Fotolia

10 Of The Cruelest Things Anyone Could Do To A Mom Struggling To Breastfeed

By
Share
Ad failed to load

We all know the benefits of breastfeeding: healthier baby (thank you, antibodies), reportedly IQ boosting power, calorie-burner for mom, and it's (usually) the cheapest option. And breast milk? It's empirically best for your baby. So if "breast is best," what's the problem? Unfortunately, this natural process doesn't always come naturally. In fact, it can be way harder than an expectant mom is, well, expecting, especially if she's not getting the support she needs because people do cruel things to a mom struggling to breastfeed.

Exclusive breastfeeding was my plan from the get-go. I was so confident that I opted out of the breastfeeding class available to me at the hospital, and skipped over the chapter on formula in every baby book I emphatically and meticulously read. So, it was a complete shock to me when my newborn daughter had trouble latching. It took me weeks to get in my breastfeeding and pumping groove and, by that time, the damage to my supply had already been done. I ended up supplementing with formula, and I "only" managed to breastfeed for seven months.

I don't want any mom to go through what I did. Breastfeeding moms need support. People may mean well, but the road to hell was paved with good intentions. Consider keeping that unsolicited advice to yourself and, instead, show up at mama's doorstep with a batch of lactation cookies and an encouraging smile. Honestly, it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you don't do the following:

Ad failed to load

Give The Baby A Bottle Or Pacifier

GIPHY

Well-meaning nurses and concerned partners are usually the guilty parties, and they're not trying to undermine you. However, when they give the baby a bottle of formula or sugar water (especially without your permission or behind your back so you can "sleep longer") that's exactly what they're doing. Newborns have tiny stomachs, and if they're given a feeding from someone other than mom, they may be too full to nurse. That means less breast milk because mama's breasts aren't being stimulated to produce more. Hello, vicious cycle.

Pacifiers are also problematic because they may fill baby's need for sucking. Babies are the best breast pumps in existence, so you want them working for you. A rubber nipple is easier to manage than a real one, and your baby can become lazy, which will interfere with nursing.

Early on, I was pressured into supplementing with a bottle. However, I insisted that my baby only be given a bottle after a nursing session. One time, my husband was letting me nap when the baby got hungry. He told me he almost gave her a bottle so I could keep sleeping, and I came absolutely unglued. I know he was trying to help by letting me rest, but it felt like breastfeeding sabotage.

Give Her A Nipple Shield

Granted, the nipple shield may initially be a small mercy. For those unfamiliar, a nipple shield is a flexible plastic nipple that covers mom's own nipple and, essentially, gives baby more to work with.

It's a great tool, but it's also obnoxious. One of the main selling points of breastfeeding is that it's easy to just whip your boob out and feed your baby. It's not so easy when you have to fiddle with a shield that you then have to sanitize and make sure you have on you at all times (I mean, it's not like you're going to forget your own nipples when you go out).

They also don't tell you that you eventually have to wean your baby from it. In fact, it's been suggested that medical staff often hand out shields when they're not needed, and frequently without proper instructions. After a week of the thing, my pediatrician (also a licensed lactation consultant because he's awesome) took a look at me and said my nipples weren't inverted. In fact, all it took was changing my hand position to get my little one to latch.

Give Her A Supplemental Nursing System

GIPHY

I'm going to say it: the supplemental nursing system (SNS) is the worst. I mean, you know it's bad when most baby books warn that it's not for every breastfeeding team. For the uninitiated, the SNS is a feeding tube designed to stimulate breast milk production at the same time formula is given.

You wear a container of formula around your neck (I felt like a f*cking St. Bernard) and place a thin tube into your baby's mouth while they're latched to your breast. I can only assume this device was created by a man who thinks breastfeeding is a hands-free endeavor. It is literally impossible to hold your baby at the breast, keep the tube in place, and open and close the valve at the same time.

When I tried the SNS, with a lactation consultant at my side, the tube got clogged. Three times. I drove home bawling my eyes out. It was expensive, so I didn't want to throw it out, but I had to get it out of my sight. I never tried it again.

Ad failed to load

Push Formula

Perhaps the worst thing you can to do a mom struggling with nursing is dangle formula in front of her. Come to the dark side, Luke. OK, I don't think formula is "evil," because it isn't, but breastfeeding mothers are well aware that it's made available to them. Constantly reminding a mother that she can just waltz into a store and buy formula isn't helpful. Instead, it undermines her plans for feeding her baby with her body.

At my baby's first check-up, she had lost some weight (which is normal by the way). The nurse asked me how I felt about formula on a scale of one to ten. I answered negative three. She insisted that it was in the best interest of my baby's health, and I totally caved. It was only supposed to be until my milk came in, but once the formula floodgates were opened, there was no going back.

Talk About How Easy Breastfeeding Is

GIPHY

No mom who is having trouble with breastfeeding wants to hear about what a walk in the park it was for you. Keep that sh*t to yourself. It's also not helpful to hear that it will be so much easier the next time. That's not doing her any favors in this moment. Instead, remind her what a good job she's doing.

Get In Her Way

GIPHY

Well-wishers, beware. I know you can't wait to get your hands on that sweet newborn and smell that wonderful new baby smell, but you need to back off. Mom needs to be able to completely concentrate on breastfeeding, and that's hard to do if she's regaling you with her birth story (which she might actually want to do, just not at that exact moment). By all means, pop in with a casserole, but don't overstay your welcome.

At the time of my baby's birth, we were getting ready for our family's first permanent change of station (my husband is a member of the military). I knew we were moving, and I wanted everyone to be able to meet our baby girl. It's really hard to tell your loved ones that it's time to go, so don't make new mamas be the bad guy.

Ad failed to load

Use The Words 'Failure To Thrive'

I'm looking at you, medical professionals. Failure to thrive means your child is undernourished. I understand the need for a descriptive term for these situations, but can we please exchange this one for something a little less dire-sounding? Something that doesn't place the blame squarely on an emotionally and physically exhausted mother?

My dear friend was actually told by her doctor that she was starving her baby. And don't get me started on "inhospitable womb." Use of these terms should be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Minimize Her Pain

GIPHY

Breastfeeding moms are dealing with engorgement, leaking milk, and sore or cracked nipples. If things get really bad, her milk ducts can get clogged or she can develop a breast infection called mastitis. She doesn't need to "suck it up." She needs lanolin cream, breast pads, and a healthy dose of sympathy.

Isolate Her

There's nothing lonelier than being a new mom, and it's exacerbated when you're struggling to breastfeed. New mothers need their moms, aunts, sisters, partners, and friends to support them. They also need access to medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and lactation consultations who are pro-breastfeeding. Partners, don't let your loved one try to do this on her own.

Ad failed to load

Shame Her Into Stopping (Or Continuing)

GIPHY

Let's try this for a change: a mother's baby is her baby and how she feeds him or her is her business. She should never be pressured to continue breastfeeding if she doesn't want to or can't. Anything of the "you should try harder/nurse more often/pump through the night" variety is verboten. That said, it's also callous to compel her to give up if she's not ready. "You're starving your baby" is manipulation in the third degree.

Moms are just trying to do the best for their babies. They deserve to be lauded for their efforts at breastfeeding and, frankly, every other damn thing they're doing for their child.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}