Here’s the thing…as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant I talk every day to women who are seeking help with breastfeeding. Almost every single one of these women (including myself) have heard someone tell them that “X” is happening BECAUSE THEY ARE BREASTFEEDING. What is this “X” I speak of? Well depending on who you are talking to it can be a variety of interesting little special scenarios…all blamed on the fact that we are breastfeeding!!! This boob blaming is handed to us by various types of people we meet, including strangers and health care providers.
LACTATING BOOB BLAMING RIDICULOUSNESS…
1. Your baby is NOT gaining enough weight because you are breastfeeding!
“You need to supplement with formula, you don’t have enough milk.” Unfortunately so many women hear this. Instead of blaming low weight gain (or no weight gain) on breastfeeding it would be much more helpful to do the following: assess how a woman is feeding (is she feeding on a schedule which can affect her supply); is she trying to stretch out her baby’s feeds; is she timing how long her baby breastfeeds for, is her baby falling asleep very quickly at the breast due to prematurity or a medical condition; does her baby have tongue or lip tie which can affect milk transfer and therefor the mother’s milk supply…and has anyone actually asked her, “Do you want to continue to breastfeed?” If her answer is, “Yes!” then let’s focus on getting her good support while looking into all of the various possibilities, not just blaming weight issues on the simple fact that she is breastfeeding.
The other important factor is SOME BABIES ARE TINY! Some babies will gain slowly. Look at the WHOLE picture. Is your baby developing normally? Are they continuing to stay on the same percentile even if it is on the low end of the scale? Is your baby meeting all of the developmental milestones? Is your baby generally content and happy? Does your baby have at least 5-6 wet nappies per day and 2-3 poops per day? If yes then great!
The following are some things that influence a baby fluctuating on a growth curve: plotting on a chart that is using data based on primarily artificially fed children; baby was born larger due to genetics or experiences during the labour (IV fluids for example); or a chronic illness.
2. Your baby is OVERWEIGHT because you are breastfeeding too frequently!
Breastmilk does not equal french fries and a hamburger. Since we know that over eating leads to being over weight, it makes sense that people assume the same applies to babies who breastfeed very frequently. What is not taken into account though is how breastmilk is perfectly suited to your individual baby and your baby will not breastfeed “too often”. It is simply not possible to over-feed an exclusively breastfed baby who is breastfeeding on demand. Genetics also plays a huge factor in this. Are the parents or grandparents large? Then chances are the baby will be as well. There are also medical conditions which can cause rapid weight gain, which will have nothing to do with the fact they are breastfeeding. It IS however possible to over-feed a baby who is being fed by a bottle. Please click here for more information on over-feeding a baby.
3. Your baby will be overly dependent on you and spoiled because you are breastfeeding on demand!
This one is so hard to defend as a new mum. So often I was told I was creating a, “mama’s boy” with my first son (who is now eleven). I was going to make him overly dependent on me and never be able to sooth himself. Now, at eleven years old I can look back and see how wrong they all were! He is the most independent child I have ever seen. In fact, as I write this he is not even here…he is with a friend riding his bike. This child has not had a breastfeed or slept in our bed in over 8 years. Actually, meeting the needs of your child when they are young creates strong, independent, confident beings. Our children learn how to love by how we treat them and others.
Children who have their needs met are children who develop to the best of their abilities. It is simply not possible to spoil a baby, hold them too often or breastfeed them too much. Research shows that parents who are sensitive to their babies needs increases the development of the child’s attachment security1.
4. Your baby is not sleeping because you are breastfeeding!
Well, OK I’ll give ya this one because it is actually true (although many formula fed babies wake as well) . BUT waking to breastfeed is actually a protective factor against SIDS2 and developmentally important for babies to have their night time needs met by breastfeeding and cuddling. Babies are supposed to wake up to breastfeed, it is the biological norm and incredibly important for not only their development but also your breastmilk supply. Most babies and toddlers who are breastfed on demand wake to breastfeed at least once or twice most nights. Yes, night waking is EXHAUSTING FOR US! It’s torture! I mean, let’s think about it…sleep deprivation is actually used as a way to torture people!! We are being held prisoners in our own homes and being tortured by our newborns! But remember…our children do not have a “sleep problem”…it is our crazy, busy, insane lifestyles that have the problem. Take it easy and stop doing so much.
5. Your baby (or toddler) is not eating enough during the day because you are breastfeeding!
Oh yes, how often I hear this one! There is a huge misunderstanding when it comes to breastfeeding and “fullness” with a toddler or older baby who is eating solids. Remember the following though…
*A child who has a breastfeed is not necessarily a child who is then “full”. All you have to do is take a look at this picture of my toddler breastfeeding while holding a cracker in his hand. He ate some food, breastfed and then ate some more food! Some breastfeeding toddlers eat heaps of food, others do not. It’s again about looking at the whole picture.
*Breastmilk is the most important food a child can have. It is also anti-infective, anti-microbial and a variety of other disease fighting awesomeness. Show me a carrot that has all of those components and then we can talk!
A question to ask is, “Why is this particular person so concerned that your child is not eating enough?” Is your child very sick all of the time (because breastmilk is best for that), is your child not growing at the rate expected (then there are tests which need to be done that have nothing to do with breastfeeding), does your child have some developmental issues that need to be looked at (again which will have nothing to do with the fact that they are breastfeeding or not). Look at the whole picture…
*A child breastfeeds for MANY different reasons other than hunger. These include: comfort; pain relief and increasing your supply. Please head here for more information on why babies and toddlers breastfeeding.
It is not uncommon for breastfed babies and toddlers to be very much into the boob and not into the solid foods. If you are concerned about this then head here.
6. Your marriage will fall apart because you are spending too much time breastfeeding!
Aaaaahhhh yes. So what do people say then when a marriage falls apart between two people who did controlled crying at four weeks and had a nanny 24/7? Now I’m not a marriage counselor but I do know that a strong, awesome marriage has nothing to do with your particular style of parenting but does have a lot to do with how well you communicate, if you have similar goals, if you make the time to hang out together without kids and if you have the similar philosophies when it comes to child rearing. Sometimes people wonder, “how do you actually have sex if your baby is in your bed?!” Remember folks…sex does not have to happen in your bed, between the evening news and 9pm, after a thorough teeth brushing. Head here to read more about combining a marriage with attachment parenting.
7. Your baby has a cavity because you are breastfeeding throughout the night!
I get this question weekly from people! “I was told by my dentist that I have to wean my child at night”. “I was told that it is because of frequent night time breastfeeding that my child has dental issues”. Now, firstly I do need to say what first comes to my mind…it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever from a evolutionary perspective or survival perspective that something so common and biologically normal (breastfeeding throughout the night) would lead to cavities. This makes absolutely no sense.
What does the research say? The following article from the Australian Breastfeeding Association has a great summary of evidence based research on this: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/breastfeeding-and-tooth-decay
The anti-bodies in your breastmilk actually inhibit the growth of cavity causing bacteria3 and have components which actually protect your child’s teeth. We do know that the following definitely DOES contribute to cavities: sugar intake; formula; poor diet; family genetics and dental hygiene.
What’s the take home message? Current, evidence based research shows that breastfeeding at night does NOT cause cavities and that the opposite is actually true (breastmilk helps protect teeth). Also, breastmilk does not pool in a baby’s mouth as many people think. Your nipple is pulled very far back while breastfeeding. It does not sit in a baby’s mouth as expressed milk or formula does when being sucked out of an artificial nipple.
8. Your partner will not bond with the baby because you are breastfeeding and cannot feed her with a bottle!
As my husband puts it, “Every time you talk to them, cuddle them, tickle them, read to them, hold them etc. you are building a bond that lasts a lifetime.” You do not need to breastfeed or bottle feed a baby to be able to bond with your baby. There are endless ways to bond and feeding is just one of them. Please head here for more of my thoughts on bonding without bottles.
9. Your boobs are hanging just one inch above your shoes because you breastfed so many children for sooooooo long!!
OK, I’m just gonna put it out there…my boobs are tiny but they are perky! I have breastfed for a total of seven years (and counting) and my boobs look pretty much exactly the same as before I fell pregnant with my first over eleven years ago. Why? Because I was lucky enough to get the perky boob gene. Thank you mom. Also, research shows that the changes to your breasts actually happen as a result of your changing hormones during pregnancy, genetics, smoking, age and weight loss, and that breastfeeding history is not a factor4.
Having said that, be warned that your nipples might resemble an extra long, stretched out pencil eraser after having been sucked on by your vacuum baby. This is just unavoidable. Love your long nipples along with your stretch marks and wrinkles. 🙂
1. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Marian J.; Van Ijzendoorn, Marinus H.; Juffer, Femmie (2005). “Disorganized infant attachment and preventive interventions: A review and meta-analysis”. Infant Mental Health Journal 26 (3): 191–216. doi:10.1002/imhj.20046.
2. Stuebe A. (2009). “The risks of not breastfeeding for mothers and infants”. Rev Obstet Gynecol. (4) 2:222–231.
3. Mandel ID (1996). “Caries prevention: current strategies, new directions”. JADA 127:1477–88.
4. Rinker, B., Veneracion, M.,Walsh, CP. (2010). “Breast ptosis: causes and cure”. Annuals of Plastic Surgery May;64(5):579-84.