Things *not* to say to a breastfeeding mama…

Here at The Mother Side, we are both still breastfeeding. As the girls are now over a year old, this is classed as ‘extended breastfeeding’. We’re not sure why it needs this label – things don’t suddenly change after a year, and both the NHS and the WHO recommend feeding to two years (and beyond).

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It’s safe to say it’s been a HUGE learning curve for us both. During pregnancy, we were both of the opinion that we’d feed if we could but wouldn’t put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Fortunately, the rest of the tribe also breastfed for various lengths of time – 5 weeks, 9 months, a year, and three of us are still doing so. Thus, we had a little support network, along with great online groups (such as La Leche League MK and Breastfeeding Mums in MK), a fantastic NHS antenatal class, and incredibly supportive husbands.

Along the way, we’ve had some odd and frustrating comments, often well-intentioned but actually anything but! We’ve also heard of others, ranging from the bizarre to the downright rude and unsupportive…

Visiting a breastfeeding mama? Here are our tips for not making a boob of yourself (sorry, we couldn’t resist)

Aren’t they too old for that now? You’re going to damage them psychologically, you know.

Thanks for your advice but I’d rather listen to the World Health Organisation’s advice. I have a hunch they know what they’re talking about. If extended breastfeeding leads to psychological damage, every generation until the 1950s would have had serious problems!

Feeding AGAIN? They can’t really need it?

Born 11 days apart, one of our girls feeds roughly 8 times a day; the other feeds once or twice – before nap and before bed. If we have more babies, they will also have different requirements. We’re both ‘baby led’ so they feed when they need to.

You had a c-section/traumatic labour? You probably won’t produce enough milk to breastfeed.

My body will produce enough milk, it might just take a while longer to come in. In the meantime, colostrum is all my baby needs – their tummy is the size of a cherry!

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They’re just using you for comfort.

Not *just* for comfort… for nutrition AND comfort. Isn’t that what being a parent is all about?

I think you should stop at six months.

Jo had this from a family member when P was about a month old. It seems odd that so many people have a time in their head when they think breastfeeding should stop. Often, this is due to poor information about the nutritional value of milk and a lack of understanding about the benefits of long term feeding…

You feed them to sleep? You’re making a rod for your own back.

No, I’m feeding her to sleep and then she sleeps well. If she wakes, I’ll feed her again. One day, she’ll stop; I’m pretty sure no parent has ever gone to University with their teenager because of that ‘rod’ they made. We’ve found that this is a favourite comment of the elderly.

They’d sleep better if you just give them formula.

Maybe, because breastmilk digests far faster than formula. My baby drinks what they need and then stop, rather than being given a predetermined amount. However, I don’t have to get up and spend time making a bottle… I feed, we both go back to sleep, without moving out of a nice warm bed. Night time milk also contains maternal tryptophan, which sends sleep signals to baby, helping them establish their circadian rhythm and understand night from day.

They’re not satisfied; your milk isn’t enough for them.

Newborns feed almost constantly. It doesn’t last long. If they’re having a normal number of wet and dirty nappies and are gaining weight well, they’re getting exactly what they need. Unless they’re losing weight or appear dehydrated, I am doing just fine.

You’ll stop when they’ve got teeth though, right?

Nope. They just learn to suck differently. Whilst some babies can bite or clamp, this is usually avoidable by changing position, rubbing anbesol on their gums before feeding or, if they’re really struggling, giving Nurofen 20 minutes before a feed.

Eurgh, I think breastfeeding is so weird.

That’s because we live in a society where breasts are seen as sexual objects. God forbid they’re actually used for their biological purpose. Maybe do a bit of research into it…

Breastfeeding in public is gross. You should cover up.

Really? Eating in public is weird? Maybe you could eat under a tent or head to the toilet whilst you tuck into that sandwich. Mmmm, enjoy!

It’s not really fair on your husband though, is it?

It depends if you think my husband is an idiot who doesn’t understand the actual reason for breasts.

He is fully supportive of what I’m doing for our baby; we are a team. He bonds with her in other ways – he babywears, he does bath time every night – feeding is only one part of raising a baby!

You can’t express? You don’t have enough milk.

Absolute rubbish, but one of the main reasons why mothers stop feeding. The amount you pump is not an indication of supply – some women never express a drop!

Your boobs are mine.

A friend’s partner said this to her, whilst her mother told her she HAD to breastfeed. She was caught between the extreme opinions of the two people who should have been supportive of HER decision.

You can’t breastfeed if you’re going back to work.

In America, many women return to work after six weeks and pump milk whilst there, in order to keep their supply up and produce milk for their baby. Thanks to better maternity rights in Britain, many women don’t return until much later, often meaning that their baby will simply feed in the morning and at night

You MUST breastfeed.

An important one to end on. Nobody needs this kind of pressure. Just like my friend who formula fed both her babies from birth and was told by another ‘friend’ that she thought it was, “disgusting that you didn’t try to breastfeed.” Most opinions are unhelpful to new mums generally – think before you comment, even if you believe it is well-intentioned.

The BEST thing you can do is say nothing, or take a genuine interest. Ask how nursing is going. Bring water and flapjacks (or hobnobs – oats are good for milk production!). Do not pass judgement but offer a friendly ear if needed. Try not to stare (this does happen!) and, if you see someone feeding in public, smile! It will put them at ease.

Come on then… What the least helpful/oddest/funniest thing you’ve had said to you whilst breastfeeding? Or have you been on the opposite end and had unhelpful comments about choosing not to, or not being able to breastfeed?

The Mother Side xx

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9 thoughts on “Things *not* to say to a breastfeeding mama…

  1. I constantly get comments made because my little man gets recurrent bronchiolitis and I’m breastfeeding, so they say can’t be that good if he’s still getting poorly, my formula fed baby has never been ill. This is due to his VSD, which gives him a weakened immune system. He has never been hospitalised with bronchiolitis it’s usually a few bad days and that’s all because of the milk helping him recover quickly. It’s just the usual attack by the formula fed. That or at least with formula you can see how much he’s having, you have no idea with breastfeeding…. sigh I find formula feeders to be the really pushy one sadly. Loved this article though very true.

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    1. Hi Charlotte. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it. Sadly, there seem to be pushy folk from both camps, who either speak without thinking or seem intent on making mamas feel pants. There will always be exceptions – some FF babies don’t get poorly and, of course, there are some BF babies who do, but the statistics are very clear and, as you rightly say, who knows how much more poorly your little one would be without the antibodies in your milk tailored just to him?
      Thank you so much for taking time to comment – it means a lot to us here 🙂 xx

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  2. I was told by my health visitor my family must be so proud of me that I’m breastfeeding. I thought it was little strange as my family would be proud however I fed my 7wks old. I’m so for breast and the first 4wks where hard and glad I got through it, had loads of support but just found this comment a little strange thou maybe me being over sensitive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That does seem an odd comment! It sounds like it came from a good place but was delivered in the wrong way 🤦🏼‍♀️
      Glad to hear you had lots of support – so crucial in those early days/weeks xx

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