Breastfeeding is just one of the many daunting tasks a new mother has to learn on-the-job and there is nothing that can prepare you for what to expect, much like everything else about childbirth. There are books aplenty on every aspect of motherhood, but experience is the sole teacher that remains true to its role. Mothers have to deal with several birth related issues and problems which often end in surgical/ reconstructive methods such as vaginal rejuvenation after parturition, and insensitive comments or queries about her baby and its feeding habits are certainly not welcome. With the recent hullabaloo on breastfeeding, here are 10 things one mustn’t say to a breastfeeding mother:
- Don’t say that you are in favour of breastfeeding (in public or otherwise) and then follow it up with a hesitant “but…”. Remember that it is a natural process and the decision to breastfeed is a personal one, lying only with the parents (more the mother). Everyone is aware of its benefits so leave it up to the ones who really matter to the child to make the call.
- Don’t ask the mother to be discrete while feeding in public. If you are fine with a cleavage showing attire on a non- breastfeeding woman, then learn to adjust to a natural process. If not, look the other way and carry on. Don’t ask her to cover up or hide herself.
- Don’t ask baseless questions on the size of the breast or how stretched out it has gotten. The stretching and increase in size would happen irrespective of her decision to breastfeed. The human body has been hormonally trained to prepare the feeding mechanism for the offspring and it has little to do with the process in itself.
- Don’t point out how often the child needs to be fed. Growing babies require the nourishment and immune supplements found in breast milk. In fact, the first breast milk- colostrum is so rich in immunoglobulins that it provides immunity to the newborn for the next six months of life.
- Don’t assume that a breastfeeding mother never leaves the house. Don’t ask her if she does. It isn’t something to be done in privacy all the time. In fact, most mothers feel more confident going out of the house for long durations with their child if they are actively breastfeeding since it doesn’t require them to pack a whole lot of extra food and utilities for the journey. Their breasts are always in supply of food!
- Don’t inquire if it hurts. If it does, would you be able to help out in any way? The answer is predominantly in the negative, so save yourself the trouble. It also makes the mother question if her face contorts into a grimace when her baby latches on, making her unnecessarily self-conscious.
- Don’t ask if her body can produce enough milk. That is probably the plainest thing to talk about with a mother since she knows her breasts are measuring cups and has to trust it to feed her child. Being inquisitive or curious is fine as long as it doesn’t come at the cost of making her uncomfortable.
- Giving advice has its limits too. Don’t ask her to top up breastmilk with formula. Leave the food decisions up to the parents, and never suggest that breast milk is not enough for a child. She has read up more than you and will have more current knowledge from books or her consulting Ob/Gyn. Breastmilk should not be diluted with other food since it reduces demand and creates the dreaded demand-supply difference!
- Don’t point out how old their child should be to stop breastfeeding. Mothers can decide when to wean off, and the best indicator of this is determined by their own child.
- Never compare it to bottle-feeding. Both have their cons and a mother has made the decision to go the natural way of her own volition. Don’t point out how much easier it is to use the bottle. She already knows it and your comment will not really sway her.
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