While my girls are now much bigger, I remember being given a bounty of advice when I was pregnant and when I’d just had my eldest. While some tips I received about babies and breastfeeding were indeed helpful, there were many more that were complete bunk.
Now I’d love to share what’s a load of crap regarding breastfeeding advice so you can remove those obstacles. Because, believe me, it is tough enough to get that good latch. It’s even harder if you listen to the wrong bits of breastfeeding advice. Even doctors and nurses may tell you something incorrect!
Before going on about these 20 awful pieces of advice on breastfeeding, I’d like to remind you to check out La Leche League before beginning breastfeeding. Here, you can find information and people in your area, like lactation consultants and breastfeeding coaches, who can help you with breastfeeding success.
1. Give the baby water because she’s thirsty.
This was told to me at the hospital when I was holding my eldest after getting stitched up from my c-section. To be fair, at the time in China, they didn’t realize this was terrible advice (by the time I had my youngest, they were not trying to tell me this, though). My breastfeeding coach, Vivien, who spoke fluent Mandarin, came in at the right time and explained to them why giving newborns water was a bad idea.
So, why is it a bad idea to give your baby water? It fills up their tiny tummies, making them take in less breastmilk. Breastmilk hydrates and nourishes, so if anyone tells you your newborn needs water, they’re wrong.
2. After a few days, you’ll know whether or not breastfeeding will work out.
Hahahahaha! I wish I had recorded my sobbing conversation with Vivien when I called her to tell her I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I told her I felt like a boob slave because I’d finish a nursing session and run to pee, try to eat, and my eldest would cry more over again. But you know what? Breastfeeding IS hard.
While it’s true you should work on getting that latch right in those first few days (and Vivien immensely helped me with that), making it easier, it is still hard. You are on a call like this for the next 6 to 8 weeks. So if it’s still hard after a few days, it’s not that breastfeeding won’t work out. It’s just going to be hard for a couple of months. Hang tight because it does get better and easier, just not in a few days.
3. Have your husband feed the baby with formula at night so you can sleep.
This is just about one of the worst things I’ve heard regarding breastfeeding advice. One thing that keeps up your supply is the suckling of your baby at your breast. Yes, sleep is a wonderful thing. And yes, having your husband help out at night is a dream come true.
But replacing those feedings with formula is terrible advice. You’re not having the suckling happening to stimulate more milk production. This will send the signal to your brain for your body to stop making so much milk.
Even in those early days, if you have your husband feed the baby at night with your stashed milk supply, it’s a bad idea because you’re not building up the supply you should be, ultimately leaving your little cherub unsatisfied.
Suck as it may, keep feeding baby via your breasts for the first few months, at least at night. By day, you can also pump to stimulate more milk production. That way, if you need to go somewhere without your baby during the day, you’re not leaving them without milk, and your body is still making enough breastmilk to keep up with their demand.
4. You need to toughen up your nipples before breastfeeding.
Oh, no, mama, please don’t! Your body naturally readies itself for breastfeeding. You do not have to do anything to toughen up your nipples. Breastfeeding, when done correctly, should not hurt. And nothing involving it should too. If you do have an inverted nipple, there are ways to draw it out so your baby can nurse naturally.
5. Your breasts are too small to make enough milk.
You could be an A-cup, and guess what? You can still make plenty of milk for your baby. Breast size and milk production are not at all related. In extremely rare cases, glandular development issues may come into play, but again, it’s so rare it’s unlikely this is the case.
Your breasts will make enough milk to meet your baby’s demands by suckling.
6. If you breastfeed, you’ll have saggy boobs.
Sorry to tell you, but it’s pregnancy itself that will potentially cause your boobs to sag. Those pregnancy hormones allow gravity to do its thing and make them less perky. So, you’re already doomed for sagginess at that rate. Breastfeeding has nothing to do with it. And besides, my boobs look great even after breastfeeding 2 kids. Well, they are starting to sag a little more now, but at my age, I’m happy they look the way they do. I’ve seen worse.
7. You’ll spend too much time breastfeeding.
Ok, you will initially feel like a boob slave as I did. But after a few weeks, your baby will eat much more quickly with each sitting and will not be screaming for you every 5 minutes.
As Vivien once told me,
“Your baby needs you now more than she’ll ever need you,” and it really struck a chord. Stick with it, and I promise you’ll soon see things balance out, and you’ll get to live your life again.
8. You can’t drink a glass of wine while breastfeeding.
So, you spent all that time pregnant, and now that you’re holding your baby, people try to shame you for having a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail. Tell them to shove it. While you shouldn’t be drinking excessively while breastfeeding, nursing your baby after having a drink is not a problem. Now, if you want to get rip-roaring drunk, I suggest you do a pump and dump.
If I wanted to have more than a couple of drinks after having my babies, I’d nurse them first. Then I’d drink and promptly pump. My husband would give them my previously pumped milk that came from when I hadn’t been drinking. In short, go ahead and enjoy that drink, but it’s best to time it right after you’ve fed the baby.
9. Using bottles is better because you can see how much the baby eats.
While it is true that you can’t see how many ounces of breastmilk your baby is getting, you don’t need to know that. What helps you know your baby is getting enough of your milk is how much weight she’s gaining, if she’s growing, and if she seems happy. She should also go through about 6 to 8 diapers in 24 hours while nursing every 2 to 3 hours in the newborn stage.
10. You must drink more than 8 glasses of water daily to maintain your supply.
Good news if you’ve heard this and wondered how you can drink more water than this per day. You do not need to drink more than 8 glasses of water or more than your natural thirst per day to keep breastmilk flowing. While you certainly want to avoid dehydration, stick to your basic hydration requirements.
And remember, if you are going outside and/or it is hot out, you will need to drink more than 8 glasses of water, but you will likely be thirsty for it. Healthy urine should be a very light and pale yellow, so if it looks darker than when you pee, have some more water.
11. You must eat certain foods or drink certain beverages to have a good breastmilk supply.
Milk supply is based on supply and demand. When your baby suckles at your nipples, it creates demand. And your body responds by releasing hormones to accommodate it via supply. Eat and drink what you want for the most part, though focus on nutrition.
And remember, the foods and drinks you consume provide nutrients to your baby via milk. While some of these foods and drinks claim they can help you boost your breast milk, there is not enough evidence at this time to make a definite claim. You can try those lactation cookies if you like, but if anyone is forcing you to eat something, you can tell them to shove it.
Just like I did with my mother-in-law, who kept trying to get me to eat a millet soup because she said it would help me make more breastmilk. No, it won’t. And it tastes bland and awful. Give me real food, please!
12. You have to put your baby on a feeding schedule.
While you will undoubtedly want to keep tabs on when you last breastfed your baby, you do not need to set a timer and a strict schedule. Schedules are for formula-fed babies. Feeding your baby breastmilk on demand is vital in the newborn stage. This is so your body makes enough milk to support their healthy growth.
In time, your baby will fall into a natural feeding routine. And it will give you the time you need to run to the bathroom and actually eat something yourself, so don’t worry!
13. Push through breastfeeding even with those cracked and sore nipples.
Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable initially until you get that latch just right. From that point on, it should never hurt (unless your baby bites you when they get teeth, but you can keep them from doing that). So if your nipples are cracked and bleeding, it’s not normal. Something is wrong, and you need nipple cream to soothe it. Depending on the severity, you will likely need help from a lactation consultant or your doctor.
14. You’re not eating enough fat to make your milk fatty enough.
Breastmilk is such a fascinating fluid. It has foremilk which comes out at the start of a feed, followed by hindmilk. This hindmilk is the fattier portion, so you should keep your baby on one breast at a time until they have drunk enough, then switch breasts. Sometimes, your baby may be fully satisfied with drinking the contents of one breast and will refuse the second breast. Other times, they will gobble down from both.
15. You must wean your baby off breastfeeding at a certain age.
Updated AAP guidelines recommend you exclusively breastfeed your baby for 6 months and then start introducing foods with it once they can sit up on their own. The update comes for supporting breastfeeding for 2 years or even beyond. Previously, they recommended up to one year for breastfeeding.
16. Breastfeeding will make your baby or toddler clingy.
This is the same thing as saying holding a newborn too much will spoil them. You can’t make your child more clingy by breastfeeding them.
17. Pump after every feeding to build a stash.
If you are going somewhere and need more breastmilk stored in your fridge and freezer, then yes, go ahead and pump after a feeding. But doing so beyond that isn’t helpful for you or your baby. You’ll wind up with too much milk you can’t use for feedings. If that’s the case, check out this post on what you can do with all that excess breast milk.
18. You can’t breastfeed twins.
Oh yes, you can. Vivien breastfed hers, and I know many mamas with twins who breastfed too. Is it easy? No, especially in the beginning, but you most certainly can breastfeed twins. If you’re expecting twins and want to breastfeed, I strongly urge you to contact La Leche League to get the support you need because you will need it, and it will make all the difference in the world.
19. You can’t breastfeed while pregnant with your next baby.
You can certainly continue breastfeeding your baby or toddler if you’re expecting again. I was in the process of weaning my eldest when I got pregnant with my youngest. She had been weaning independently, and it seemed the best time since she’d soon attend an early preschool program. It will be easier if your older child has weaned off breastmilk by the time your new bundle arrives, but you could still nurse them both.
20. Your breastmilk isn’t enough to nourish your baby.
I’ll leave you with this last one…your breastmilk IS enough. It is everything to your baby, especially in those first few months. Even when introducing solids, it’s not like you’re taking the breastmilk away and replacing it with full-blown meals. As long as your baby is soiling enough diapers, growing in weight and height, and mostly a happy little critter, you’re breastfeeding, right!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.