10 things you should NEVER say to a breastfeeding mum
There's a lot of things that are best left unsaid when it comes to new mothers, yet still, people (who apparently enjoy a walk on the dangerous side) persist in goading us with infernal clichés along the lines of "sleep when the baby sleeps" and "soak it up".
As if we have any choice BUT to soak it up.
When I was a wildly hormonal, chronically underslept new mother I was particularly sensitive about everything breastfeeding-related.
I found the breastfeeding incredibly challenging and in my oversensitive state, completely innocuous questions and meaningless platitudes really stung.
Here are the ten most dangerous things to say to a mother struggling to breastfeed:
1. "Every mother can breastfeed."
Hard eye-roll at this. There are a few women out there who might take issue with this incredibly reductive, definitive statement.
2. "For every breastfeeding problem; there's a breastfeeding solution."
I agree basically with this sentiment but c'mon when your nipples are bleeding due to latch issues, you have to admit the old 'breastfeeding solution' phrase can be a bitter pill to swallow.
3. "That child is hungry."
Anyone who starts a sentence with "THAT CHILD...." is not your friend and needs to be excommunicated from your life. That is all.
4. "Is he getting enough?"
Oh, gawd... I don't know, he's four days old, he cries, he feeds, he sleeps, I don't know what the hell's going on with him. I freakin' hope he's getting enough, I'm worried enough about this already as I have no concept of how much milk is coming out of me, the last thing I need is YOU asking me too.
5. "Is he STILL feeding?"
My mother-in-law, in particular, was fond of this one. My son was an epically slow feeder, if I started to nurse him in a café at breakfast time, I could quite easily end up marooned at this café through lunch and beyond, such was the time he took over his meals. The MiL could never get over this. "10 minutes one side, 10 minutes the other, then wind and a nap," was her deeply irritating mantra. Eventually, I made peace with this and copped that, ya know, babies are different. However, the "is he STILL feeding?" thing STILL drove me mad.
6. "Are you NOT breastfeeding?"
My policy now is to refrain from asking mothers about their breasts unless they volunteer the info. This question is probably a totally innocuous attempt at a bit of small talk but to the ears of a frazzled mum who may be really struggling with the breastfeeding it can sound judgemental and may spark an insane (and admittedly disproportionate reaction along the lines of screaming "I'll f*cking breastfeed YOU in a minute"). When I was nursing my son I combination fed from about three weeks, and I absolutely dreaded giving him a bottle in front of other people. It was nothing to do with any strong-held views on bottle-feeding, I just felt like a total failure on the breastfeeding front and hearing "Are you NOT breastfeeding?" from some random stranger was enough to wreck my day (I was also very tired and sensitive, I cannot overstate this).
7. "The breastfeeding is so HANDY!"
Yes, breastfeeding is super handy for lots of people, but it is also very difficult and distinctly NOT handy for others. Nipple guards, breast pumps, lanolin, antibiotics and other things that breastfeeding mothers sometimes need are actually not that handy to cart around.
8. "Breastfeeding is such a great way to bond."
True story. However, there are a helluva lotta great ways to bond as well as breastfeeding. Bottle-feeding is a great way to bond. Singing songs to the baby is a great way to bond. Taking yourself off for a little nap is good bonding too, sort of, ish... Well, new mothers need to bond with our own beds from time to time also.
9. "It's the most natural thing in the world."
Ugh. Why then does it sometimes feel like I am attempting to breastfeed an extremely unwilling, very skittish, cat? Luckily, this did pass.
10. "Why are you putting yourself through this?"
After a LOT of heartache and self-flagellation around my struggle to breastfeed, my mother and husband started a campaign of the "Why are you putting yourself through this?" question. This question was not the supportive encouragement that I needed them to give. It's hard to know what the best thing to say in this situation and obviously everyone wants to hear different things, I compiled a list of the things I found most helpful to hear during the breast quest.
If you are having issues breastfeeding, here are some useful contacts for breastfeeding support:
Find Fiona Rea on Facebook or call 087 632 4967 for a private consultation.
Visit Cuidiu's website for breastfeeding support
Visit Bump2Babe for an independent guide to maternity services in Ireland