5 Ways to Avoid Breastfeeding Sabotage

Breastfeeding my first born (who’ll be 14 next month!) was a short, bitter-sweet experience for me.    Grace only exclusively breastfed for about two months before I started her on formula due to “low milk supply”.  By six months she was basically weaned.  I think I said it a few entries ago … “If only I had hired ME as an IBCLC back then ….”

I offer myself as a model of what not to do as I share with you ways to avoid breastfeeding sabotage!

I worked against my own instincts as a new mother.  I didn’t come from a place of intuitive parenting.  I was an ordinary, mainstream kind of gal with not a lot of resources around me that I knew of.  I was also first among my girlfriends to have a baby.   I put my trust in places that were not supportive of my breastfeeding goals.   More importantly I’m not sure I even had breastfeeding goals.  I was insecure and vulnerable to poor advice.

Fortunately, I wound up blazing a trail through new motherhood with tremendous victory and new confidence,  and a gorgeous, empowered and happy (now teenage) daughter.  But there were many stumbling blocks and lost battles along the way.

If you’re about to become a nursing mom for the first time (or second or third) or you know someone who is expecting, keep these points in mind …

1. Trust your gut! Never be afraid to listen to you inner voice, it’s talking to you for a reason!

Red Flag: a red flag is precisely that.  If you are given some advice, like “just one bottle won’t hurt” or “didn’t you just feed it, give it to me and you go get some rest” … and that little voice inside you says, “hmm, wait a minute …” well, something in your heart is telling you “slow down”.  The values, instincts, sense of wellbeing and wholeness that keep you bonded to your baby are the same instincts that ask you to question advice that doesn’t feel right.  Green Flag: You are an intuitive being.  Mother’s Intuition is there for us all to use.  It may be lying dormant at the time of your birthing, but allow it to blossom.  With each red flag raised in you grows a seed of confidence and faith that you can meet your baby’s needs, and to do what you know to be best for your family.

2.  Have breastfeeding goals. Talk about them, think about them, journal them, draw them, get them churning in your head.  Don’t go into breastfeeding blindly.  Do this while you’re pregnant.  Especially if you’re the first among your girlfriends having a baby!

Red Flag: Just assuming that since you have mammary glands all will be alright doesn’t work.  Green Flag: breastfeeding does not come easily for many women.  While I don’t want you to obsess, do check in with a La Leche League group while pregnant, hire an IBCLC to come for a private home class, ask women in your life about their experiences so you know who might be potential support and who might be a potential saboteur.  I also recommend you know your anatomy – take “inventory” of your breast shape and nipple shape.  If your nipples are flat or inverted, you should know this and what to do about it before you give birth.

3.  Know where to turn for help, accurate, up-to-date, compassionate help from people and individuals that will treat you kindly, with respect and who you trust!

Red flag: If your chosen pediatrician continually dismisses your concerns about breastfeeding with replies of supplementation, “not enough milk” or “too big a baby” it’s time to find another pediatrician.  If it’s your mother, that presents a different challenge but remember, trust your gut.  When a healthy baby is born, run, don’t walk from hospital staff who might suggest baby is “starving” and needs supplementation in those first 48 hours because your milk hasn’t come in.  Green Flag: they all mean well but remember that they may not have the background in breastfeeding that an IBCLC, LLLL or lactation professional may have.  Everyone wants to see a baby grow “fat and happy”.  Not everyone will care how that happens and will not think twice about setting you off course from your breastfeeding goals.

Commit this picture to memory (courtesy of Kellymom.com) It clearly shows the volume capacity of a baby’s stomach.  It takes 2 – 4 days for milk to come after a normal, healthy birth.  Colostrum lines the intestine and stomach with immunity building antibodies and readies the gut for digestion.  You are meant to only give your baby colostrum in those first few days!  See how the volume naturally increases as milk supply builds?  Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she planned it this way.

4.  Nipple confusion or preference can happen. Not for every baby, but many babies at some point express a clear preference of what they want in their mouth, when they want it and how they want to take their milk.

Red Flag: A loving grandma, family member or even dad may want to lessen your burden by offering to feed the baby “one bottle” or give the baby a pacifier when baby seems fussy.  A sleepy baby may be allowed to sleep longer intervals than is optimal.  The problem this can create is every time a baby is not at your breast suckling, an opportunity for baby to tell the breast to produce more milk is lost.  Emptying your breast every 2 – 3 hours is critical for success.  If your baby seems to have a fussy time, giving a pacifier and having dad take baby out for a stroll around the block may seem like he’s helping you to sooth baby, but in fact, it can really sabotage milk production.   Green Flag: there are many ways family and new dads can support you.  Cuddle time, skin to skin for dad, rocking, napping, changing diapers, bathing, helping you with a myriad of home care and comfort support ideas.  It does not have to be feeding the baby.  If it feels like you have this baby latched on to you every two hours in those first weeks that is NORMAL!  Your new clock is a 24 hour one, and milk supply is the simple economics of supply and demand.  Expect to nurse every 2 – 3 hours to create an abundant supply.

5. Pain? no gain! A good latch should not be painful.  Red Flag: Don’t let anyone tell you that pain while breastfeeding is just “one of those things” or “you’ll get used to it” or (in my case) “you’re fair-skinned, you’re always going to have trouble”.  Green Flag: If breastfeeding were that painful to most women, we would have died out as a species long ago!  I’ll grant that in the first few days tenderness, discomfort and even pain my occur. But after your milk comes in, and baby starts good rhythmic sucking pain should absolutely start to resolve itself and stop altogether.  If pain persists past the first 2 – 4 days get help!

There are certainly other ways one could stumble upon breastfeeding sabotage, but we’re going to not worry about it now.  Know that there are way, way more ways breastfeeding can go RIGHT though, than wrong!  It doesn’t have to be a huge struggle if you prepare a little in advance.  With the right wisdom in hand before baby is born you can have a beautiful, long-lasting and mutually beloved experience.  Get help early, trust your gut, and your maternal instinct will carry you far.


  One thought on “5 Ways to Avoid Breastfeeding Sabotage

  1. Virginia
    February 23, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Excellent article, Deirdre! In my Lamaze classes when we talk about bfing, I remind them their newborn’s stomach is roughly the size of a shooter marble. I also emphasize that although we are a food oriented society and some think they can bond with anyone unless food is involved there is still plenty for dad an grandparent to do in order to bond with baby. Babies need to be dressed, changed, bathed, cuddled, snuggled, kissed, have raspberries blown in their tummies (when a little older), they need to be sung to, read to, danced with, and they need to be snuggle with dad on the couch so he can explain the dominance of the Pinstripes, the power of Big Blue, or whatever their favorite team is. Feeding is one thing a baby needs, and mom should provide that exclusively as long as possible, and everyone else in the family can kick in on the rest.

    As for pacifiers, I don’t mind them as they can be taken away eventually. My daughter sucking the middle and ring fingers of her right hand for 5.5 years is costing us upwards of $4K in orthodontia due to a narrowed palate as a result
    of said sucking. The pacifier would have been gone by age 2, but she showed no interest.

    If you ever want someone to talk about breastfeeding after returning to work, let me know, happy to do it!

  2. February 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    great article for mothers-to-be. New mothers are so vulnerable to doubts and bad advice about feeding, especially when family and friends aren’t knowledgeable about breastfeeding. I think your #3 is so important- I would even add: attend a breastfeeding class, and bring along one or two important people in your life. They can be an advocate for you against those uninformed doctors and nurses and encourage you in so many ways if they learn a little about breastfeeding!

  3. February 24, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    I love this post! Sabotage is the perfect word. I could chat with you about all of this for hours… however, if there is ONE thing that I would like to re-emphasize, it would be to talk about your breastfeeding goals, write them down, tell friends and family as often as possible. It is so important to use clear language… “I WILL breastfeed my baby.” Not… “I will TRY to breastfeed my baby.” Do you buy a gym membership AND pants in a bigger size … just in case it doesn’t work out? Doctors and nurses who hand out formula, for example, are planting seeds of doubt in a new mom’s head… obviously if the professionals don’t think I will be able to breastfeed, then maybe I can’t…

    I teach an introductory health and wellness course at an urban community college and I spend A LOT of time talking about the importance of breastfeeding as often as possible. It fits into so many chapters! 🙂 Thanks for posting… I will, of course, share this with my class.

  4. March 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    My mother is definitely a “saboteur”. But I’m glad that I have learned so much about breastfeeding through a doula, lactation consultant, websites, etc. That way, when and if my younger sister has a baby, I can be the one there as a breastfeeding support, and be able to point her towards the good information! 🙂

  5. March 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Great post! I was lucky in that I had a friend who was lactation consultant who destroyed my ignorance about breastfeeding mechanics before anyone could sabotage me. Reading every book on breastfeeding helped too. It is women like you who are empowering women to do what their bodies were meant to do: lactate beautifully. Kudos!

  6. Sharie Aikins
    May 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you for this excellent post! I am an IBCLC and sabotage is so real:( it makes me so sad to see a new mom crying and frustrated because everyone is telling her someting else. Usually she doesn’t have enough milk. Or like you said it is suppose to hurt. Could I please cut and past some of this post and use it to make a handout for new Moms? I will put your name on and give credit where credit is due. Again, thankyou for this post.
    Sharie IBCLC

    • May 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      Hi Sharie, thanks for your comments. I’m not the best at getting back to folks when I am notified about a reply on one of my blog pieces. Sorry I’m only replying now. Yes, feel free to share away any wisdom you get from my blog (as long as you attribute it accordingly). We are more powerful together, if we share our wisdom, right? Thanks again. Warmly, Deirdre

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