ll shower and sleep eventually”, or she thinks she needs to be supermom and that good moms never leave their children with anyone other than a parent. I would repeat my offer basically until she took it, or I saw that she was taking time for herself, just not leaving the baby with me. So, the MIL might see a little better than the LW that the LW is running herself ragged trying to be the perfect exclusively breastfeeding, non-pacifier-using organic supermom, and the MIL might be trying (unsuccessfully) to get the DIL to give herself a break.

    And notice: the LW says that the MIL has said she’ll give the baby a pacifier, but the LW is scared that she’ll also give the baby a bottle — the MIL hasn’t threatened that. I’m not sure that that is as valid of a fear — I might give a baby I’m watching a toy or blanket or pacifier without asking the parents, but I wouldn’t like, buy formula, and bottles and sanitizer, and follow the directions and give it to the kid — it’s just so much work and so weird to do against express wishes. I could see that the LW might be scared that the MIL is like, a loose canon who doesn’t care what the LW wants, but that’s just so… involved, it seems unlikely that the MIL would undertake it.

  16. dinoceros says:

    I liked Wendy’s response. I know there’s a lot of debate above about whether a baby should get used to a bottle or not, whether the LW should leave her baby with someone else, etc. My thoughts are that it can be an evolving process. A mother who chooses to exclusively breastfeed may find that it’s not realistic that she’ll never go anywhere without the baby or something may come up, like getting the flu or having to be on some sort of medication. Certainly, it’s every woman’s choice, but it’s helpful to be aware of the alternatives that Wendy talked about because a person can’t predict whether their parenting decisions are going to stay unchanged for a whole year.

  17. I disagree about letting MIL give a bottle or pacifier for the “positive effects on the family”. An exclusive breastfeeding mother has every right to remain just that for as long as she and her baby want; the only other person who deserves ANY input on this is Dad, but NOBODY else. Although any method that works to feed a baby is great, for the mom who wanted to and is able to exclusively breastfeed, any other option usually feels inferior, and being pushed into it by your MIL is wrong. As a previous commenter mentioned, it can also mess up your feeds. As far as babysitting a 5-week-old… no way! Especially when she refuses to go by Mom’s rules. My LO is almost 17 months, still breastfeeding, and has never been babysat for more than about 10 minutes. I realize that’s not for everyone, or even possible for everyone, but it is ideal for us and I will not be pressured to change those things before my family is ready (and believe me, my MIL is trying!).

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