The Problem with Breastfeeding Advice

Breast milk – it’s nature’s brain food and the best start to life you can give to your baby.  If you want to raise a smart kid, then breastfeeding is one of the things you can do to give your child a headstart.  So why aren’t more mothers offering it to their babies?  Whenever the topic comes up for discussion, I often hear other mothers telling me how they really wanted to breastfeed their babies but they didn’t have enough milk.

Although there are medical cases where mothers really do not have enough milk, it is a rare occurrence.  If the problem of not having enough breast milk to meet a baby’s needs is such a common problem, what did mothers in the past feed their babies back in the days before formula became an option?  I believe that the reason why so many women have trouble breastfeeding is because of lack of appropriate information.

There is information everywhere.  Just google “breastfeeding” and you will find millions of links to information about it.  The question is, how reliable is that information?

I read a lot about breastfeeding while I was pregnant with Gavin.  I thought I knew everything there was to know.  But when Gavin was born, I found myself stumbling.  My nipples were sore, I couldn’t get him to latch on properly, I didn’t have any milk, etc.  It was so bad at times that I wanted to cry.

We know breastfeeding is a good thing to do.  The problem is that most of us don’t know how to breastfeed a baby.  No amount of reading can prepare you for that – especially when the information is not particularly reliable.  Tumbling Boobs and PhD in Parenting highlight some of the reasons why this information is unreliable – it’s because it comes from infant formula companies.

Tumbling Boobs puts it very well: “The absurdity of a formula company creating a breastfeeding advice line is in the same league as a bacon company sponsoring a kosher food festival.”

PhD in Parenting asks: “If you wanted to eat a healthy lunch, but had a craving to scarf down two Mars bars instead, would you call the Mars company for advice on how to curb your cravings? If you were trying to get in shape and exercise, but didn’t feel like going for your morning run, would you call your couch potato friend who always tries to convince you to skip your workouts and join her on the couch? If you were struggling to remain faithful to your spouse, would you call the hot guy who is always flirting with you at work for advice? If you were struggling with breastfeeding, but really wanted to continue, would you call an infant formula manufacturer for advice?”

Unfortunately, the formula companies are often the ones aggressively pushing information.  If they aren’t pushing the information, they are sponsoring it, for example, WebMD’s guide to breastfeeding is sponsored by Gerber.

While some information presented is useful, others can be misleading and completely unhelpful. For example, one thing I read about breastfeeding before I had Gavin was that you should breastfeed for 10-20 minutes on each side, every two to four hours.  When I tried that, the nurses were constantly sending him back to me because he was still hungry.  Even after Gavin, I still assumed that information was correct.  I thought it didn’t work for me because Gavin was a big baby (4kgs at birth) with a larger stomach, therefore, needing more time on the breast to fulfill his feeding needs.

When I had Gareth, I didn’t make the same mistake.  I just let him suckle until I was sure he was really done.  On one occasion, he was on the breast for two hours straight.  After that, he went back to the nursery to sleep under the UV lights (for jaundice) and didn’t come back to me until six hours later!  Then again, Gareth was even bigger than Gavin – 4.5kgs at birth.

It wasn’t until I read the comments from other mothers on KellyMom’s Facebook page that I realised it was the information that was flawed rather than my babies being “the exceptions to the rule”.  If you need information about breastfeeding, make sure you get it from reliable websites, like KellyMom.  If you’re going to take advice about breastfeeding from someone, make sure she’s a mother who has successfully breastfed her child(ren) before, otherwise, it’s just hearsay.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “The Problem with Breastfeeding Advice

  1. Lady, you hit this spot on! I think a lot of Moms give up and say they have no milk because quite frankly, breastfeeding is damn hard work! Honestly, how many women out there have 2 hours to spare several times a day to have baby suck on their breasts? It’s a catch 22 situation – if you don’t allow baby to suuuuuuuuuuuck, then of course, you will have no milk!! of course, everyone is different. Some are lucky and have babies that suck quick and some have the 2 hour marathon sucks, like mine, boohoo. But man is it hard work.

    And I guess people don’t say how hard it is because it will only scare women into even trying in the first place….*sigh* They really need to be passionate about their babies, no offense to non-breastfeeding Moms. I completely respect all Moms whichever route they take, sometimes I understand, it’s purely circumstantial. But I myself, gave up sooooo many times, only to be spurred on by friends to continue. I thought sooooo many times that I had no milk. Baby cries and cries and cries, what do you do??? You stay strong, and you keep letting him suck no matter how tired you are.

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  2. I think perhaps because women are given the impression that bf should come naturally and it’s meant to be easy (which it is – once you get the hang of it and everything settles into a routine) but they don’t realise how hard it is at the start. That’s why most give up. They aren’t prepared for the initial difficulties.

    I’ve also realised that inaccurate information out there confuses women. I was expecting my full milk to come in by day 3, latest day 4. It didn’t arrive until day 5! Happened twice with both boys! So naturally, I was scared I didn’t have milk either. Thank goodness for a supportive lactation consultant and breastfeeding Mummy friends!

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