Like most aspects of parenting, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to breastfeed. What works for one mom and baby may very well not work for another mom and baby, and vice versa. The spectrum of possibilities is why we’ve asked women to share the bogus breastfeeding advice they were given. Sure, we can probably all agree that there are a few universal things to keep in mind; keep the baby as comfortable as possible, keep mom as comfortable as possible, maybe don’t play aggressive music at a super-high volume right at the baby’s face. You know, the basics. However, in many cases, one woman’s advice might be just the trick another woman needs to hear.
Of course, bogus advice or tips that really weren't beneficial and just sound completely absurd to you when thinking back on them, can usually help us appreciate how far we’ve come in our collective breastfeeding knowledge. For starters, one of the women in my family was really into nursing her babies side-by-side because sitting upright and staring down at her little ones would hurt her neck. However, the first few times I tried, it didn’t work at all for my son and I. I couldn’t make that happen until my son was older and much more comfortable with breastfeeding.
It's an age-old saying and, sure it's over-played, but it's also true: experience is the best teacher. Until you know, you just don't know and, to no surprise, my story about unnecessary breastfeeding advice is just the tip of the iceberg:
“‘If you're doing it right, it doesn't hurt.’ Maybe I just have wimpy nipples, but breastfeeding always hurt, even when I had a lactation consultant right there perfecting my baby's latch. The pain was intense at first and later became minor and bearable but it was never completely painless for me, with either of my kids.”
“I know multiple people who have been told to ‘rough up’ their nipples with a washcloth or a hard loofah while still pregnant.”
“‘Sleep training ruins breastfeeding relationships.’ I was told this many times, yet was able to sleep 6 (or more) hours each night and nurse my son until he was two. Both baby and mom were well-rested and happy!”
“I had an ancient doctor ask me why I wasn't sanitizing my nipples before and after feedings.”
“Upon hearing any illness a baby has, my mom will ask the mother if she breastfed and if not, ‘that's probably why they got sick.’”
“I was told if I gave my babies a pacifier or a bottle it would cause nipple confusion. I bawled when they took my first to the NICU and gave him a bottle before I had the chance to nurse him. Nope. He was a champ.”
“To pump instead of nurse through mastitis. This is actually the worst advice because your baby is best at clearing a blocked duct.”
“My aunt-in-law once told me I wasn't allowed to eat mayonnaise while breastfeeding. But apparently mustard is OK! She's also told me that I have to hold my nipple a different way so that the baby can latch correctly, despite the baby already successfully getting milk like a champ. She even tried to grab my breast and demonstrate for me on several occasions. I’ve never looked at her the same since.”
“The worst advice I got came from my baby's doctor. First, she said to nurse once every three hours or something. With that advice the baby 'wasn't gaining enough.' So, her new advice was to nurse the baby more frequently, and afterwards 'give the baby a bottle of pumped milk.' WTF? I don't know where she expected that pumped milk to come from, since I was nursing my baby as much as possible. She said to pump after a feeding, which would yield approximately half a teaspoon. It stressed me out so much, but fortunately I was able to get the baby's weight up just by nursing constantly."
“‘It's supposed to hurt in the beginning.’ Told to me by a lactation consultant no less. Wish I'd gotten that 2nd opinion a whole lot sooner!”
“'Pump after every feeding.' When the hell was I supposed to do anything else?”
“I can share one from my grandma, because it's hysterically bad! Back in the 60s, my grandmother tried really hard to nurse my uncle. She recounted her troubles to her doctor at a routine appointment. She off-handedly mentioned that there had been a car accident that had given her a fright the week before. ‘Well that's your problem!’ the doctor said. ‘The stress from the accident soured your milk and that's why he's not drinking it! You should make the switch to formula.’”
“I was told not to exercise, like ever. Don't build up to it, don't try it. Don't nothing or baby will hate your sour workout milk and you will dry up instantly. Eye roll.”
“The NICU insisted that my 35 weaker needed not only formula supplementing but oil in his breast milk bottles. They said we were going to have to do it for three months. At our first pedi appointment, my pedi told me to stop all supplementing — that he didn't think it was necessary based on how he was nursing — and we'd check his weight in a week. He was right.”
“I think the worst advice I ever got was to pump so that dad can help with a late night feeding during the first few weeks. While in theory it sounds good, in the beginning your body is regulating how much milk to make based on what baby eats, and if you skip a feeding to sleep your milk supply can drop off. That's no fun and can make the process of adjusting to breastfeeding that much harder.”
“Using the nipple shield instead of working on latching issues. I know it helps a lot of women, but it ruined breastfeeding and wrecked my supply with my first child.”
“I actually have the opposite one as Jane. For me it was being told not to use the nipple shield and nursing through the pain. The nipple shield saved breastfeeding with my second.”
“Basically that there is only one way to breastfeed. Gotta pump. Gotta hold them like this. Gotta supplement with formula. Gotta stick to breastmilk. Gotta introduce a bottle early on or they'll never take it later. If people could just reframe it as, ‘Here's what worked for me, and it may not work for you but who knows?’ rather than a ‘DO IT THIS WAY OR YOU'LL DRY UP/THEY'LL NEVER ADJUST/NEVER LATCH/YOU'LL OVERPRODUCE.’ Ugh, giving me anxiety just writing it out.”
Editor's Note: As always, it's best to consult your doctor or a lactation consultant if you have any questions about your persona and unique experience, or when attempting to find what works best for you and your breastfeeding baby. What works for one mother doesn't work for another, and visa versa, so find what works best for you and your kid.