Being a mom is tough work, and none of us manage it successfully unless we have some help. Unfortunately, some people think "helping" moms means "giving moms annoying unsolicited advice with absolutely no regard for whether it makes even the slightest bit of sense." Never is this more true than when it comes to breastfeeding, which is not only wildly misunderstood but usually stigmatized. Some friends, family, and even strangers offer the kind of misguided and unhelpful breastfeeding advice that can make even the calmest moms want to scream (or worse).
To all the expecting and new moms out there who are planning to nurse (or are already nursing) their babies; arm yourselves with knowledge, some mantras for breastfeeding moms, your best eye roll, and be ready to ignore pretty much everyone who comes up to you with unsolicited breastfeeding advice. If you're not in pain and your baby is wetting enough diapers, gaining enough weight, and meeting their milestones, you're doing well and you don't need to change what's clearly working for you. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, especially since as a new mom, a whole lot of other stuff in your life might feel broken.
Also, lactation consultants and other actual breastfeeding experts don't typically go around giving drive-by expert breastfeeding advice so, chances are, if someone is randomly trying to tell you your business while you're trying to breastfeed your baby, they probably don't have a clue what they're talking about.
“You Should Toughen Up Your Nipples To Get Ready Before Your Baby Comes”
Nope, nope, a million times, nope. "Toughening up" your nipples is 100 percent not a thing, and is probably the most ridiculous, cruel, and just downright stupid advice anyone ever dreamed of telling new nursing moms. The only preparation a mom needs to nurse successfully, is enough breastfeeding education to understand the basics of lactation, how to help their baby latch well enough to painlessly and effectively transfer milk, and how to recognize that suggestions like this are completely bogus.
“You Should Cover Up”
Nope. There's nothing wrong with moms and babies nursing openly, so if a mom doesn't want to cover, she doesn't have to. Also, some babies won't even tolerate a nursing cover. So to some moms, saying "Cover up!" is akin to saying "Either starve your baby, or don't leave your house until your child weans."
If you're someone who doesn't want to see someone else nursing, here's some good news: if you're like most people you were born with two nursing covers, positioned conveniently right over both your eyes, plus a neck and body that can help your head not look at things you don't want to see. Use them as often as needed.
“Don’t Be Ashamed And Take That Cover Off!”
On the flip side: us breastfeeding mamas get to decide our own comfort levels and modesty preferences (just like, you know, anyone else). If a woman is more comfortable covering her body because that's her preference, she doesn't need to uncover herself for any reason or to prove a point.
Basically, if you’re ever giving unsolicited advice to a nursing mom about how covered or uncovered her breasts should be, stop talking immediately and fix your life.
“Can You Go To The Bathroom And Do That?”
Do you eat in public bathrooms? No. So why should babies have to? Just mind your own business, people. It's really not that hard.
“After [Some Arbitrary Age], You Should Just Pump And Feed The Baby With A Bottle”
All of the nope to people who suggest "just" pumping because they think that it automatically becomes indecent to feed at the breast after six months, or a year, or whatever. "Milk breasts" don't suddenly expire and become "sex breasts" at some arbitrary point postpartum. Ditto for folks who think a baby teething automatically means they should be weaned. If a mom wants to wean then, that's her choice, but it's also very possible to nurse comfortably after a child gets teeth.
“You Should Pump To See How Much Milk You’re Making"
Nooooooo. New moms, please never, ever, ever do this. A pump does not remove milk as effectively as a baby who nurses efficiently. There are so many factors that can affect how much milk your pump can pull out, all of which make pumping an invalid indicator of your milk supply.
There are plenty of good reasons to pump milk: because you're separated from your baby (or are planning to be); because your baby slept through a feeding or didn't/couldn't nurse for whatever reason and your breasts are uncomfortable; and so forth. Trying to judge your milk supply is not one of those good reasons, and for most people it's a recipe to undermine your confidence (and potentially your milk supply, if you start stressing out or supplementing in response to unfounded fears about your milk supply).
“Just Pump” In General
Once and for all, there is no such thing as “just” pumping. "Just" doing anything implies that thing is easy, but expressing breast milk is hard for many women, particularly since a breast pump isn’t as effective as a healthy baby at removing milk. Sometimes, exclusively pumping is the best choice for a mom, but given the added inconvenience and challenges, it’s definitely not something to choose lightly.
Also, when people tell a mom to “just pump” simply because they’re uncomfortable seeing breasts used for their biological purpose, what they’re actually saying is, “Double or triple the amount of time you spend feeding your child because I’m ignorant and don’t want to mind my own business. Oh, and I’m not volunteering to clean and sanitize your bottles and pump parts, either, cause I don’t respect your time or convenience at all.” Sending a hard spray of milk and a silencing charm in these people’s direction.
“If You Want Your Baby To Sleep Longer, Give Them A Bottle Of Rice Cereal At Night”
OMG, no. If you don't see any signs that your baby is ready for solid food, they're not yet ready for solid food and they shouldn't be fed solid food in an attempt to get them to sleep longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and most other experts agree that babies should be exclusively breastfed for their first six months.
Also, unless a doctor has told you to thicken a baby's milk for a medical reason you really shouldn't, since it can be a choking hazard.
Lastly, a lot of babies under a year old just plain don't sleep through the night on their own, no matter what you do. It's a milestone they'll reach when they're ready, like walking or talking.
“That Baby’s Hungry Again? Just Give Them Some Formula.”
If a mom herself decides to formula feed or combination feed, those are both perfectly valid choices. However, if a mom has decided she prefers to exclusively nurse her child, this is bad advice that will sabotage her milk supply if she takes it.
Breastfeeding is a demand-and-supply process; the more baby nurses, the more milk mom makes. Telling her to feed a bottle of formula instead of letting her baby nurse when they need to, is effectively the same as telling her to confuse her body about how much milk it needs to make.
“You Should Get That Baby On A Feeding Schedule”
No. New mamas, unless you’d also like your baby to potentially be on a dehydration and malnourishment schedule, please let your baby be the one to decide when and how much they eat, not the clock (or some random person who clearly doesn’t know anything about breastfeeding).