Grandmothers can be a vital source of support for new moms. They can impart their wisdom and experience on child-rearing, and help out with the new baby. One mother thought she had a perfect arrangement with her mother-in-law, who watched her two-month-old son while the parents worked full-time. But during the third week of this, the mom saw her mother-in-law breastfeeding her baby on the baby monitor.
She wrote a detailed rant about the incident on Reddit, and the internet rushed to her defense.
“I don’t want my mother-in-law watching my baby after she tried breastfeeding him.”
The mom was grateful for her mother-in-law, who watched her newborn son every weekday for free. She explains in her post that she breastfeeds her baby and pumps milk for him to have during the day. She enjoys the breastfeeding experience, noting how it’s “a wonderful way for us to bond.”
However, one day the grandmother texted the mother about how the baby was crying hysterically. She explained to the mom that she might try holding him while he takes a nap. So the mom checked the baby monitor app to see if her son managed to settle down. Instead, she saw her mother-in-law trying to breastfeed the baby.
“I was shocked and horrified,” the mom wrote. “I called her right away, and she didn’t answer, so I had to sit there and watch her attempt to breastfeed my baby. He was latched on, but obviously not getting any milk as my mother-in-law is not lactating.”
She called her husband, who managed to get his mother on the phone. “Apparently, the baby was crying so hard, and that was the only thing she could think of to calm him down enough to sleep.” She had four children, and breastfeeding them always calmed them down as babies. “She was mad that I had checked the camera and told him it was an invasion of privacy.”
Because of this incident, the mom didn’t want her as the baby’s caretaker anymore. “When I told my MIL this, she freaked out and said I was being a b****, and she was just trying to calm the baby down, and it wasn’t a big deal. She says I’m taking her grandchild away from her and being unfair.” 
Breastfeeding a Grandchild Without Consent
Over a thousand people replied to the post, but most took the mother’s side. Many said that trying to breastfeed to calm down a baby is not normal behavior. Many who have minded other people’s children never even thought to do such a thing. The mother-in-law’s angry response seemed to back up this opinion, as most individuals would be embarrassed and apologize after such an incident, not be angry the baby cam was used as it’s intended to.
Additionally, the mother-in-law wasn’t lactating and could provide no milk for the baby. Using a baby bottle (since the baby didn’t like pacifiers) or even a little finger for the infant to suck on was a more appropriate option. Many people accused the mother-in-law of forcing the baby to latch to satisfy her own wants instead of actually helping the child.
The only people forgiving of the mother-in-law breastfeeding the baby sourced wet nurses or co-nursing. However, these arguments were quickly debunked since:
- Parents consent to wet nurses breastfeeding their babies, and this mother-in-law had no consent.
- Wet nurses are lactating and could provide sustenance, and this grandmother could not.
Then comes the legal side of this issue. “A mother-in-law has no legal right to breastfeed her grandchild without explicit consent from the birth mom,” says attorney David Reischer, Esq. “Any attempt to allow a baby to breastfeed by anybody other than the birth mom would likely be considered an assault and also sexual abuse.” 
The mom posted additional information in the comments section. Apparently, the troubled relationship with her mother-in-law began when the baby was born. “Since then, it hasn’t necessarily been bad, but there have been a lot of little microaggressions where she’s been overbearing. Ex. Calling him ‘my baby’ and not giving him to me when I ask her to.”
She adds that the baby cam doesn’t record; it only live-streams. Therefore, the parents couldn’t rewind the footage and see if the mother-in-law had ever tried breastfeeding the baby before.
Psychiatrist and author Carole Lieberman, M.D. comments on a similar scenario where the grandmother wanted to breastfeed her grandchild despite the parents’ protests. The grandmother displayed a lack of respect for boundaries, similar to the one in this case. Lieberman explains that allowing the mother-in-law to breastfeed could exacerbate this issue. For instance, it could make her feel “entitled to as much time with the child as she wants and entitled to make decisions that are normally left to the mother.” 
In the end, the mother decided not to allow the mother-in-law to care for her son alone anymore. “My husband and I have read through all the comments together,” she wrote in the comments. “We’re going no contact with her for a while and looking for a nanny for the baby.”
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