10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To A Breastfeeding Mother

Friends, family members, and even strangers will sometimes offer suggestions, or give their opinions about breastfeeding to nursing mothers. Many times, although it’s meant to be helpful, it can sound more like criticism than concern. Negative advice and disapproval can be hurtful, inaccurate, and undermine breastfeeding. Here are 10 things NOT to say to a nursing mother.

1.  Are you sure the baby is getting enough milk?

Questioning a mother about her ability to make enough breast milk for her child could discourage her and cause her to lose confidence. Most women can produce a healthy breast milk supply for their babies regardless of their breast size, weight, or diet. Even in the first few days after delivery, when there’s just a small amount of colostrum, this is the perfect amount of nutrition for a newborn. You might not be able to measure the amount of breast milk a baby is taking from the breast, but there are other ways to tell if she’s getting enough milk.  As long as a baby is consistently gaining weight, breastfeeding often, and having 6 to 8 wet diapers each day, then she’s getting just what she needs.

2.  You’re nursing too much. You’re going to spoil the baby.

Breast milk is digested more easily than formula, so a breastfed newborn eats more often — about every one to three hours. Breastfeeding very often doesn’t spoil a child; it helps to satisfy the baby’s needs and establish a strong supply of breast milk. The best breastfeeding schedule for a baby is to feed him on demand, whenever he shows signs of hunger.

3.  I’ll give the baby a bottle so you can rest. One bottle won’t hurt.

Giving a bottle to a breastfed baby, especially during the early weeks of breastfeeding, is not recommended. A mother makes breast milk in response to her baby nursing and removing breast milk from her breasts. A breastfed infant needs to be put to the breast very often to create and maintain the amount of breast milk that is made. When you give a baby a bottle, it can interfere with the establishment of a healthy supply of breast milk and breastfeeding in general.

The introduction of the bottle can also cause feeding issues. The milk from a bottle usually flows more quickly than it does from the breast, allowing the baby to get immediate satisfaction. Some babies may develop a preference for the bottle’s faster flow and refuse to breastfeed.

4.  Nursing isn’t fair to your husband or partner. He can’t bond with his child.

Fathers can bond with their breastfed children in many ways. Feeding is only a small part of a baby’s life. And while dads can still be involved with breastfeeding by helping the new mom and baby get comfortable, or sitting with them while the baby nurses, they can also do things with the baby on their own. Bonding occurs when a baby is being held and talked to, during diaper changes, baths, playtime, and through the many other activities that go along with caring for a baby on a daily basis. A dad doesn’t need to feed his baby to form a healthy bond.

5.  It’s easier to give the baby a bottle.

For most women, the opposite is true. Once established, breastfeeding is much easier than bottle feeding. When a mother nurses her baby, she doesn’t have to prepare, warm, or wash bottles. When she goes out, she doesn’t have to pack a bunch of feeding supplies, and she will never have to run out in the middle of the night because she ran out of formula. Breast milk is always available at the right temperature and ready to feed the baby whenever he’s hungry.

6.  If you give the baby formula, she will sleep through the night.

While some formula-fed babies do sleep through the night at an early age, others don’t sleep through the night for many months. It’s actually the same for breastfed babies. Some breastfed infants sleep for longer periods beginning at a few months, and for others it takes much longer.

7.  Breastfeeding will cause your breasts to sag.

Research has shown that breastfeeding does not cause sagging breasts. Changes in the breast occur from pregnancy, and the preparation of the breasts to breastfeed. Even if a woman decides not to breastfeed, her breasts will stretch and possibly appear droopy as a result of the pregnancy.

The amount of sagging a woman will experience is due to genetics, the number of pregnancies, the size and shape of her breasts, her weight, and whether or not she smokes. Even for women who have never been pregnant, the breasts will eventually begin to droop as part of the natural aging process.

8.  Are you really going to breastfeed out here in public?

Despite the changing attitudes toward breastfeeding, there are still people who continue to protest against breastfeeding in public places. A mother has every right to feed her child in a public area, and most states have laws to protect that right.

9.  You’re still breastfeeding? Isn’t she a little too old for that?

In many countries around the world, it’s accepted as the norm to nurse children well into the toddler years. But, in our Western society, it’s often frowned upon. Many people believe that breast milk is no longer beneficial after a year, or that breastfeeding an older child is somehow perverted. The truth is that breast milk offers children a host of health and developmental benefits for as long as they nurse. And, the longer they nurse, the greater those benefits will be. It’s certainly not perverted that a mother would want to continue to provide all these advantages, including nutrition, security, and comfort, to her child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months, maintaining breastfeeding along with the addition of age-appropriate foods for at least one year, and then continuing to breastfeed for as long as the mother and child wish to do so. The World Health Organization and UNICEF advise the continuation of breastfeeding for at least two years or longer.

10.  You stopped breastfeeding already?

Some women get criticized because they breastfeed for what some consider to be too long, and other women get criticized for not breastfeeding long enough. Every woman, child, and family are different. Sometimes it’s just too stressful or difficult to breastfeed, pump, work, and take care of a home and family. Women who try to breastfeed but decide not to continue, or who wean their baby early, still deserve the support and encouragement that all moms need.