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Photo: Anna Bondarieva
Mother’s situation: Wedding Invitation. No children!
My best friend from school days is getting married and has invited me and my husband to her wedding. The invitation, however, is not extended to my six-month-old son. In fact, children are expressly excluded, with mention of babysitters at the nearby hotel.
My son is still breastfeeding frequently and I’m not at all happy at the idea of leaving him with anybody at this point. I have tried to explain this to my friend, but she clearly does not understand why I don’t want to be separated from him and she was noticeably hurt and offended.
I value our longstanding friendship but equally cannot contemplate leaving my child with strangers to go to the wedding. How have other mothers coped with a similar dilemma?
What I’m hearing is that you are torn between your desire to be at this very important event and your desire to keep your baby with you at all times. This is a very tough spot! First of all, be kind. Be kind to yourself and be kind to your long-time friend. If you haven’t already, tell your friend how very much she means to you. Tell her that you will do everything you can to try to attend. And then, do exactly that. If you can find a way to have your son close by and cared for by someone else, and you’re comfortable trying that, great! If not, you can honestly say that you’ve made every effort to be there. When my son was that little, we either took him with us, or we didn’t go. But I didn’t find myself in the position you are in here, which is unquestionably difficult. Kindness will help you get through it. And this will pass.
Judyth Stavans, Yorktown Heights, NY, USA
I’m currently in a similar situation with my seven-week-old, but my friend was nice enough to allow my daughter to come. I’ll be wearing her in a wrap, and most likely nobody will notice she’s there. We’re only going to the reception, so maybe that’s an option for you? Maybe your friend would be more willing to have your baby at the reception, where any crying/fussing would be easier to hide under music and fun.
Tama Lunsford, Tecumseh, Michigan, USA
I had this scenario when my baby was just five weeks old and I was still trying to get the hang of breastfeeding. Our friend’s wedding was at a nearby hotel, so my husband and I rented a room. I breastfed our baby in the private, comfortable hotel room before the ceremony, and my parents watched her during the ceremony and reception. I excused myself once after dinner was served to check on her and feed her again. It worked out great for us.
Needless to say, I was super tired and by 9 pm was ready to say our goodbyes. My husband and I went to the room, collected our baby, and “stopped” by the reception room, where all our friends were thrilled to see our new baby, including the bride and groom and, in the end, were happy that we had brought her. My husband and I drove home to sleep in our own beds that night, and we let my parents enjoy the hotel room at the resort as a “thank you” for coming and watching our little one for us.
Jenna, Norton, Orlando, FL, USA
I totally understand this because I went through it when I was nursing a nearly two-year-old (and my family was fairly annoyed with my “ridiculous” behavior nursing an older child). The wedding was in the evening, a few hours’ distance from home. The invitation requested no children under 13. I wanted to go so badly! My whole family would be there, many whom I rarely see.
I emailed the bride with my RSVP, “I am so excited for your special day and I completely understand your desire to have the reception as you choose. This is your day and it will only happen once. I am so sorry that I can’t come but Joslyn would be very upset with me leaving her for that long. She’s never spent the night away from me and is not ready for that amount of separation. Please share your photos ASAP! I really want to see your dress and flowers!”
In that way, I made sure to validate her feelings as the bride and to communicate that I truly wanted to be there, that it wasn’t an excuse to miss the event. This is my second child and I am definitely more assertive about how things need to be in my life. With my first, I’d have lost sleep over this decision.
I hope you find peace meeting your baby’s needs before those of others. I know it can be hard sometimes!
Anon, Jackson, OH, USA
At six months old a baby will likely suffer intense separation anxiety. The world can be very intimidating, especially if he’s left with unfamiliar caregivers. I would decline, send a lovely gift, and hope for the best.
Jenifer Sanscartier, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
I am writing from the perspective of an exclusively breastfeeding mother who had an adults only wedding herself.
I understand that you do not want to be separated from your baby, because of that, I recommend either leaving your baby with your husband for a short time and attending the wedding or reception, for only as long as you are comfortable, or skipping it all together. The bride likely made the “adults only” distinction so that there would be no hard feelings if some children were allowed and not others. They may have reached the end of the venue’s capacity or their budget. Please do not burden the bride by asking her to make an exception. She has plenty on her plate and so do you!
Lindsey R Saint Paul, MN, USA
Maybe you should gather some photos of women wearing their babies in beautiful carriers and enjoying formal occasions to show to the bride. Perhaps if she has a point of reference for how well a baby could fit into the event, she might be more willing to allow you to bring the baby.
When people tried to get me to do things without my daughter, I always just explained that she was an extension of me at this point, and we could not exist separate from each other. If she couldn’t come, I couldn’t either.
Jay Mcmillen, USA
When my sister-in-law got married, I didn’t go because I have a three-month-old, exclusively breastfed, baby and I could not imagine traveling for six hours plus with her. The stress would have been too much for us.
Simone Nelson, USA
I can understand her hesitation to have children present if the ceremony will be long, and a baby or active child may cause disruption. It’s a bit unfair to expect a small child to sit through it too. Some people think time away from your baby is a welcome break, not understanding that it can be difficult for many reasons—ever had your milk let down and leak when a baby starts crying, even when yours is miles away?
You could choose to bring along a grandma or aunt, for instance, to watch him nearby and feed him expressed milk, and return to him immediately after the ceremony. After you explain to your friend, she might empathize with your baby’s need for his mother and your need not to be separated from him. She may allow him at the reception afterwards?
Adrianne Silvester, USA
I couldn’t leave my child with babysitters whom I hadn’t personally vetted, especially if the bride who appointed them doesn’t have children of her own. My daughter was nursing every two hours at six months, so I’d have been able to go, but only for a couple of hours and only if my husband (or someone my daughter knew well) was able to watch her somewhere nearby.
If you don’t go, know you did what you thought was right and know that she may struggle with understanding that. It’s OK, your parenting decisions won’t be understood by everyone, all of the time. As parents, we have to do what we think is best and let the rest of the world “kick rocks,” as my husband would say.
Mrs. Lee Patterson, MSW, USA
My husband and I recently attended a wedding without our primarily breastfed, bottle-refusing eight-month-old daughter. My parents lived ten minutes’ from the venue, so my baby was not given to strangers.
To get her to eat without breast or bottle, I began introducing solids around six months of age, as well as drinking from a cup, spoon, and straw. She does not like much in the way of solids yet, but I wanted my mom to be able to feed her something.
I took advantage of our proximity to run home during cocktail hour, nurse my daughter, and made it back for speeches.
I addressed her separation anxiety by spending more time at my parents’ place with her in the run up to the wedding. Then I practiced leaving the room for longer periods of time. We talked regularly via webcam so she wouldn’t forget my parents in between. The night of the wedding, I brought her favorite toys and books so she would have familiar items to distract her.
I knew my daughter would have trouble going to sleep for the night without me. Our bedtime ritual has always included breastfeeding. I also thought it would be rude to leave the wedding before dinner. So for two weeks before the wedding, I began to adjust her bedtime, as late as 9 pm. My friend understood I would have to leave right after dinner and reminded me I could always return for dancing after putting her to bed. I told him I would if she was sleeping through by the wedding, but unfortunately she still needed to nurse every few hours.
All in all, we were only separated for about three hours. It took a lot of planning, but it was worth being able to be a part of my friend’s big day. It taught me I can do things apart from the baby, and trust her to be able to handle being apart from me!
Linda Duke, Willowbook, IL, USA
One, is to just explain to your friend that you cannot attend the wedding. She chose the guests and you have to make your choice about going or not. You can explain that it isn’t something you’re comfortable with given your son’s age, and offer to get together with her before or after the wedding to celebrate. Send a nice gift and card and then let it go. She doesn’t understand now, but she might when she has kids.
Two, if you really want to go, bring along a trusted family member/friend to babysit and put her up at the hotel with your baby. Pump and leave bottles. Look at the schedule, often there is a long break between wedding and reception (for pictures), so you could return to the hotel to nurse your son between the two events to minimize your time away. You also don’t need to stay late at the reception dancing the night away.
Your friend is still in the stage where everything revolves around the bride, while you are at the stage where everything revolves around the baby. It is hard to find balance, but whatever you do, make your decision and move forward, confident that it was the right one for you.
Deirdre St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
A friend of mine experienced a similar dilemma when our children were nursing, and I helped her out. Our family stayed in the hotel where my friend’s husband’s company was having an awards banquet. We babysat her nursing infant in our hotel room, and she was able to slip away from the banquet to check on her baby and nurse.
This was before text messaging, and we still made it work! Now in the age of cellphones, a trusted babysitter can text when your baby needs you.
If it puts a strain on the friendship, well your baby is the priority!
Judy Hendrickson, Frederick, Maryland, USA
My best friend from high school days is getting married too and my son is four months old. She expressed the wish that children were not to attend. I was pregnant when I received her invitation to be maid of honor, which means a lot to me. I want to be there for her.
After Luca was born, it became obvious I couldn’t leave him at home. I told her how important it was to me that he could come. We have always been like family and weddings are family events. Thankfully, she agreed and so Luca will be sitting with my boyfriend, quietly I hope.
Deanna Mullins, Catawba, North Carolina, USA
Never feel guilty for choosing your child above all else: it is not only your privilege but your duty.
Sirena Edenfield, Denver, CO, USA
I just went to a wedding at which children, even “babes in arms,” were expressly excluded. Our friends were among the last of our group to marry and most guests invited had kids ranging from a few weeks to eight years old. One mom had her parents care for her baby in the parking lot (it was a pretty field and not asphalt, but still…) and she popped out now and then to nurse.
We solved our issue similarly. My son is just two and still nurses at night. The wedding was too far away so that leaving him with grandma and grandpa, even for the evening, was not an option, so we got them a room at the hotel and I was back by 9.30 to get my little guy to sleep.
It’s possible you could help her understand, while you completely support her choices for her special day. She might then consider a “babes in arms” exception to permit children who cannot yet walk at the wedding. Stress this isn’t to show special treatment to you but because it’s impractical for many families to leave babies behind, even for a few hours. Some whose babies regularly attend day care find this a non issue, but babies who are not used to other caregivers or rely on breastfeeding are stressed when away from their parents and mom is also stressed away from her baby. If she doesn’t understand your perspective, don’t hold it against her for not allowing babies at the wedding and if she’s a good friend she won’t try to make you feel guilty for not coming.
Elisabeth Epperson, Bellingham, WA, USA
I just helped out with a wedding last weekend. One of the flower girls, an 18-month-old, spent a good deal of time screaming out, “Nooooo!” during the vows. That was my child, and my very flustered husband was doing everything in his power to keep her happy and quiet. In our case, children were welcome and everyone thought it was funny. Our children, however, are not half as endearing to others as they are to us and we have to keep that in mind. It won’t be the end of the world (or a good friendship) if you don’t attend.
Meghan Lodge, South Georgia, USA
When my son was six months old and we were similarly invited to the wedding of a dear friend, I told her, “I love you and want to be at your wedding but I simply can’t leave the baby for that long. In the end, I have to choose him.” A few days later she sent out an email saying babies under a year were welcome (apparently I wasn’t the only parent who couldn’t leave their babe!).
Kate Magill Robinson, DC, USA
My sister said no babies at her wedding. I had a one-year-old who was barely eating food. We had a sitter in the basement of the church for her and my cousin’s three-year-old. It worked great. The hard part for me was that my bridesmaid’s dress had dozens of little buttons … up the back!
Dandelion, Kentucky, USA
I had a similar situation and brought my mom along to the hotel, and nursed before and after the ceremony and before the reception, then several times during the reception as well. I left earlier than most guests, but the bride didn’t notice by that point.
Kara Erdman, East Longmeadow, MA, USA
As much as your friend wants you to be there, as a bride, she can’t please everyone. If the wedding is within an hour’s drive, ask a family member to join you to care for the baby. If you are unable to do this, send a thoughtful gift.
Stefanie Rosenzweig, Rye Brook, NY, USA
When we got a wedding invitation that excluded children, right after our youngest was born, we were torn because it was a very close friend. We tried to explain how a baby is different than a two-year-old but finally realized a child-free couple can’t comprehend what they haven’t been through yet. We ended up bringing Grandma who held the baby in the foyer during the service. Then I nursed her, went through the reception line, and headed home. We didn’t get to party but we were able to meet our daughter’s needs and see our friends celebrate their big moment.
Amber Ziring, Portland, OR, USA
While everyone’s baby is the most important person in the world to them, the qualifier is “to them.” Gracefully decline, send a nice gift, and be friends for life.
Audrey Lind Lessinger, Kenilworth, Illinois, USA.
Try not to be offended by the notion of no children allowed, especially if your friend doesn’t have children herself and/or hasn’t breastfed. With my first son, I was not confident breastfeeding, and caved in to other’s wants far too often. Now with my second, I have found a new confidence and have politely turned down many invitations. Pumping isn’t an option for me as it takes me too long. This is a short time in your life. If you don’t feel able to leave your baby, don’t. I know it’s hard to tell the people you care about “no,” but the stress to you both isn’t always worth it. I’d send a gift, best wishes, and advocate for yourself. It gets easier the more you do it.
Rachel Mendenhall, USA
As a breastfeeding mother myself, I think that it would be a good idea to tell the bride that you respect her decision for her day. This way you can repair your friendship. However, you should also let her know that your baby needs you in an important way right now, and that making her wedding will not be a possibility. She should respect your decision, just as you respect hers. This may be a test of your friendship, but respect goes both ways.
Tiffany Rose Williams, Merced, California, USA
It’s hard. My best friend from college got married recently. My baby was two months old and had never been away from both me and my partner. Thankfully we had some very good friends in the area who watched him for a couple of hours. We couldn’t stay long and I feel like I missed out, but I was thankful I could at least attend a part of it. I encourage you to be honest about how you’re feeling and just do what you know is best. A good friend will ultimately understand that you are always a mama first.
Sarah K., Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Weddings are traditionally family occasions. I attended one with my three-week-old breastfeeding infant. Unfortunately, modern society is out of touch with the importance of including children and the concept of extended family. These special celebrations of love are wonderful examples for our older children to witness and experience some of life’s greatest rewards and provide examples of possibilities for their own lives.
Patti Guzman, Rockland County, NY, USA
I went to a wedding when my little one was five months, and no children were invited. I was happy to have an adult night out. I pumped my milk and lined up her grandpa to babysit. I foolishly figured I would be okay to just feed her right before I left and when I got home. HUGE MISTAKE! I was really uncomfortable and wound up having to express in the bathroom while wearing a dress. If you decide to go, I recommend taking a hand pump or a car adaptor and making time to pump.
Jessica Russell, Campbell, CA, USA
By being loving and firm, she will know where you stand and can make her choice. Some friends stay through the changes and others don’t last. Do what’s best for you and your baby.
Wendy Dewall, Brooklyn Park, MN, USA
If you can get a family member to go with you, get a hotel room and sneak out for feedings, that way you don’t upset your friend or your little one. Then you will not feel guilty. Good luck!
Melissa P., Pipersville Pa, USA
I just had the same thing happen and I decided not to attend the wedding. The bride was very understanding and although I’m sad about not being able to be included in the fun and celebration, I just couldn’t imagine how it could have worked well and been worth the travel and all the expense for the chance that my baby girl or I ended up in tears by the end of the night. They are entitled to have the wedding of their dreams, but it just doesn’t work for our family at this stage.
Tara L. Norwood, MA, USA
When my son was five months we attended a wedding. The groom and his wife-to-be were both in their forties and the bride had three grown-up children of her own. I think it was for that reason they were more sympathetic to our situation and thankfully invited our son—he was the only baby there! I am a slightly older mum and was not previously a ‘baby person’ so I would most likely have adopted the same hurt and offended view as your friend, if it were my big day. Maybe she had a big party atmosphere planned and wanted you to be at the center of it. I might say something like, “This little guy’s timing! If only he’d arrived a few months later then I could have partied all night with you.” Reassure her you would have loved to. Having put yourself in her shoes, I’d gently try to make her aware of your situation, “When these little people arrive, a lot changes, it might look all diapers, feeds, and hard work from the outside but my instinct to take care of this guy is really important to me.”
Taking care of him means being there. As mammals go, humans are pretty helpless at the start, so from that perspective it’s not so strange! Babies don’t realize they are separate beings, so it really is a big deal not to be with mum. Our son napped plenty. He was awake for the reception drinks to meet everyone and slept through the ceremony and meal. Then was awake for the disco later, so people were excited to cuddle him. We stayed pretty late, just letting him sleep in the pram when he drifted off after a feed, then involving him when he woke up. We were relaxed, so he was, and we all had a good time.
Lorna Smith, London, UK
“I love you and wish you the very best of fun on your wedding day. I hope your marriage is full of shared joy. The greatest joy in MY marriage right now is the amazing baby I made with my husband. Breastfeeding my son and (together with my husband) being available to him as much as possible during his first year has brought great meaning to our lives. We are everything to him, his source of love, food, comfort, entertainment, and security. I know you will understand that’s why we are unable to attend your wedding. We do not begrudge you a day and night of adult fun and indeed we hope you have a fabulous time and dance the night away!
Please know that we will be thinking of you and will love seeing pictures and hearing stories about your special day. We hope this gift will help you a little bit in building a happy home for a long, laughter-filled marriage.”
Elspeth Hetrick, Burlington, MA, USA
Could you maybe stay the night at the hotel where the wedding is? At my cousin’s wedding my husband and I took turns being upstairs with my older two and attending the wedding and reception. If that’s not feasible, then I’d send a gift and take the happy couple out to brunch when they get back from their honeymoon.
Annemarie Brusca, Port Saint Lucie, FL, USA
At a wedding without my baby, I left way too many bottles of expressed milk because I had no clue how many ounces he needed. Grandma babysat and he drank and slept. Hubby and I went to the car mid-wedding and I pumped, and again on the ride home. I had a car adaptor for my pump. This worked for me, do what works for you, and if pumping won’t, try to just go to a part of it, as an hour away from your little one is a lot different than a whole night.
Michelle Kelly Merhottein, Bethlehem Township PA, USA
As much as you may love and value your friend and her friendship she doesn’t realize that a sitter with a bottle cannot meet your son’s most basic needs in the way that you can. At six months he is just understanding that you are a separate person from him and being away from you would be quite distressing for both of you. Send her a gift and be with your baby.
Genevieve Ratti, Apex, NC, USA
I am in the same position. A good friend is getting married and asked me to have a larger role than I first anticipated in the wedding. Perhaps you can explain to your friend the issue with leaving a breastfed baby for so long. I know that before I became a mother I didn’t understand the all-encompassing nature of breastfeeding, so don’t blame your friend for not quite getting it. Personally, I don’t think a loud wedding reception is a place for a baby anyway.
Stephanie Bihr, Boca Raton, FL, USA
Our lives change after children. As responsible parents, we always have to take our childrens’ wellbeing into consideration: that usually means we will miss events we didn’t ever think we’d have to.
Maloup C. Viana, San Diego, CA, USA
If she truly cares for you and values your friendship, then she’ll understand, and get over it if you skip the wedding. When she has children of her own, you’ll be able to laugh about the situation together.
I’m still breastfeeding my 12-month-old. Tonight is my wedding anniversary and it’s literally the first time I’ve done anything without my baby, other than run to the grocery store and, even tonight, it was hard to leave her.
There’s NOTHING wrong with putting your children first. Don’t let anyone else make you feel guilty for being a good parent.
Keli Keely, Dallas, TX, USA
Mother’s new situation: Pumping on the road
I work three days (sometimes four days) a week as a traveling sales representative and during that time am on the road or visiting different stores. I am breastfeeding my five-month-old son and need to pump during the day. I’m having to use my car or public bathrooms to pump my milk. Can other mothers who have had similar challenges suggest ways to best organize how to keep doing this? I really do not want to switch to formula milk but am finding things difficult, particularly with regard to my lack of privacy, milk storage, and general sanity!
Please send your responses to Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org by December 5th or comment below.