Breastfeeding is hard. It's one of the most important, one of the most sacrificial and one of the hardest things that some women do for their babies. And even women who have nursed older children can struggle to get a hang of the job, no matter how hard they try.
Thankfully — or not so thankfully — people have lots of tips and tricks that women can try to be successful in breastfeeding. Some of those are very helpful, but others are total bull.
Some can make a new mom feel like a failure before she's even gotten started, and others can scare her away from things that could make her entire experience more pleasant — from enjoying a night out on the town to letting the baby have a binky. Some women swear by schedules and timers, but they can set up others for defeat.
All babies are different, and some of these tricks may work for some moms. But others don't pass the smell test. Moms should just ignore those pieces of advice and find their own way to make things work.
We are here to help you wade through the truths and the manure. Here are 15 breastfeeding tricks that are total bull.
15 The Baby Will Cry When She's Hungry
This little bit of advice is true. But it's actually the worst time to try to nurse your baby. That's because the baby will give signals that she's hungry long before she starts to cry. In fact, crying is a last resort when she has failed to get her mother's attention. And usually when she gets to that point, it's hard for her settle down enough to latch correctly and calmly drink her dinner.
Instead, moms should pay attention to hunger cues such as when the baby turns her head in to the mother's breast and sometimes even bobs it a little in search of a nipple. She will even do this to dad when she's starting to get hungry. She'll also nibble on her hands. She'll start to get fussy, and that should be enough for mom to figure out that the baby is ready to be fed. If you wait until she is wailing, it may be too late to have a good, stress-free breastfeeding session.
14 Babies Can Nurse Anywhere
This is another truth that can trick a mom into feeling like her baby can nurse anywhere. Sure, some babies have no problem ignoring the party and diving in to get their next meal, but that's not the case for all babies and certainly not all the time.
Some babies get easily distracted while they nurse, and that's especially true when they are starting to get out of the newborn stage and getting more interested in everything around them. Even newborns can get overstimulated by a busy day, and when that happens, it's best if the mom takes her little one into a quiet, peaceful room to nurse. That can help in calming the baby down for a good night's sleep and also in making sure that the baby gets his fill instead of getting interrupted when he hears an interesting noise or sees a colorful bit of excitement going on across the room. Remember, babies can nurse anywhere, but that doesn't mean that they always should. It depends on the baby, the age, the time of the day and so much more to ensure that the baby gets a full tummy.
13 Breastfeed In the First Hour Of The Baby's Life
This one isn't bad advice at all. There is a great advantage to breastfeeding a newborn in the first hour of life because that is when their instincts to nurse are the strongest. In fact, there is a crawling reflex in newborns where tiny infants will crawl up their mother's body to get to the breast and latch right on just minutes after birth.
But the part of this that is total bull is that it is a trick that if missed could destroy the possibility of having a good breastfeeding experience. The people who go on and on about the Golden Hour as the best trick to get a start on breastfeeding forget that sometimes that isn't possible. Some babies are whisked to the NICU right after birth, and sometimes the mom suffers complications that need immediate attention. Missing out on the first hour — or even the first day or two — will not detract from the possibility of breastfeeding. Once everyone is healthy, the window is still open to start breastfeeding.
12 Set A Timer
This one is straight from the lactation consultant's play book, and it does seem like a good trick if you are hoping to switch breasts in the middle of a nursing session. But women who live by a timer die by a timer. Very few babies actually pay attention to what the timer says when they decide if their little belly is full. Sometimes a nursing session lasts five minutes and sometimes it lasts 30 minutes, so there is really no way to predict what the halfway point is to switch breasts.
In the beginning, a newborn may take a long time to feed because they keep falling asleep, but they really don't consume much. Their tummies are tiny, although they do grow every single day. So to start off, it's a good idea to empty one breast entirely during a nursing session and switch to the other one the next time the baby needs to be fed. It can be hard to keep track of, but there are apps that can help, if you remember to use them in the middle of the night.
Completely emptying the breast stimulates the body to produce more, so if you are switching sides and leaving milk behind, you could actually cause the body to produce less and that could make the whole process worse. The timer isn't your friend in this situation.
11 Use A Nursing Cover
We applaud women who choose to breastfeed their baby on the go. As long as the baby is healthy, there is no reason for a new mom to feel confined to her house, and in fact it could help her to beat the postpartum blues to make a Target run every day. We understand if some women are a little self-conscious about exposing themselves in public. So we were all excited when the baby business found a marketable product to solve the problem when they invented the nursing cover.
However, anyone who has tried to nurse a baby under those things soon realizes that they aren't the best baby product ever, and as a breastfeeding trick, they are total bull. Babies tend to hate those things. They very rarely lay quietly underneath and look up through the hole at their mommy with love. Instead, they whip the cover around, get hot and sweaty underneath and do their best to crawl out or peek around. In the best of times, a mom might get a short peaceful moment of nursing, but she is more than likely going to have to wrestle with the cover and the baby so much that it won't be the inconspicuous public nursing session that she had hoped for.
10 Let Off The Pressure With Cabbage Leaves
Engorgement is awful. Within days of giving birth, hormones trigger the body to start producing milk, and even though most women worry that they won't have enough milk, within days their breasts fill up so much that they feel like water balloons about to burst. There is a natural cure for the pain and tenderness that comes from engorgement, and it comes in the form of stinky cabbage leaves.
That is a great idea for women who are not going to breastfeed their baby, but for those who do plan to nurse, we've got an even better trick — breastfeed more. Nursing is one sure fire way to bring the pressure off of the over-filled breasts. The baby will do the work to empty them, and at the same time, the body will get an idea of exactly how much milk is necessary to keep the little one alive. The cabbage may feel good, but it could dry up the mother's milk and that would make it more difficult to keep up with the baby's needs. Instead, leave the cabbage for a good nutritional salad.
9 Don't Nurse The Baby To Sleep
There are plenty of debates over breastfeeding, and there are also a million opinions on the baby's sleep. Tie the two together and you've got a recipe for bad advice. Here's one whopper that gets tossed around and talked about as if it were the best trick to teach new parents: don't nurse the baby to sleep. That's total bull.
In the first few hours and days of a baby's life, a mom has no choice but to nurse her baby to sleep. In fact, then, the trick is keeping the baby awake. (Our best tip is to get a cold bath cloth, strip the baby down and use the cloth on her head when she dozes mid-suck.) Later on, women shouldn't be afraid to make breastfeeding part of the bedtime routine. It may work better to unlatch the baby when he is close to dozing off, but it's not the end of the world if he drifts to sleep while eating his nightly meal. The trick, at that point, is how to get the baby in his crib without waking him up.
8 Stop Breastfeeding When the Baby Gets Teeth
A teething baby is a nightmare for any parent, and to be the mom whose breast gets bitten by a baby's new munchers is the worst of all. But the trick is not to give up breastfeeding when the baby gets teeth. In fact, that may make things even worse.
Moms may think it is hard to deal with a teething infant, but just imagine how hard it is for the child. He doesn't understand why his mouth hurts, and he can't sleep. His ears are also going through something, and the only way he feels better is when he is biting down on something. Now, no mom wants that to be her own nipple, but babies will learn quickly if mom is stern and gives the appropriate reaction when baby takes a bite. Instead, the little one will learn soon that the comfort of breastfeeding is worth it, and they will stop the biting and instead use the time to relax. Breastfeeding can help a woman's baby through the trauma of teething, and that is the true trick that moms should learn.
7 Don't Waste A Drop
Mother's milk is like liquid gold. We absolutely understand the advice that lactation consultants give to not waste a drop. That can be especially tempting when a mom works outside the home, and she worries every day if she has pumped enough milk to nourish her baby the next day.
But that trick is total bull. Women shouldn't be scared about thawing too much milk and restricting her baby's diet, but even more than that, she shouldn't be afraid to have a night out and pump and dump. That might sound scary for women who are having supply issues, but for some moms a night out can help them shake off the baby blues. It can help them reset their identity as a woman as well as a mother, and that is very valuable to being the best person she can be. Don't go overboard, but it may be worth a few drops of liquid gold for the pot at the end of the rainbow.
6 Stay Away From Garlic/Dairy/Gassy Foods
A woman's diet is very important while she is breastfeeding. After all, she is solely responsible for passing along the nutrition that her baby needs. But moms shouldn't feel the need to restrict what they eat unless their child is diagnosed with a food allergy. Those who say that nursing moms should cut things from their diet are full of bull because the truth is actually the opposite.
The trick to avoiding a picky eater when your child is a toddler is to introduce a wide variety of smells and tastes during the breastfeeding period. Most babies love garlic — and while they may get a little gassy when you eat broccoli, it can still be good for the system. Some babies do have issues with dairy, and that's something to talk to the pediatrician about. But without the word from the doctor, don't worry about restricting anything from the mom's diet, so the baby can try as many things as possible.
5 Don't Give The Baby A Bottle
When women who are exclusively breastfeeding are told over and over again that there is a danger to giving the baby a bottle. They are told that offering formula could take out their own milk supply and that even giving a bottle of expressed breastmilk could ruin everything because the baby may decide they like the bottle's nipple better.
But that isn't just bull, it's also dangerous. First of all, moms shouldn't be afraid to give their baby a bottle of formula if that is what she needs. Some babies have died because their mother's milk supply wasn't providing the nutrition they needed, yet all of the advice from others was that they shouldn't offer a bottle for fear that it would ruin any chances of nursing.
Second of all, a baby may have a hard time taking a bottle of expressed milk if they have only known the breast, but they aren't going to reject the comfort of their mother just because they drank from a bottle once. There are millions of women who work for a living who have no choice but to let the baby drink a bottle, and if it is filled with breastmilk, that's all the better for them.
4 Always Stick To A Feeding Schedule
This one again comes from well-meaning lactation consultants and other moms who have been through it, and in general, it is good to try to create a schedule for the baby. But it creates a totally unfair expectation that makes moms feel completely overwhelmed when cluster feedings happen. Even in the first few days with a newborn, there is no telling what the baby's body really wants. Instead of saying, "feed the baby on a schedule every two hours," it's a much better idea to say, "Don't let the baby go more than two hours without eating." (Don't worry if we just scared you; the two-hour schedule doesn't last long as baby's tummy grows.)
Babies hit growth spurts, and once a mom thinks she finally has this breastfeeding thing figured out, the baby is going to go on a feeding binge that will make her wonder if her watch battery has died. It's not unusual during some periods for the baby to be hungry again 10 minutes after finishes a nursing session. Setting up a schedule might sound like a good idea to a type A parent, but babies don't know how to tell time. Instead, the trick should be making sure that the baby is satisfied and gaining weight, not that the baby is on a perfect schedule.
3 Don't Worry About Meals — Eat Snacks All Day To Keep Up Your Strength
This bit of advice sounds like a good idea, especially if a mom is worried about keeping up with cooking and cleaning in the first weeks home with her newborn. But we know some moms who took this breastfeeding trick too literally and ended up hungry — and their babies were hungry as well.
Snacks are a good idea when breastfeeding. Some people even say you should eat a little snack and drink some water while you are nursing to keep your energy up. But snacks cannot sustain a woman for long, and when she isn't properly nourished, her milk supply will dwindle. A mom should eat about 500 extra calories a day for her body to produce the milk that her baby needs. That number changes daily depending on if the baby is cluster feeding or starting to wean. Many moms want to lose their baby weight right away, but they don't realize that doing so could hamper their ability to breastfeed. The snacks need to be in addition to a healthy diet, so we think a better breastfeeding trick is organizing friends and family for a meal train.
2 Don't Use A Pacifier
This is an old breastfeeding trick that people have talked about for decades. The general knowledge back in the day was that pacifiers could absolutely ruin a baby's latch, so lactation consultants and nurses would totally forbid them. At many hospitals, nurses would pop a pacifier in the baby's mouth without even thinking about it, causing women who have heard this trick to go crazy. But the truth is that it is total bull.
Nipple confusion isn't as big a thing as experts imagined it was several years ago. There are a few types of pacifier nipples, and some babies prefer one over the other, but none of them are really like human ones. Pretty much everyone who has studied it agrees that the pacifier ban is bull and that it may actually help.
Babies need to suck. They did it in the womb, and they do it in their sleep. If you don't give them a pacifier, they will suck on their fingers. Sometimes using a paci can help give the mother's breast a break from comfort nursing, but it won't make a difference when baby is hungry.
1 Stop Breastfeeding When The Baby Can Ask For It
Anyone who wants to tell a mother when she should stop breastfeeding because the baby is getting too old should know that what they are saying is a bunch of bull. Whether the baby is six months old or 3 years old, there are plenty of people who have opinions — but there are only two opinions that count: the mom and the baby.
Some babies have no trouble weaning. When they start eating solid food, they lose interest in their mother's milk, and it's easy to distract them away from the breast. But other little ones would much rather get their meals from their mother. They cling to the emotional connection as much as the nutritional one, and there is nothing wrong with that. Mothers who are healthy and happy have no reason to rush to get the baby weaned, no matter what other people tell them.
There are plenty of other tricks to parenting that people will share with new moms and dads — whether they are asking for advice or not. But each piece of advice should be considered with a grain of salt. Some are just total bull.
Sources: La Leche League, Parents, Baby Center