You’re in hospital, you’ve just had a baby, and you’re struggling with breastfeeding.
Since your baby’s first feed, every single one has been painful.
Now, 48 hours after the birth, your nipples are cracked and bleeding.
Every feed feels like daggers are stabbing into your nipples. You’ve informed every midwife who has cared for you and your baby about your nipple pain, and every single one has offered different advice:
“Oh, that’s normal, your nipples just have to toughen up”, one midwife says.
Another says, “Here, put this on your nipples”, as she hands you a sachet of a purified lanolin product.
Yet another says, “Oh, it’s because you’re holding him wrong. Here hold him like this”, and then she proceeds to shove your baby onto your breast.
And after that, other midwives advocate several different ways of holding your baby.
So, what on earth do you do?
Making Sense Of Conflicting Breastfeeding Advice
This article will shed some light on the issue, and help you deal with conflicting breastfeeding advice.
How Information Is Delivered Is Important
How lactation professionals deliver breastfeeding information can make a big difference to how a mother receives it.
Compare these two different ways of helping a mother position her baby at the breast:
- “No, how you are holding your baby is wrong. Here, do it like this. This is the way you should be holding him”.
- “Breastfeeding can be really tricky to get the hang of. How about we go through some different ways of holding your baby, to see what might work best for both of you?”
Which comment do you feel would be most helpful?
Example 2, I bet!
The second example uses language that is more supportive and less prescriptive. It accounts for individual differences and preferences. Example 1 uses prescriptive and unsupportive language.
When different lactation professionals use the language of example 1, you can see how a mother would be much more likely to feel as though she’s receiving conflicting advice?
If the language in example 2 is used, however, it communicates the fact that, when it comes to breastfeeding, there often isn’t one ‘right’ way. The mother is much less likely to feel like she’s received conflicting information.
Breastfeeding peer support organisations such as the Australian Breastfeeding Organisation have trained breastfeeding counsellors who tend to use this sort of supportive mother-to-mother language very well.
Remember That Circumstances Change
It’s important to remember that things can change rapidly. Information which might have been relevant last week, or even yesterday, might no longer be relevant, or as relevant, today.
It might not be that the information being received is conflicting, it might just be that the circumstances have changed.
Evidence Based Information Is Important
It’s also very important for lactation professionals to provide parents with information which is as evidence based as possible.
Use of reputable sources of information, such as the Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council infant feeding guidelines, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocols and the American Academy of Pediatrics can help with this.
Systematic reviews are also excellent sources of evidence based information, as they summarise all the available research on a topic.
When this is done, both lactation professionals and parents can be more confident about the validity of the information being provided.
Evidence based information is far more reputable than a lactation professional’s personal opinions or ideologies. If lactation professionals provide information based on their own opinions, it’s important for this to be made clear.
While opinions can be conflicting, quality evidence based information isn’t.
Do What Feels Right
In the end, regardless of the information you receive, doing what works best for you and your family is important. As your child’s parents, you get to decide what’s best for your child.
If some information you’re been given doesn’t feel right, asks questions, do your own research, or ask for another opinion.
We all have a role to play in dealing with conflicting breastfeeding advice. When it comes to breastfeeding, there is no one ‘right’ way. It’s important for mothers to feel supported to finding their own ‘right’ way.