Everyone has a relative who loves to give weird unsolicited advice about parenting during holiday dinners, but it's especially awkward when the topic is your boobs. Breastfeeding is such a hot topic among parents and non-parents alike these days, and that’s why it’s important to know all of the outdated breastfeeding advice so you can tell your great-aunt to hush. (And also so you can feed your baby how you want.)
Breastfeeding is hard, y’all. Every aspect of it. It’s worth it, but for a lot of moms it doesn’t just happen easily. For me, my son didn’t latch — and boy was I disappointed. I studied and studied and researched as much as I could about breastfeeding while I was pregnant. I learned about all the positions you could hold your baby in, the timing, the supply upkeep, everything. I listened to and took notes from my friends and family who had done it in the past. I wanted it to work so badly. And it didn’t. And that’s OK. I was able to exclusively pump a little over a year, and I’m proud of myself for that. Plus, it turns out, some of the advice from my older relatives and friends was a little bit outdated and wasn’t recommended anyway.
Like most things when it comes to raising a kid, breastfeeding information has evolved for sure. As time goes on, doctors and scientists are finding more and more information on everything from pregnancy to birth; car seats; how, when, and what you feed your baby; sleep positions; and more. I spoke with current lactation consultants about what information is outdated and why, and they had some valuable information.
1. "You have to feed for X amount of time."
Tori Hamilton, an obstetrical nurse, IBCLC, LLL leader, and mom of three tells Romper, "The amount of time at the breast doesn't matter the most — what matters is that there are signs of good milk transfer, no pain, diaper output, weight gain and a (relatively) settled baby. A baby who feeds for 10 minutes can get more milk than a baby who feeds for an hour and a half!"
2. "Nipple shields are bad."
This is what one of my lactation consultants told me at the hospital, and the other one was appalled — for good reason. "We used to tell moms that nipple shields were bad for breastfeeding. We now know that they can be an important tool in some breastfeeding situations," says Andrea Tran, a registered nurse and IBCLC. My "breastfeeding situation" was that my nipples were inverted. The shield gave my son something to latch onto a few times.
3. "You have to follow a schedule."
"Moms used to be encouraged to feed on schedules, and now we recommend feeding whenever a baby is showing cues that they are hungry," Tran says. Hamilton adds, "Babies should be fed according to their cues around the clock. All moms need to worry about is watching their baby, not the clock. Scheduling can cause moms to inadvertently spread out feeds, which can result in faltering weight gain and lowered supply."
4. "Feed for an equal amount of time on both breasts."
Tran explains, "When I first became a lactation consultant 25 years ago, we told moms it was important to breastfeed for an equal amount of time on both breasts at each feeding. We now know that advice doesn’t work for all breastfeeding couplets." She also says that some moms have a lot of milk and it may be best for them to only feed on one side at each feeding. "We now tell moms to let their baby feed as long as they want on the first side before switching to the second side. We also tell them the baby may not feed the same amount of time on both sides, and may not take the second side at all."
5. "Don't pump when you're engorged."
"We used to tell moms not to pump when they got engorged when their milk came in. We thought that would encourage over-producing. Now we know that if a woman’s breasts get too full during engorgement and there is no relief from that pressure, it can actually destroy the milk-producing cells. This can result in long term poor milk production," Tran explains.
6. "Pump and dump if you have mastitis."
Hamilton says, "Mastitis is not infectious — it is completely safe to continue breastfeeding your baby. It is actually recommended that you nurse more, as babies are more efficient at removing milk than pumps are. Pooled milk can cause a breast abscess without frequent milk removal."
7. "There is no nutritional value of breastfeeding past one year."
"Breast milk changes as your baby grows and continues to contribute to your child's nutrition," Hamilton says. "In addition, it can help boost immunity, provides comfort, allows for a nutritional buffer for picky eaters or frequently ill children, and increases intellectual development."
But if you feel like you can't go a year — or not at all — remember, you're not a bad mom. As long as your baby is fed, happy, and healthy, you're doing just fine.
Tori Hamilton, an obstetrical nurse, IBCLC, LLL leader.
Andrea Tran, a registered nurse and IBCLC.