I don’t usually like focusing on the whole idea of ‘mistakes’. I honestly believe than Moms choose the option they believe to be best at the time, with the information they’re given.
But that’s the thing, if we don’t know, we don’t know. And when we’re knee deep in this whole new mama gig, it’s hard to know what to do and who to look to for answers.
So I wanted to share with you some of the common breastfeeding mistakes new moms make and how you can avoid them.
1 – Not Knowing Their Options
Ask most new mothers what their options for feeding their baby are and they’ll tell you two – breastfeeding or formula. But there are so many variations of these options that mothers don’t even realise.
According to the World Health Organization, the recommendations for preferences for feeding babies is breastmilk, pumped breastmilk, donor breastmilk, then formula.
For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depends on individual circumstances.World Health Organization – Infant and young child nutrition
Right there are two other options (pumped breastmilk and donor breastmilk) that many women aren’t even given as options when facing concerns about whether or not they’re going to be able to or continue to breastfeeding.
And furthermore, the difficulty faced with feeding with a bottle is even addressed by using the options to feed with a cup (or a syringe).
Regardless of what you choose to do, the point is knowing your options. We always say fed isn’t best – fed is a minimum standard. Educated, empowered and supported is best.
2 – Not Seeing A Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
Do you know the difference between a Lactation Consultant and a Midwife? Or a Lactation Consultant and an Obstetrician? Or your GP? Or a breastfeeding counsellor?
They all have their roles to play, and each has their own specialised field.
Don’t get me wrong, your Midwife can be a great place to start about basic breastfeeding questions, but if you’re needing support, advice and assistance, then a Lactation Consultant is the way to go.
If I had my way in this magical world, every mother would have time with a Lactation Consultant, and in fact, it is also a World Health Organization recommendation:
Mothers should have access to skilled support to help them initiate and sustain appropriate feeding practices, and to prevent difficulties and overcome them when they occur.World Health Organization – Infant and young child nutrition.
If your hospital doesn’t cover a Lactation Consultant, there are often private ones available in most areas. A great place to start is with the Australian Breastfeeding Association or the La Leche League International.
3 – Trying To Create A Schedule
There’s a big difference between schedules and routines.
Routines help establish a set of expectations – bath, baby massage, boob, bed is a great routine – but 10 min, bath, 10 min massage, 10 min feed and then bed strictly by 7pm is a schedule… and it can be dangerous. (For the record, these 10 minute times are just to prove the point).
Because it sets you up for failure.
Babies aren’t meant to be on schedules.
They don’t understand that it’s 7pm and they’re meant to be in bed. All they know is that they’re a little cold in this new world and being cuddled makes them feel warm, safe, and secure.
So, when you cut off their 10 minute feed to put them into bed, and they’re still hungry or still wanting cuddles and warmth, or comfort from your breast or they don’t want to lay down with a full belly… they cry and get upset.
And what’s your first response?
‘You’ve done something wrong… the book said 10/10/10 bed…’.
But your baby didn’t read that book. And if you’ve had more than one baby you’ll know that no two babies are ever the same.
So, when your baby acts in a perfectly normal way, wanting more cuddles, more warmth, more milk, more comfort… you feel like you’re failing because they’re not doing what the schedule says they should be doing.
Can you see how this can lead to feelings of failure and disappointment?
Keep in mind the difference between routines and schedules, routines create predictability and security, schedules do not.
4 – Timing Their Feeds
Have you seen all of those apps that let you set a timer for when your baby starts feeding? And lets you keep the time between feeds?
If you have one, please delete it. Right now.
Despite what some people thing, babies don’t actually work off times. They don’t know the difference between feeding for 5 minutes or 50 minutes. Just like they don’t understand schedules.
After breastfeeding two babies, and talking to countless other breastfeeding Mama’s, I can tell you that no two babies feed the same, and even the same baby doesn’t feed the same two days in a row.
Some days my baby girl would be done in 10 minutes, other days she would feed for what felt like hours on end. But most of the time I couldn’t tell you exactly how long because I responded to her not a timer.
Timing feeds can lead to so much anxiety in mothers, because it isn’t a metric that actually gives you any relevant information.
It doesn’t tell you how much your baby has fed, it doesn’t tell you if they are feeding properly and it doesn’t tell you if your baby is full.
There are so many other cues to look for in babies to give you insight into what is happening rather than the time of feeds. If you do have questions about your baby’s nursing habits, refer back to point #2, and go and see a Lactation Consultant.
5 – Not Trusting Their Instincts
In over a decade of working as a Paramedic there is one thing I trust more than anything else in this job, and that’s a mother’s instinct.
When we are called because a mother is worried about her baby, that something isn’t quite right, even when all the numbers are looking fine and we can’t exactly tell you what’s going on… I will always trust a mother’s instinct because she knows… and more often than not she is right.
What does this have to do with breastfeeding?
We know that something isn’t quite right when our babies are sick, and we trust that mother instinct then – that’s why we call an ambulance or take them to a doctor, because we know.
But what about with everything else? We are so quickly silenced on our instinct because we are told what babies should and shouldn’t do, and we aren’t taught how to nurture that instinct.
You know that tingling sensation you get when your baby cries and your milk lets down? That’s your inbuilt instinct kicking in telling you to feed your baby… trust it!
There are so many elements to your instinct in motherhood, but when it comes to breastfeeding, just do what you feel is right.
If you feel like you should be feeding your baby, feed your baby (and I’m talking about what you feel like you should be doing, not what you feel like everyone else thinks you should be doing). If you feel like your baby isn’t feeding properly, get help from a Lactation Consultant. If you feel like things are going brilliantly, keep doing what you’re doing.
Trust that instinct, you know your baby best.
While there are a lot of things that go into breastfeeding, skills to learn and support to be had, you can help yourself in the best way possible by avoiding these breastfeeding mistakes new moms make and enjoy your breastfeeding experience and breastfeeding relationship with your babe.