Breastfeeding may not sound difficult, but everyone makes mistakes. Just like raising kids, there's no such thing as a perfect breastfeeding journey. But knowing some common breastfeeding mistakes and how to fix them can give you the best chance at a happy, successful breastfeeding journey.
The important thing to remember about breastfeeding is that there's a learning curve. And although you can read every book available, your situation could differ from everybody else's. Maybe your baby only prefers one breast. Maybe your struggle with low milk supply is something else entirely. Maybe the position every nurse told you to do is uncomfortable and doesn't work for you and your baby. Maybe you need to follow some of your own rules when it comes to breastfeeding.
Although I think that breastfeeding is natural, it's not without its issues, including these 11 common mistakes. Whether it's from a lack of education on breastfeeding or myths perpetuated by those around you, it's easy to make these mistakes. But you and your baby will be a whole lot happier if you take the time to recognize the common issues many mothers face and how to fix them. I reached out to a few lactation consultants to find out what common mistakes their own clients were making, so that you could be on the same level as the experts.
1. You Think Pain Is Normal
Although some pain is to be expected when you're first learning to breastfeed, ongoing pain is not normal. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Nadine Fournier of KW Breastfeeding tells me that it's a common mistake moms make — they think that pain during breastfeeding is normal and to be expected. Additionally, Kelly Mom noted that the trick to getting rid of pain is to determine what's causing it — poor latch, engorgement, or a child's tongue tie could be the cause. It's best to reach out to a lactation consultant if you're dealing with pain to figure out what's causing the issue.
2. You Feed On A Schedule
Fournier also tells me that moms who think they have to feed on a schedule are making a mistake. According to La Leche League International, trying to keep your baby on a schedule can actually decrease your milk supply and lower your milk's fat content. It's best to just feed your baby when they are hungry rather than trying to keep them on a certain time frame.
3. You Give A Bottle Or Pacifier Too Early
Another common mistake Fournier sees? Giving a bottle or pacifier too early to a baby. What To Expect noted that giving a bottle before you've successfully established breastfeeding could set you up for failure as it's much easier to remove milk from a bottle than your own breast and your baby could prefer a bottle for the ease. Breastfeeding Basics also suggested that introducing a pacifier too early could cause nipple confusion, but it could also mess up your milk supply if you're giving your baby a pacifier instead of your breast in those early weeks.
4. You Don't Trust Your Instincts & Think Baby Isn't Getting Enough Milk
It's hard to listen to your gut when you're trying to breastfeed, I know. You just want to do it right. Lactation consultant Tera Kelley Hamann tells me that a common breastfeeding mistake she sees is moms not trusting their instincts and not listening to their baby. Without doing those two things, they end up believing their baby isn't getting enough milk and turn to supplementation when they don't need it. La Leche League International noted that it's important to know the signs that your baby is getting enough milk, but chances are, your baby is getting enough to eat. Don't get stuck following a set of rules — if your baby's weight and diaper count are both good, then so is your milk supply. Feed baby when they are hungry, listen to their needs, and you'll be just fine.
5. You Introduce Formula Because You Think Your Supply Is Low
If there's one thing I've heard from breastfeeding moms over and over again, it's the worry that their supply is low and now they want to supplement with formula. Kelly Mom noted that, more often than not, what a mother thinks is a low milk supply actually isn't and introducing formula can actually decrease your current supply. If you really think your supply is low, seek out a lactation consultant so they can help you determine the best course of action.
6. You Judge Your Milk Supply By Your Pumping Output
Say it with me — your pump is not a baby. Kelly Mom noted that no pump is as efficient as your baby removing milk from your breast and that your supply can vary day from day. If you think you're dealing with a low milk supply, again, it's best to reach out to an IBCLC. Otherwise, continue pumping and rest assured that as long as your baby is gaining weight and having wet and dirty diapers, they are getting enough milk.
7. You Skip Pumping Sessions
It's the best way to increase your milk supply — you have to remove more milk for your body to make more milk. Skipping pumping sessions or not replacing a missed feeding with a pumping session? It can become a big deal. Kelly Mom noted that in order to maintain a good milk supply, you have to pump every time your baby takes a bottle so your body knows to continue making that same amount of milk for a hungry child.
8. You Think Supplements & Galactogogues Will Help When There Isn't Enough Milk Removal
Lactation consultant Sarah Lester says that one of the most common mistakes she sees is moms using supplements and galactogogues as miracles. "Milk removal needs to be sufficient and efficient in order for milk supply to increase," she says. Addressing a problem, like pumping more or fixing a latch issue, usually means the supply issues will work out on their own. But relying on supplements and galactogogues without ding the work to remove more milk won't help. "Galactogogues serve a purpose but they won't work unless you increase the amount of times you demand your body to make milk," Lester says. Try and fix any potential low supply problems before relying on herbs or certain foods to increase your milk supply.
9. You Assume You Have To Cut Things Out Of Your Diet
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Kristin Gourley works with Lactation Link and tells me that one of the most common breastfeeding mistakes she sees is moms cutting things out of their diet without a real reason. "Yes, some babies have true allergies or sensitivities, but most moms can eat whatever they want without causing baby issues," she says. "In fact, a wide variety of foods causes slight changes in the taste of the milk preparing baby for the future diet of the family." Kelly Mom noted that, obviously, if you think your child has an allergy to a certain food, you can avoid it, but there is no list of foods to restrict from your diet just because you're breastfeeding.
10. You Feel Like All Hope Is Lost
Don't panic, mama. Gourley tells me that she often sees breastfeeding moms making the mistake of believing that all hope is lost just because they're having to supplement, they have to go back to work, or because things aren't going as planned. "You can work through almost anything with the right support," Gourley says, so reach out to a lactation consultant if you're struggling to make sure you're on the right track and give you the tools you need.
11. You Don't Ask For Help When You Need It
This one is huge. I think the term "natural" has scared so many moms into believing that if they have a breastfeeding issue, they have to work it out on their own. Not so. The March of Dimes noted that it takes time for you and your baby to get the hang of breastfeeding, so don't be afraid to reach out to lactation consultant to ask for help and support.