There isn’t very much in this world that irks me more than all of the cr*p that is bandied around about breastfeeding. I have lost count of the amount of times I have had to suffer dirty looks thanks to my (apparently uncontrollable) urge to correct people when they say things that simply aren’t true.
So, following is my top-ten rundown of Ridiculous Things I have heard people say about breastfeeding, and my responses to them (out loud or otherwise!).
(I just want to take the opportunity to point out that I am not one of these lactivists that make it their life’s work to make mamas feel bad about themselves. However, I am one of those lactivists who gets very frustrated with untruths being spread about breastfeeding that stop women from being successful in their own efforts to breastfeed.)
1. “Most people can’t make enough milk.”
No, that’s right, they can’t. Goodness knows how the human race managed to get this far without formula milk. *facepalm* Most people who have issues with supply have those issues because of mismanagement of their supply. Yes, there are some very unfortunate women who can’t seem to be able to produce enough milk despite doing everything right, but this percentage is very small in comparison to how many women who report struggling with supply. And besides, even if someone can only produce a partial supply, why not feed a combination of breastmilk and formula, instead of formula feeding exclusively?
2. “There’s no point in breastfeeding past 8 months old; the milk loses its nutritional value then.”
Um, no. The benefits of breastfeeding have been proven to span for as long as the child breastfeeds – hence why the WHO recommend breastfeeding until a minimum of age two and to continue, should both parties desire. True, once the child is eating food they are no longer so reliant on the boob to sustain life, but that doesn’t cancel out all of the amazing immune system-boosting properties of breastmilk, not to mention the emotional benefits.
3. “If you don’t wean at X age, you’ll never get him to stop!”
OK. So how many 10-year-olds do you know who are still nursing? Not many, I’ll bet! All children wean eventually even if mother makes no effort to discourage them from nursing. A mother should only wean her child if it’s what she wants to do, not because of pressure and fear-mongering from uninformed individuals.
4. “Breast milk and formula are pretty much the same these days, anyway.”
I’m afraid you couldn’t be further than the truth. The composition of breast milk is completely different to formula. Secondly, it is individually tailored to each baby and changes hourly to meet their needs, unlike formula which is a one size fits all approach. Thirdly, it’s a live substance, full of antibodies and other immune-boosting properties – formula is artificial and has none of these. Beyond all of this- it’s free, available on tap, prevents disease in mum and baby and promotes bonding. Still think that it’s the same as formula?
5. “But if you breastfeed you’ll be tied to him CONSTANTLY! Don’t you want your FREEDOM?”
Yes, that’s true. If I choose to breastfeed, it will be harder for me to spend time away from my child. But consider this – exclusive breastfeeding rarely continues past 7-8 months, and most children are having some solid foods by 6 months. This will ‘free me up’. By 5-6 months, my baby will be able to use a sippy cup, allowing me to pump milk for them to drink in my absence. Plus, in the US where the women get a really pitiful excuse for maternity leave, women still manage to work AND exclusively breastfeed their babies.
And freedom? I’ve got years left for freedom. This few months in my child’s life is going to pass in the blink of an eye, and quite frankly I don’t want to miss a second of it.
6. “Breastfeeding ruins your sex life. Having a baby hanging off you does nothing for your marriage.”
This has to be one of the most ridiculous ones I’ve ever heard. Children are very good at preventing… ahem… Marital Activities, regardless of whether they are breastfed or not. Most mums go through a period of time after their babies are born when they don’t feel like having sex, regardless of how they feed their babies. If anything, breastfeeding has strengthened my marriage – my amazing husband is supportive and proud of me for nourishing our babies, and his willingness to put his son’s needs before his own for this short time in his childhood makes me love him even more.
7. “Yes, well, breastfed babies are more clingy to their mums. They know they can snap their fingers and have you come running.”
This one was especially worrying, seeing as I heard it at an NHS baby clinic from the mouth of a health visitor (!!) to a young mum who was despairing of her weeks-old baby who was waking very frequently at night. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Babies wake in the night for many reasons, and bottle-feeding is NO GUARANTEE that a baby will sleep any better than a breastfed baby.
8. “Breastfeeding’s great and all, but I would never feed them past 3 months old. That’s just gross.”
There are so many thing’s wrong with this statement that I barely know where to begin. For a start, the WHO recommendation (and the Government recommendation here in the UK) is to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. The WHO then recommend nursing until 2 years of age AT LEAST. The international average age for children weaning from the breast is 4-7 years of age. I’m not saying that feeding a child for that long is everybody’s cup of tea, and weaning age is of course up to each individual mum and baby. But to say that breastfeeding a baby is gross? That’s just so wrong, and a sick reflection of how overly-sexualised the breast is in western culture.
I’d love to read your contributions to this list. What’s the most ridiculous/ill-informed/plain ignorant thing about breastfeeding that you have ever heard? And what was your response?