6 "Booby Traps" That Can Sabotage Breastfeeding

When we say "booby" traps, we actually mean a booby trap (for your boobies) of bad breastfeeding advice that you can fall into. Dr. Lindsay Moore-Ostby of Indy Direct Docs busted those myths for us in an Instagram interview that you can watch at the end of this article. 

Everyone has advice, right? But there is such a thing as bad advice and sometimes we can buy into it, especially in moments of desperation to make breastfeeding work. Most of the advice we receive is not evidence-based and some of it is even outdated. (Cue Great Aunt Betty's never-ending stories of breastfeeding back in her day.) So, here is the list of booby traps. If you ever hear any of these, you can politely say "okay" or debate with this evidence-based information from a physician and board-certified lactation consultant. (Insert winkey face emoji here.)

1. "Breastfeeding is natural and should be easy."

Sure, breastfeeding is natural. But lots of things are natural and aren't easy. Breastfeeding is natural like walking, not like breathing. You are born and you know how to breathe. Walking on the other hand, you have to learn how to do it and it includes falling, bumping and bruising. This also goes with babies who need to learn how to breastfeed. This doesn't mean it has to be impossible and you can't be supported, you will need accurate help early on (in the first few days after birth) in your breastfeeding journey. 

2. "Nipple pain is normal."

Nipple pain is common, but never normal. "Normal" implies that you don't need to do anything about it. Early on when Baby is learning to latch, a little bit of momentary discomfort is understandable. But if you are constantly in pain, it might be a sign that you need help from a professional. 

3. "Your nipples need to toughen up."

Saying that your nipples need to toughen up implies that nipple pain is normal and your nipples need to deal with it. People even used to go as far as saying you need to take a loofa to your nipples before the baby is born to toughen them up. If your nipples are developing scabs, blisters or callouses, this is a sign that something is wrong. Yes, how your nipples feel when touched will change, but how the nipple skin feels should not change. 

4. "You need a freezer stash."

We understand the envy of a freezer stash because it feels like a safety net. But a freezer stash can backfire in a few ways. First of all, people who have freezers full of milk have an over supply, which quite frankly, sucks. The reality of oversupply is that it's often miserable and comes with chronic pain, recurring plugs and infections, abscesses and are tied to a pump because Baby can't take that much. It also can can make latching for Baby harder because it's like getting drenched with a fire hose. This is not "normal" milk supply. A normal milk supply is producing exactly enough for what Baby needs to take. This is called "exact producing". It's reasonable to want to produce a few more ounces a day to stock up for going back to work or going on a trip away from Baby. But oversupply is not something we would recommend aspiring to because it comes with so many issues. Some moms are over-producers by nature and some moms can pump themselves into this. Second of all, don't chase a freezer stash because you don't need it. You only need the amount of milk for one day at work, not two weeks. Feed Baby, not the freezer. 

5. "Your baby's milk intake will increase drastically as they get older."

When babies are born, they are taking 5 milliliters, or about a teaspoon. Their stomachs are tiny, like a marble, and the colostrum only comes in a few drops. It's very concentrated with the nutrition and calories that Baby needs. When they were inside you, they didn't eat. They swallowed a little bit of amniotic fluid and peed it out, over and over. All of their nutrition came to them on a drip feed system through their veins, through the umbilical cord from the placenta (our jaws are dropping too). They've never experienced hunger or the need to feed. They practiced swallowing with the amniotic fluid, which helps the kidneys and peeing, but it wasn't nutrition for them. Their stomach hasn't expanded and become ready for a big meal. When your milk comes in, that is when you start increasing the volume. Baby goes from taking a few drops per feed, to taking a few ounces per feed by two weeks. By four to six weeks, their stomach will be at it's full, mature volume, which is anywhere between three to five ounces at a time. It's best to get the four ounces bottles - don't buy the eight ounce bottles because you don't need them. If you fill them, people will give them and then you've created a problem. Four ounces is more than most babies need and up to five on the occasion is okay. Babies can learn to stretch their stomachs over time, just like we can. It's possible for a baby to take six to eight ounces, but it's not what they're supposed to be taking. If you feel like Baby is not growing properly on four to five ounces per feeding, there might be a different issue and it's best to seek professional help. Pacing the bottles, or pace feeding, is a good way to give bottles to Baby. This is when you hold the bottle perpendicular to Baby where the milk is horizontal to the floor, instead of tipping the bottle the whole time. You can prop Baby up more or sit them up in your lap. The milk is level in the bottle and the Baby will take what they need. You're not teasing Baby, you're letting them breath and pause and respecting them enough to say "you take you want". Then eventually between nine and twelve months old when they eat more solids, their milk volume will actually decrease. 

Paced Bottle Feeding

6. "Put Baby on a schedule."

When Baby is born, they should be fed at a minimum of every three hours. Trying to artificially alter Baby's timing of their feedings is not useful. There is a difference between Baby effectively transferring milk and just spending time at the breast. You will learn over time or can be taught by a professional if Baby is effectively transferring milk from your breast. If Baby can't transfer the milk out and is taking 40-50 minutes to feed, there might be an issue and you might need to see a lactation consultant.

You can find Dr. Moore-Ostby at Indy Direct Docs, where she practices primary care at an affordable monthly rate (she's the Netflix of healthcare), in-home or in-office lactation consultations and in-home postpartum care.