By: Teresa Finocchio (Guest Blogger)
Breastfeeding is a natural, beautiful and simple way to feed your baby. But, let’s be real…many breastfeeding journeys do not start out even close to any of those things. The first three months of my breastfeeding journey were extremely hard. From a bad latch and jaundice to a full body allergic reaction, to thrush and mastitis, to sore, cracked nipples and posterior tongue tie! We saw it all.
And we made it.
Is your wife, friend, daughter/daughter-in-law, sister, etc., struggling with breastfeeding? She will definitely need your support – but here are 10 things NOT to say to her.
1.) “Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.”
Dealing with the pain of breastfeeding is both emotionally and physically difficult. We know that it should not hurt. We sometimes feel like our bodies are letting us down or that we are letting our babies down. We understand when it hurts, something is not right. We do not need to be reminded constantly that our bodies are wrong, because they are not. Breastfeeding does hurt. It hurts many women for many different reasons. So, what you can say instead of “breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt” is, “I am sorry you are having such pain breastfeeding – there has got to be a reason, let’s contact a lactation consultant and get to the bottom of this so you can start feeling better!”
2. “I think maybe your nipples are too big.”
Or too small. Just stay away from commenting on mom’s nipple size, please. We are already emotionally a wreck as we are trying to perfect this special bond and we do not need to feel as if our bodies are physically wrong. No nipple of any size will stop a baby from breastfeeding! If the mother thinks her nipples are the wrong size, she can check with her pediatrician or OB about this being the problem. We are not as comfortable as we look with being constantly topless around our daily visitors in the beginning, so don’t make this any worse than it is for us! If you really think the nipple is the problem what you can say instead of commenting on the size or shape of mom’s nipple is, “I believe they sell something called a nipple shield that helps the baby latch well – would you like me to run out and get you one?”
3. “What have you eaten lately? Maybe the baby doesn’t like the taste?”
Most of us breastfeeding moms are educated and informed on what to eat and not to eat while breastfeeding. Telling us our babies may not like the taste of the milk we have produced is asinine! If you are worried we are eating improperly, buy us a book on healthy eating while nursing, but please do not shame the taste of our milk. That is most likely NOT the problem baby is having and our bodies have worked very hard to produce this milk! So instead, as said, buy us a nice healthy eating or recipe book for nursing moms, or better yet – cook us a healthy meal, quietly!
4. “I think your baby's mouth is too small.”
Ugh, again with the size and shapes but this time of our babies! No, just do not! Do not tell us that our perfect little angel may have the wrong size mouth to breastfeed. If you are not educated on this matter – refrain from commenting on this altogether, but what you could say instead is, “Some babies have tongue tie or posterior tongue tie, which doesn’t allow their tongue to move as freely as it should while feeding. Have you asked your pediatrician to check for this or contacted a lactation consultant?”
5. “If you think it hurts now, wait ’til they get some teeth!”
NEVER! We as troubled nursers are already terrified that it will never get better, like they all say it does. Most of us may even be crying everyday and constantly on the verge of giving up. So please, do not discourage us further. If you have breastfed before and you know it gets better (because it really does!) you can tell us that for encouragement.
6. “Maybe you are not producing enough milk..”
Again, most of us are educated and informed on milk production. Our pediatricians, OB’s and lactation consultants can discuss this with us. This was one problem that I, fortunately, never had, but I did meet many moms while attending support groups who dealt with this. It is another issue that makes us feel our bodies are failing our babies, that we do not need you commenting on. If you are educated enough on the topic, what you can say is, “There are many recipes that are supposed to boost milk supply, let me bake you some lactation cookies and we will see if this helps! In the meantime, let’s call a lactation consultant and get some more ideas!”
7. “Your nipples just need to toughen up.”
This is just wrong. This suggests the mom should just wait it out and also sounds like we are going to have super hard and rough nipples which is not enthusing to us! There is most likely a problem that needs solving if there is nipple pain, and needing to “toughen up” is not it.
8. “Let me cover you up.”
Everything about nursing is uncomfortable right now. We need to watch our baby eat to try to find and fix the issue. We need to be comfortable especially in our own home and bond with our babies as much as we can while biting our tongue through the discomfort. If we are in our home, and you are a visitor, instead of saying this, you could say, “I will let you two be while you nurse…I will be in the other room, doing the dishes or folding your laundry, just holler if you want a blanket or a glass of water!”
9. “Why don’t you just pump instead?”
Genius! Because we NEVER would have thought of that! Of course we pump and for many reasons… build supply, more comfortable on nipples, baby needs milk NOW and isn’t latching… and many more. For me, it was a LIFESAVER. However, we still need to breastfeed in order for our babies (and ourselves) to properly learn. Also, our babies are way more effective in retrieving milk from our nipples then our pumps are. Oh and not to mention, if baby feeds every two hours, as most babies do in the beginning, you will have zero time to relax. I had to exclusively pump for days, sometimes a week in order to heal my nipples. My timeline went like this: Pump milk for a half hour (at least), transfer to bottle & feed baby (another half hour), burp baby and get baby to lay down, wash all pump parts and setup for next time to pump – Oh wait, it is time to pump again, already! Pumping, feeding, washing…it becomes a vicious cycle! So, instead of telling us to “just pump” you can kindly say, “I will wash and sanitize your breast pump parts in case you want a break later, they will be ready for you to use!” (Many new moms don’t know this, but, there are ways to rinse your pump parts and refrigerate them after use to save time)
10. Lastly, never, ever ask us, “Why don’t you just give your baby formula?”
Trust me, as someone who was on the verge of giving up on breastfeeding everyday for two and a half months, this is something we do not want to hear. We know that formula is out there and that it exists. We know many babies are formula fed and are just fine. We know many mothers who formula feed and we do not judge. But we want to breastfeed. We are determined and we are trying to stay encouraged. Personally, I had a free sample box of formula just 10 feet away in my cupboards the whole time, but never got to the point of using it. If and when we decide that we cannot handle the pain or troubles of breastfeeding any longer, we know where to find formula. Most of us who are in a constant battle of wondering how much longer we can go are already weighing the options of trying it. We know it is an option, we just are not ready to give up on our bodies. So, please do not even entertain the thought of formula to us, as we will make that choice on our own terms.
Did you have a rough start to breastfeeding? What were some of the things people said to you that got under your skin? Let us know!
If you are a beginner breastfeeding mama and battling with infections, bad latches, sore and cracked nipples, PPD, or anything bothering you, please reach out. Lactation consultants are amazing people, and a local breastfeeding support group will really open your eyes to how many women are dealing with the exact same issues as you. And I promise, although I know it is very hard for you to believe at this time, it DOES get better.