15 Things NEVER to Say to a Breastfeeding Mother (and how to respond if you cop these)
When you have a baby, it seems every random stranger has an opinion – and they will share it willingly.
How you feed your baby is a hot trigger for unwanted comments so maybe you can print this out and share as your own personal FAQ when they offer their unsolicited two cents worth.
1) So, how long are you going to be doing ‘that’ for?
“And how long are you going to be asking questions that are none of your business? “
This is your baby, your breasts and nobody else’s business. Chances are, this question will be asked (with more disgust than curiosity) if you happen to be breastfeeding a baby older than a few months. Smile and look a bit vague as you tell them, ‘we really love breastfeeding so we will be doing it as long as (baby’s name) is happy to keep on sucking.”
Or you can pretend you have completely misunderstood any intended malice and say, “probably a few more minutes.”
2) Once you stop breastfeeding your baby will sleep better
“Are you sure? Because if he doesn’t I won’t be able to just whip a boob in his mouth and go back to sleep. “
You can tell whether this person genuinely cares about your wellbeing if they have brought you a casserole or are offering to do an overnighter or not. Babies wake for all sorts of reasons however they are fed and those reasons (think teething, separation anxiety, sickness, food allergies) don’t go away just because you wean. It’s better to try and address the reasons your baby is waking before you ditch the easiest solution (a boob) if your baby does wake.
3) Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable if you covered yourself while you breastfeed?
“Do you really mean, if I cover myself up you will feel more comfortable?”
How inconvenient of your baby to get hungry when you aren’t at home. Do these people think you should stay barefoot in the kitchen now you are a mother, just in case your baby dares to feel peckish? Sorry folks but women kinda need to go out and do things. Besides, it’s good for their mental health and it’s even better if people are kind to new mothers and give them a high five or offer to bring them a drink while they feed their baby. A baby cant duck to the fridge and grab a snack so his right to breastfeed trumps other people’s needs to feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable seeing a baby breastfeeding in public, you can throw a blanket over YOUR head!
4) How do you know your milk hasn’t gone off?
“Goodness, can that happen? (Look shocked as you say this!)”
Mama, you are making fresh milk and it comes in sterile, airtight containers ready on demand for your hungry baby. It’s not going to go ‘off’ any more than it will curdle if you bounce around at the gym.
5) He’s just using you as a dummy
“Why do you think it’s called a dummy?”
A dummyis a fake boob, not the other way around. Breastfeeding is about so much more than ‘food’. It’s comfort, connection, sensory stimulation, brain food and a wonderful immune boost for your baby (as he is exposed to bugs the transfer of his saliva to your breasts will signal your amazing body to make antibodies to these bugs and he will step up feeds to boost his immunity). So your baby could need to feed longer and more often if he is tired, hungry, sad, sick or coming down with a bug - or a stack of other reasons. He can’t exactly explain why he needs a boob, so trust your baby and ignore this stupid comment.
6) Doesn’t he even eat baby food? “I rather thought mother’s milk was baby food.” Your milk is baby food, specially tailored to your own baby’s needs, it changes from feed to feed, day to day to support your baby’s growth and development. However, the person asking might be quite gob-smacked to hear that your baby is happily growing on breast-milk alone, especially if they are from a generation that fed their babies mush from just a few weeks old. The thing is, if babies were meant to eat food besides milk before they could sit up and chew, they would have been born knowing how to operate a blender.
7) I don't want to see ‘that’ while I am eating.
"Well shut your mouth while you chew then, because I don't want to see ‘that’."
This was actually said by an angry woman to a mum feeding her three month old baby in a shopping centre food court. The poor mum says, “ this was only my second time feeding in public. Now my milk supply has dipped because I felt so scared and upset.” It’s a legal offence to discriminate against a woman breastfeeding in public but of course a mum with a baby usually feels far too vulnerable to tell some old bat to get stuffed or to jot down her name and number to report her to the anti discrimination folks.
8) There is no goodness in your milk after (three months, six months, 12 months, whatever…).
“My baby doesn’t seem to think that – look at his thighs!”
Breastmilk doesn’t have a ‘best before’ date: however long you breastfeed or how much breast-milk you are able to give your baby, this magic potion made by mums is like medicine. It helps protect your baby against nasty bugs from coughs and colds to tummy bugs: breast milk is like a daily vaccination against every bug your baby comes in contact with: it is a living fluid containing healthy bacteria, antibodies, white blood cells, antimicrobials and cell wall protectors and proteins that offer protection against bacteria and viruses.
All this ‘goodness’ is still there, whatever the age of your baby: Immune factors in breast milk increase during the second year of your baby’s life just as your baby is becoming more mobile and mixing socially with more people and, according to a well known study (Dewey 2001) “Breast milk continues to provide substantial amounts of key nutrients well beyond the first year of life, especially protein, fat, and most vitamins.”
9) If you give him a bottle, other people can feed him
“Even at 3 am?”
People who tell you this may be genuinely trying to be helpful but whether they expect you to express so they can give your baby a bottle or whether they think it would be easier if you weaned your baby, it’s not helpful. If you have to express and wash pumps, tubing and bottles, why would you bother unless you were going to be separated from your baby? And where are all the people who are sitting around waiting to feed your baby, anyway? If friends and relatives want to bond with your baby, they don't need bottles –they can bath your baby, play with your baby, wear your baby, take him for a walk , rock him to sleep or give him a massage while you have a shower, take a nap, or have a hot drink- uninterrupted!
10) Is he hungry again?
“Hell I don't know but there aren’t any calories in the fingers he’s sucking on.”
Way to make a mama doubt her milk supply – question how often she’s feeding her baby. The thing is, you don't need to count feeds any more than you count how often you kiss your baby. You can’t over feed your breastfed baby – she will determine the consistency of the milk she gets by how she sucks. For instance on a hot day she may feed more often but she will have shorter feeds to just quench her thirst; if she’s hungry, she will suck for longer so she gets more of the fat rich hind milk. To reassure you that your baby is getting enough milk, see this checklist by IBCLC Pinky McKay.
Whether your baby is hungry, thirsty, tired or upset, if she is seeking the boob, stick to the mantra ‘if in doubt, flop it out.’
For the most effective strategies to boost your milk supply download our FREE ebook 'Making More Mummy Milk,Naturally' by Pinky McKay IBCLC lactation Consultant
11) I had plenty of milk but it wasn’t rich enough
"That’s really sad you believed that. Somebody must have given you some poor information."
Oh mama, please don’t let this little gem bother you. Women used to be told this because compared to cows milk (which used to be fed straight to babies) breast milk does look watery. It can also look watery compared to formula. Remember it’s human milk, not cows milk. It will look different.
If you are feeding your baby directly from the breast, you don't know whether your milk is watery, fatty, thick or thin but if you express it can look different depending on the time of day, what you have eaten or whether you have expressed before or after a feed. Regardless, your milk will be perfect for your baby. Believe in your boobs and trust that your milk is perfect for your baby.
12) Mooo (especially when mum is expressing).
Just don’t! What an insult – you are a human superwoman, milk goddess, not a damn cow!
13) Wouldn't it just be easier to give her formula?
“How can formula be easier than this? “
If breastfeeding is going well for you, put the ball back in their court. You don't need to waste your energy explaining your choice about how you are feeding your baby. Chances are, if you get on your high horse and start explaining the benefits of breastfeeding, it will end in an argument or somebody feeling defensive. If you are struggling with breast-feeding right now and you feel undermined, you could point out that you are trying your best for your baby, convenience isn’t your priority and a little bit of support would be helpful.
14) Breastfeeding takes too much out of you
“Just milk (said with a vague expression)”
Seriously, being in charge of a baby 24/7 is exhausting, it’s got nothing to do with how you feed your baby. At least when you are breastfeeding you get to relax and sit or lie down several times a day. While you are sitting on the couch or lying on the bed breastfeeding you are burning calories, reducing your risks of breast and ovarian cancer along with heart problems later in life. You are most likely delaying menstruation (some unlucky women do get periods early, others not for a year or longer), so you are helping rebuild your iron stores after growing and birthing a baby.
If you are feeling depleted, have your iron and thyroid levels checked, eat healthy foods, especially breakfast, exercise and rest when you can to help maintain your energy levels and enjoy this precious time.
15) What, have you stopped breastfeeding already?
“Bugger off! “
Your boobs, your baby, your business. You are doing a great job, mama!