If you're feeling like your breastfeeding sessions are lacking a little lately, you're not alone. Many women go through ups and downs with breastfeeding. In some cases, the challenges are more on the baby's side and in others, the mom has to make some adjustments. If you're feeling like it's an issue on your end, you may be wondering about some of the bad breastfeeding habits that seriously hurt your baby. Unfortunately, there are many seemingly benign behaviors that are not-so-great for you or your baby. The good news is changing just one habit can have a big impact on your breastfeeding success.
The most important thing to remember if you're struggling with breastfeeding is this: it happens. It doesn't mean you have to stop, or that something's wrong with you. It just means you need a little guidance and practice. A "mother's intuition" is great (if you feel like you have it), but it doesn't always solve breastfeeding issues.
Identifying your trouble spots will be key to breaking your bad habits before they get even more solidified. This means you'll have to honestly examine what you're doing, in detail, every feeding session. To help guide you, use this list of seven common bad habits and be on your way to happier and healthier breastfeeding sessions.
1. Not Giving Your Baby Enough Time
The composition of your breast milk changes through the feeding, as explained on La Leche League International (LLLI). It starts off like skim milk, initially satisfying and high in volume. Throughout the feeding it changes to more of a whole milk, high in fat and calories. Ultimately, the baby needs both foremilk and hindmilk, which means you have to give them enough time to empty each breast.
"Limiting time at the breast can cause the baby to be underfed it miss out on fatty hind milk," Leigh Anne O'Connor, an international board certified lactation consultant, tells Romper. Additionally, O'Connor says limiting time can reduce your supply. Either way, stop-watch-breastfeeding is a bad idea and should be avoided if possible.
2. Putting Your Baby On A Strict Feeding Schedule
It may be tempting to get your baby on a parent-led feeding schedule, especially if you're a working parent, but be careful. Too strict of a schedule can really mess things up.
"Doing this can negatively impact the breastfeeding relationship as you may be restricting the amount baby is getting (by watching the clock during feeds) or missing critical feeding cues (when you spread feeds out to every certain number of hours)," Tori Sproat, author and international board certified lactation consultant with Tiny Tummy Lactation Services, tells Romper. She further advises parents to reach out to a doctor or lactation consultant right away if they feel the baby's nutritional needs are not being met.
3. Not Making Eye Contact With Your Baby
Smartphones are like pacifiers for adults — something to keep the mind busy or numb it. But having your phone out during a feeding session is one habit you might want to break.
"Staring at your phone the whole time while nursing takes away eye contact from baby," O'Connor says. "Babies need eye contact and interaction and breastfeeding inherently meets this need."
No one is saying you have to completely put your phone away during a feeding, especially if your little one is nodding off to sleep. Just be mindful of how much time you spend on it.
4. Drinking Too Much Booze
Using recreational drugs and drinking too much is a concern for many health and safety reasons.
"Excessive consumption of alcohol can be harmful to your baby, reduce your milk supply, and you risk rolling over or harming the baby in other ways," O'Connor warns.
If you do drink and really want to let loose one night, just make sure your baby is being watched overnight by a family member, friend, or sitter.
5. Putting Pressure On Your Boobs
Your breasts need some freedom if you want breastfeeding to work. According to Kelly Mom, too much pressure from your fingers, tight bras or clothing, and prone sleeping can cause clogged ducts and even mastitis.
6. Taking Herbs Without Consulting An Expert
Many women search for herbs online when they experience perceived supply problems. Bad idea.
"Taking herbs to boost supply without talking to a lactation consultant first can harm you, your baby, or even tank your supply," O'Connor says. "Many herbs have side effects and they can cross react with other things you may be taking." She urges parents who suspect a supply problem to consult a lactation consultant first before self-diagnosing and spending a million bucks on supplements.
7. Feeling Shame
Drop the shame. All of it.
You should be able to feed your kid wherever and however you want. If you want to wear a breastfeeding cover, do it. If you want to feed your baby in the middle of a store, do it. If you feel like you want to combination feed with formula or quit breastfeeding altogether, do it.
Feeling shame is a hard habit to drop, but it's necessary for a good feeding session. When you feel like you're not fitting into the norm, or that you're doing something wrong, or for any other reason you feel shamed, you will automatically feel stressed, according to a HuffPost article. Consistent stress every day can lead to bad let-down reflexes and low milk supply, as explained on Very Well.
Nipping at least one of these little habits in the bud will have a big impact on your breastfeeding journey, and quite possibly your whole life.