Grandparents struggle to respect parents' boundaries all the time, but this particular situation is especially eyebrow-raising.

By Maressa Brown
October 01, 2019
Illustration by Sarina Finkelstein; Getty Images (1)

It takes a village to raise a little one, but sometimes, extended family can get overzealous with their involvement. New parents might need to set certain boundaries with grandparents, and grandparents might not respect them. A wild, definitely abnormal example of this: A mother-in-law is pushing to breastfeed her grandchild, according to her daughter-in-law. The expectant mom recently posted about the frustrating situation in the JUSTNOMIL subreddit.

Labeling the post "Terrified to have my baby...MIL wants to breastfeed her," the original poster (OP), writing under the handle Immacutiepie88, shared that she's due in November, and her pregnancy has been stressful, because of her MIL.

"My biggest issues is having absolutely NO boundaries," the OP wrote. "My S.O. does not want to confront his mom ... also does not want me to do it. The last time I did—our wedding—we didn’t speak for six months; I don’t have the greatest of filters when I am pushed to my limit."

The "newest and biggest thing" she's struggling with is that her MIL wants to breastfeed her child. "She found articles from different cultures that do this and is thinking it’s a great idea," Immacutiepie88 shared. "I have told her, 'Gross, no.' My mom got involved and said no, but she is still finding articles and sending them to me about all the benefits."

The OP concluded that she doesn't know what to do. "I’m beyond done with this woman, but out of respect for my husband I am trying to keep a level head, but I’m starting to fail with my due date fast approaching," she shared.

https://www.reddit.com/r/JUSTNOMIL/comments/d9mmvu/terrified_to_have_my_babymil_wants_to_breastfeed/

Redditors were quick to jump to the OP's defense, assuring her that she has every right to refuse her MIL's request—and most put the onus on the baby's father. "Your husband needs to cut the cord and have your back," wrote Silent_Tome.

But is it safe for a grandmother to nurse her grandchild, and what are the expectant mom's legal rights? Here's what experts say.

What a Lactation Consultant Says

Illinois-based lactation consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC has served as an expert witness in legal cases for breastfeeding. She notes that the "mom has all rights to refuse anyone else nursing her baby," but medically-speaking, "it is not unsafe to have a wet nurse if the wet nurse is healthy." Anyone offering their breast milk "should be in good health, HIV negative, have no other communicable diseases, and no open wounds on the breasts," O'Connor says.

What a Lawyer Says

"A mother-in-law has no legal right to breastfeed her grandchild without explicit consent from the birth mom," notes David Reischer, Esq., attorney & CEO of LegalAdvice.com. "Any attempt to allow a baby to to breastfeed by anybody other than the birth mom would likely be considered an assault and also sexual abuse."

What a Psychiatrist Says

Psychiatrist and author Carole Lieberman, M.D. says, "The answer to the mother is: NO! NO! NO! Do not let your mother-in-law breastfeed your baby." She points out that this can lead to "all kinds of problems later on" when a mother-in-law fails to respect boundaries overall. She  might feel she is "entitled to as much time with the child as she wants and entitled to make decisions that are normally left to the mother," Dr. Lieberman notes.

The Bottom Line

While most moms aren't dealing with a MIL who is eagerly hoping to wet nurse her grandchild, this out-there situation is a reminder that it's essential to set and hold boundaries with extended family. The more and earlier on parents are able to do this, the healthier and happier they'll be.

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