Not long ago, I had to face my first ever "are-you-still-breastfeeding" comment, followed by spooky stories about four-year-olds who refuse to wean and are causing daily embarrassment to their mothers. I understand that the longer I breastfeed, the more "haven't-you-weaned-yet" remarks I'm going to hear; and in honor of this event, I'm going to summarize (and add my comments to) a great article I've read (here's the link to the original, in Hebrew) which lists 15 common mistakes that might hamper breastfeeding.
1. Starting by saying "it's great if it works out, it's alright if it doesn't" – breastfeeding is far too important and can encounter far too many obstacles to start out with such an attitude. More often than not, it takes a great deal of commitment, patience and perseverance to succeed.
2. Getting advice from women who didn't breastfeed or had a bad breastfeeding experience. Whether to breastfeed or not is each woman's personal choice, but it really annoyed me when I was told by a certain mother, "you might not be able to breastfeed, I couldn't do it past three months, I didn't have milk" – and when questioned a bit, it turned out that this mother actually started heavily supplementing when her baby was only a month and a half old, because she couldn't find the time to breastfeed as often as the baby needed. I'm very sorry to hear of such a regretful breastfeeding experience of someone who obviously had no supportive environment, but why provide misleading information to another mother?
3. Thinking that if you hear something about breastfeeding from a doctor or a nurse, it's necessarily true. It isn't. Many medical professionals haven't got a clue about breastfeeding, and this subject certainly isn't covered extensively enough in medical schools. I've encountered this numerous times, and already wrote about it here and here.
4. "Let's give a bottle after breastfeeding and see if the baby is still hungry" and "let's pump and see if there is enough milk"; babies are born with a strong urge to suck, even when they are not hungry. Milk pumps can be awfully ineffective; I, personally, can never have letdown with a breast pump; if I need to pump, I can only do it effectively if my baby is nursing on the other breast. Breasts are not bottles and trying to measure them like bottles can be very misleading.
5. "Pain is a normal part of breastfeeding" – it is not! Pain indicates something is badly wrong, such as an incorrect latch, which can also cause lowered milk production. If you are in pain, get help.
6. "It isn't that important to nurse shortly after delivery". Nursing right after the baby is born, while the baby is usually alert and active, is far more important than some of the routine proceedings hospital staff insists to do right after the delivery.
7. Giving bottles (even with pumped milk) and pacifiers while the baby is very young. This can lead to the baby learning and strengthening feeding techniques which are alright with bottle-feeding, but are ineffective and/or painful when the baby is transitioned to the breast. For example, when the baby is bottle-fed, there is no need to open the mouth as wide as during breastfeeding, and there's no waiting until the letdown. The flow of milk is generally faster. Yes, sometimes there is no choice but to use bottles extensively, such as when the baby cannot nurse for a period of time and the mother is exclusively pumping, but when there's a choice, it's so much better to avoid artificial nipples.
I'll stop for now because this is getting a bit long. Coming soon: part 2 of Common Breastfeeding Mistakes.