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Here’s why I will never force my kids to hug anyone

My responsibility is to my children, first and beyond everything else. It is my job to help them stand up for themselves, and to stand up for them when they can't.

Here’s why I will never force my kids to hug anyone

It's a familiar scene—one that I've been in a thousand times, as a child and now as a parent.

We're finishing a lovely dinner and evening with family or friends. Our cheeks are all a bit flushed from wine and laughter, our bellies are full, our hearts are happy. And then someone leans over to one of my children and says, “Give me a big hug goodbye before I go!"

He takes a few unsteady steps backwards and says, shyly but surely, “I don't want to."

And then all eyes are on me. The relative longing for an affectionate moment with this little person they love so much, looking to me to say, “Go ahead, honey. Give her a hug!" And my little person, with tentative eyes looking up at me for guidance and protection.


Without fail, I take sides—the same one each time. “It's okay baby, you don't have to give her a hug."

It gets a little awkward. And that's completely okay.

This simple act which could be viewed as a rude annoyance to the affection-seeking relative, is actually a major stand in my parenting—one that I am proud of and one that I encourage every parent to consider.

My responsibility is to my children, first and beyond everything else. It is my job to help them stand up for themselves, and to stand up for them when they can't.

They trust me more than anyone in the world. I am not going to defy that trust by insisting that they do something that makes them uncomfortable.

I actually feel immensely proud of them when they decline a hug. It takes a lot of guts to stand up for yourself—in general, and especially to slightly intoxicated Aunt Sally.

I want to show them through my actions that they are allowed and encouraged to speak their mind and protect themselves for things that make them nervous.

They are supposed to test limits with me. They practice talking back to me. They practice lying and breaking rules with me. And when they practice saying no with me, I need to do everything in my power to applaud and encourage them.

“I'm the boss of my body."

I must say this 243 times a day. Usually it's because my 3-year-old is insisting that he sit on my 2-year-old's head, or because my daughter is insisting that she demonstrate on my face that jelly really makes a really pretty eyeshadow.

"But mooooo-oooom, it's strawberry!"

"Who's the boss of my body, honey?"

"Ugh you are." Huff, sigh, storm off.

But the reason behind this statement's omnipresence in my house is so that it becomes a deep inner-knowing that no one tells them what they have to do with their body—ever.

We hear over and over again how important consistency is for children—it applies here too. It's way too confusing to teach them, 'You can't hug your friends at school if they don't want to be hugged, but you do have to hug Aunt Sally when she tells you to.'

Because no means no. Period.

It means no when I say, "No you can't touch the stove." It means no when your sister says, "No you can't keep tickling me." It means no when your first girlfriend says, "No, actually, I'm not ready yet." And it means no when you tell your relative that you don't want a hug.

This is the message. There is no room for grey area here.

It makes me nauseous to consider, but the truth is this:

Statistics are such that it's likely that one of my children will find themselves somehow in an uncomfortable situation involving their bodies. I won't be with them when it happens.

But I'm with them now, and I am going to make it count. And maybe, somewhere in the depths of their subconscious they'll hear my voice, find the strength to say, "I'm the boss of my body," and have the ability to walk away.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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