Recovering from Bad Breastfeeding Advice
By Jennifer Hafele, M.Ed., IBCLC - Mama Bear Lactation Care
Well-meaning people sometimes give terrible breastfeeding advice. This bad advice can come from a range of sources: your mother-in-law or grandmother, friends, social media posts, medical professionals such as physicians and nurses, and even lactation helpers. Bad advice can translate to frustration, physical pain, emotional trauma, and termination of the breastfeeding relationship.
But there is HOPE, especially if you trust your instincts and act quickly. Here are a few examples of bad advice that my clients have received before coming to Mama Bear for help:
Bad Advice #1: “Push the back of baby’s head on to the breast.”
Little one was not latching successfully, so this client was told to force the baby onto the breast. The sad result was a 6-day-old baby who had developed a negative association and fear of being at the breast.
Bad Advice #2: “Breastfeeding hurts. Get used to it.”
Unfortunately, this is a common one. Breastfeeding should NOT hurt! If it does, it’s an indicator that something is “off” somewhere. For example, a baby may have an oral restriction such as a tongue or lip tie preventing a proper latch. In this case, the baby should be assessed by a professional specifically trained in infant oral restrictions (many medical professionals are not).
Bad Advice #3: “Your baby will never latch successfully. Just pump and bottle-feed.”
After trying several different approaches, one mother was told it was essentially useless to keep trying. Frustrated, she almost believed the advice before a friend encouraged her to keep seeking help and gentle suggestions.
Bad Advice #4: “Schedule your feeding sessions.” They will go on to say, “You have to let milk build up in your breasts before you feed,” or “Be sure baby isn’t manipulating you.”
In truth, scheduling feedings is detrimental to mom’s milk supply and baby’s growth. Responding to your baby’s cues is always the right answer, and it is impossible to “spoil” a newborn baby as their wants and needs are the same!
Bad Advice #5+: “You should… (fill in the blank).”
Sadly, this list could go on and on. However, the results of bad breastfeeding advice do not have to end in trauma and heartache.
First and foremost, trust your instincts. New parents are amazing. You KNOW when something is not right with your baby or when something is not working. Follow those instincts! Secondly, if you don’t feel like you got what you need, seek out another source. I am pleased to say that each of the clients mentioned above were able to resolve their breastfeeding challenges with support from Mama Bear Lactation Care!
The key was they acted quickly on their excellent instincts. In a safe, comfortable environment, I help assess your situation and then offer expert counsel and gentle support to start over.
So, trust your instincts and take heart—a fresh start is possible in most breastfeeding situations!
Jennifer Hafele is active in the Chippewa Valley birth and postpartum care community. She provides professional lactation support through her private practice, Mama Bear Lactation Care. Offering a free support group is a cornerstone of her practice. She also loves co-teaching “Confident Birth & Beyond,” an independent childbirth and postpartum education series. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook or at MamaBearLactationCare.com.