Fotolia

12 Things You Don't Have To Do When Breastfeeding, Even Though Everyone Says You Do

Ad failed to load

If you’re thinking about (or have started) nursing a young child, you’ve probably heard all about the benefits of breastfeeding. You’ve probably also heard plenty of common myths about breastfeeding, possibly without even knowing it, that may make nursing seem excessively difficult or inconvenient. Well-meaning relatives, friends, and sadly even health care professionals, often spread these general misconceptions because they’re not aware of how breastfeeding actually works. After generations of breastfeeding playing second fiddle to formula feeding (in most of our society), and because breastfeeding still happens largely “under cover” or at home, many people are unfamiliar with how it works or know what constitutes "normal" for breastfed babies.

Sadly, the widespread misunderstandings of how women’s bodies work more generally, and widespread moralizing about how women “should” behave and relate to our children, it's not all that surprising that people regularly repeat misleading things about breastfeeding. Regardless of the intentions (and I do believe that many people's intentions are good) continuing to tell women that they "should" do something or "have to" do something else, when breastfeeding, puts unnecessary pressure on mothers, particular new mothers, who are trying to figure out their new role as "mom."

So, if you are planning to nurse, definitely seek out knowledgeable professionals (like lactation consultants or midwives) and experienced peers (friends who have successfully nursed children or support groups with other nursing parents) to answer your questions as you go. Knowledge and support are critical for breastfeeding moms and their ability to breastfeed, just like the rest of parenting. Just like it's important as it is for you to know what you can do help you breastfeed, it's equally important to know what you don't have to do, including the following:

Ad failed to load

Time Or Schedule Your Baby's Nursing Sessions

giphy

It’s one thing to keep track of how long you're breastfeeding for, to get a sense of how long it takes your baby to eat and especially in the beginning when you’re trying to understand what your particular baby’s “normal” is. It isn't a good idea, however, to schedule or limit an exclusively breastfed baby’s feedings.

Children need to be able to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full in order for them to get enough to eat and drink, and for your body to maintain a sufficient milk supply. Cutting them off while they’re actively nursing, or making them wait until certain times to nurse, puts your child at needless risk of malnourishment and dehydration. Please, please, please do not do this.

Take Lactation “Boosters”

With the exception of folks with certain diagnosed medical conditions, whose doctors and lactation consultants have prescribed them something, it is not necessary to take anything in order to make enough milk. You don’t need to eat special cookies, or drink certain teas, or anything remotely similar in order to make enough milk. Many common folk remedies have not been verified to boost milk production, and some may have negative side effects for your and your baby.

Avoid Alcohol Completely And The Entire Time You Breastfeed

giphy

I feel so sad when I hear mothers lament about a missed happy hour with their friends, "because they're nursing." There is no need to swear off alcohol for the duration of your nursing relationship. Only a small percentage of alcohol actually makes it into your milk from your bloodstream, and it leaves once your body metabolizes it. If you’re planning to really tie one on, make sure you have someone else who can attend to your baby, of course. But don’t feel like you have to wait until your child weans to have a cocktail again.

Ad failed to load

Switch To Formula Because Your Baby Is "Nursing Too Much"

If your baby is latching when they’re hungry and unlatching when they’re full, if they’re wetting enough diapers and gaining enough weight, then you are doing fine. Babies are supposed to nurse frequently, especially when they’re brand new or when they’re going through growth spurts or when they’re not feeling well (like when they’re teething, battling a cold, etc.) Don’t let other people’s judgments about what your baby “should” be doing shake your confidence or influence your feeding choices, especially if those people have never breastfed a baby.

“Pump And Dump”

giphy

One, you don’t actually have to throw away breastmilk )unless it is spoiled.) If you are expressing milk because you’re separated from your baby and you have a few drinks, it can still be used for things like baths (really healing for a babies’ super sensitive skin) or other topical applications. Some really crafty mamas even make soap, lotion, and other things with their expressed milk.

Two, pumping your milk will not help you sober up any faster, because it’s not like the alcohol is just hanging out in your breasts. Alcohol enters and leaves your milk at about the same rate as it enters and leaves your bloodstream. So, if your baby nurses every two to three hours and you’ve only had a single glass of wine or beer since their last feeding, you can probably nurse the next time your little one is hungry. You’ll probably have metabolized the alcohol by then. Good rule of thumb: If you’re safe to drive, you’re safe to nurse. (But note that this means for real for real safe to drive, not slurring, belligerent, “I candrriveI do sisss alls the time!” but not actually safe to drive.)

Use A Nursing Cover

Breasts are normal. Breastfeeding is normal. If covering up makes you more comfortable, do it. If you or your child don’t feel like hiding under a blanket while nursing, you don’t have to. It’s your choice. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and you don’t need to hide.

Ad failed to load

Pump At All

giphy

I once met another stay-at-home-mom who was at her wits end, because she was nursing her baby every couple of hours and pumping every hour after he was finished. Apparently, someone had told her that she needed to do that to maintain a healthy milk supply. In actuality, she was stressing herself out needlessly, and giving herself an oversupply.

If you’re going to be separated from your nursling and want to maintain your milk supply while you’re gone, it’s a good idea to express your milk so your body knows it still needs to make a specific amount. Otherwise, if your baby is nursing effectively and getting enough to eat, there is no need to pump in addition. A healthy child is way more effective at removing milk than even the best pump, so the idea that pumping is “necessary” for a healthy milk supply is bogus. Also? If you just don’t like pumping, it’s more than OK to provide formula for your child while someone else is caring for them, and to nurse when you’re together. (Make sure your care provider knows how to pace feed a breastfed baby, whether you’re sending pumped milk or formula, however.)

Prohibit Comfort Nursing

Young children nurse for lots of reasons besides hunger. If you are OK with your little one latching on to fall asleep, or when they’re scared, or for whatever other reason, then it’s OK to let them. You don’t have to cut them off because someone else told you not to “let them use you as a pacifier.” Also? It’s super offensive to reduce a whole person sharing a bond (and an immune system) with their child to an object, so never say that about yourself or another mom.

Be "All Or Nothing" About Breast Milk

giphy

It’s totally OK to both breastfeed and formula feed your baby, if that’s what works for you and your family. There are some timing and feeding tricks you’ll want to know if your baby will be switching back and forth between bottle and breast, in order to not totally jeopardize your nursing relationship. However, combination feeding can be done, and it’s not “cheating.”

Ad failed to load

Avoid Certain Foods

In various nursing support groups I’m in, I’ve heard moms ask how many times they need to “pump and dump” after eating crab legs, or lament how much they miss spicy foods, as well as many other unfounded complaints about dietary restrictions related to breastfeeding. Unless a doctor has identified your child as having an allergy, or you have carefully identified a connection between certain foods and problems for your child, there’s no need to swear off specific foods in order to nurse.

Have An Extensive Freezer Stash

giphy

There are some moms and babies with special circumstances that require a freezer stash of pumped breast milk. That being said, it's not at all necessary for most nursing moms and babies. If you're going back to work and want your care provider to feed your little one your breast milk, you only need to pump enough for the next day. If you're not planning to be regularly separated from your child, and that child nurses effectively, you don't need to worry about this at all. So don't let photos of other moms’ stashes make you feel like you're not doing enough to nurse successfully.

Wean At A Specific Age, Or For Any Other Reason Except That One Or Both Of You Want To

You should nurse for as long as both you and your child want to. If that’s two days, awesome! If that’s three years, awesome! You don’t have to wean because they’re turning one, or because they started trying solid foods, or because they cut a tooth, or because someone else says they’re “too old for that.” It’s normal for babies to start off exclusively breastfeeding, then to eat complementary foods when they show readiness, and to spend the next few months or years gradually nursing less and eating more solid foods until they wean themselves. If you’re ready to be done sooner than that, by all means wean. But if you’re both still into nursing, keep nursing. That’s a perfectly valid choice, especially from a biological perspective.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

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

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

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

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

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

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

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
)}