Breastfeeding mothers like to feed their babies when they are hungry. Just as any adult will know, when your tummy is grumbling and you start to feel irritable from hunger – you want to eat fairly urgently.
A baby too would like to have his or her tummy filled. Sometimes this happens when a mother is out and about, or doesn’t have anywhere private to feed her baby.
Yet instead of being upset that there are no helpful conveniences for a breastfeeding mother, some people decide to get upset at the mother, by making unhelpful or hurtful comments.
Here are 15 things that you should avoid saying to a breastfeeding mother:
#1: “Can You Go Somewhere Private To Do That?”
Erm, no. My baby feeds for about a bazillion hours each day, do you really expect me to sit in isolation during all of those feeds?
#2: “Can You Do That In The Toilets?”
Hmm, I'll check. Excuse me, do you have a table in the lavatories, ideally squashed in next to the sanitary bin, so that my baby's foot keeps accidentally knocking the suspicious red stain on the lid? It would be great if the cubicle was small enough that she keeps grabbing out and touching the toilet roll dispenser too. Oh, and I think the smell of stale urine and (fingers crossed) faeces will really compliment my baby's lunch, so if you can arrange that too, that would be great.
#3: “Do You Have To Do That While I'm Eating?”
I don't mean to offend you, but I'm not timing my feeds to coincide with your schedule. I just feed my baby whenever she gets hungry. So, if you want to see me, you're pretty much going to have to learn to live with the breastfeeding, because my baby is hungry a lot. So, yes, I will have to do it while you're eating, while you're talking, and while you're sleeping. I do it a lot.
#4: “Ew, Does It Hurt?”
I know this question isn't asked in a malicious way, but it makes me feel uncomfortable when you ask that whilst I'm feeding in public. I feel self conscious. It also makes me worry that I pull some kind of grimace when my baby latches on, so I'll be feeding in front of mirrors for the next few days so I can find out. Also, could you not say “Ew,” it's really hurtful to hear you say that about me feeding my baby.
#5: “When Are You Going To Stop Breastfeeding?”
I have no idea, and when you ask that question, it implies you think it should be soon. I might stop tomorrow, next month or in two years, but I have no idea when the exact date will be at this minute.
#6: “Are You Sure Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?”
Uch. No, I'm not, because my breasts aren't measuring jugs, perhaps you've noticed? I just trust that my body (you know, the one that grew the baby from scratch) knows what it's doing. See BellyBelly’s article, Is My Baby Hungry? Do I Have Enough Milk? for more information.
#7: “You Should Top Up With Formula”
I think I must have missed the bit where you studied extensively to become a qualified lactation consultant, equipped to advise on breastfeeding?
Topping up with formula reduces the production of breastmilk, because there is less demand. It also increases the health risks for babies, including SIDS. True story.
Only a qualified infant feeding professional should advise a mother to put her baby on formula.
#8: “Feeding On Demand Spoils Babies”
Spoils them how, exactly? By letting them know that they will not have to go hungry, or by reassuring them that the person they are completely dependent on hasn't abandoned them? Are these things really negative in your eyes? Feeding on demand ensures a good breastmilk supply that is just right for my baby.
#9: “Should You Be Having That Drink If You're Breastfeeding?”
Yes, the odd drink is fine. I wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't considered to be safe, obviously. Now, pour me a glass of wine.
For more information, see our article on alcohol and breastfeeding.
#10: “Breastfeeding Isn’t Fair On The Dad”
Equality isn't about everything being the same – it doesn't mean each parent should be doing exactly half of everything. It means that dads need to take up the slack in other areas to allow women to focus on, and feel supported in, breastfeeding. I never hear the dad's of breastfed babies moaning about how they just don't get to deal with enough night wakings, do you?
#11: “Formula Feeding Will Help Your Baby Sleep More”
In the grand scheme of life, these short months of sleep deprivation are nothing. Yes, they're hard, and I do often wish I could get more sleep. But I also want to breastfeed. It would be great if instead of suggesting formula to solve every problem at every opportunity, you said something understanding and supporting about breastfeeding.
Do you even realise that it's actually dangerous to feed babies supplements in order to make them sleep deeper? It increases the risk of SIDS (which peaks between 2-5 months of age). Night time formulas have been put on the market, seeing the dollar signs ringing everywhere, with blatant disregard to a baby’s health. Or biologically programmed needs for frequent night wakings for breastmilk.
Phew, glad I got that one out.
#12: “When They Can Ask For It, They're Too Old”
Did I invite you round for a political decision about society's views on breastfeeding? Yeah, I didn't think so.
Look, it's great that you think that! What an interesting and thought provoking opinion. But, my baby asked for it fifteen minutes after being born, when she rooted around on my chest, trying to find a nipple. So, excuse me if I don't buy into your theory.
#13: “You're Still Breastfeeding?”
#14: “You've Already Given Up Breastfeeding?”
Yes. Thanks for the judgement.
#15: “Bottles Are So Much Easier!”
Getting the lift is so much easier, but I don't point that out each time you walk up the stairs. Life isn't always about the easy option, and I'm not basing all of my decisions on ease. Thanks for letting me know how hard work I make all of this motherhood malarky look though – a much needed confidence boost there.