Seeing women breastfeeding can cause otherwise well-intentioned people to say some of the most inappropriate things. Here’s our top nine:

9 things not to say to a breastfeeding mum

1. “Are you sure your baby is getting enough milk?”

It’s impossible for you to be sure how much milk your breasts produce. It varies day to day. But in the majority of cases, what you produce is just right for your baby. Your body rocks like that. Breastmilk is also digested much more easily than formula so it’s perfectly natural for your baby to feed more often. If this silly question causes more questions in your mind, consider these 3 things:

  1. Is your baby consistently gaining weight?
  2. Does she breastfeed often?
  3. Is she having 6 to 8 wet nappies each day?

If the answer’s ‘yes’, kick that question-asker to the curb.

2. “Bottle feeding is much easier!”

Au contraire, the reality is actually the opposite! Once you’ve got in the swing of the breastfeeding thing, you’ll find it takes a lot less time than having to prepare, warm and wash a mountain of bottles. There’s no battalion of bottle paraphernalia you have to pack and drag with you every time you duck out to the shops. Breastmilk is always there and ready for your young one whenever he needs it … and at the perfect temperature to boot!

3. “Breastfeeding will destroy your boobs!”

All breasts droop. That is how they’ve been designed. Even women who don’t breastfeed undergo this change as they age. Research also shows that saggy breasts are the result of pregnancy not breastfeeding. During pregnancy, breasts change dramatically as they prepare for your baby’s birth. They fill with milk and stretch to accommodate it. When the milk is gone (whether you’ve breastfed or not), breasts go back to their pre-milk size but unfortunately, not their original shape.

4. “You should top up with formula.”

Only a qualified nurse, doctor or lactation consultant has the right to say this to you. Anyone else who does should keep their opinions to themselves. Topping up with formula can be a dangerous path to tread if you want to continue breastfeeding. It reduces the production of breastmilk as there is less demand. Listening to this silly piece of advice could actually cause real harm to the wonderful breastfeeding relationship you have worked hard to build up. 

5. “Should you be having that drink if you’re breastfeeding?”

Alcohol and breastfeeding don’t mix … or so we’ve been told. But according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, you can enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage as long as you plan ahead. For more information, visit this link.

6. “If you're having such a hard time breastfeeding, just give the baby formula!”

Let’s give the people who say this the benefit of the doubt: perhaps they are saying it out of concern at seeing you stressed out and struggling. They just want you to feel better. But by saying this, they can cause more damage. Some breastfeeding mothers even give up upon hearing this, often just when they were about to turn the corner and get it right. If someone says this to you, express how much you want to continue. Tell them you need their support to succeed. Ask them if they know someone who can help instead.

7. “Feeding on demand will spoil your baby.”

You cannot spoil a newborn. In fact, feeding on demand is essential to establishing your milk supply and getting your breastfeeding routine on track. Newborns feed a lot. They have teeny, tiny tummies that can only hold so much so it’s normal for them to feed often. Some as often as every 1.5 hours. Of course, booby milk is more easily digested so breastfed newborns will need to eat more often too.

8. “When are you going to stop breastfeeding?”

A good response would be ‘How long is a piece of string?’ A cheekier one would be ‘When he tells me to!’ Most breastfeeding mothers don’t have a finite number of years in mind when they start breastfeeding. Many start out with the aim of at least 6 months, some with 12. Often they reach this point and are so happy in their journey, they continue. That is until a well-meaning aunt or friend asks this question.

If you want to practice extended breastfeeding, that is your prerogative, just like it is for someone who stops at 6 months. A great comeback to the busybody who asks you this question is to quote the fabulous The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommendations:  continue breastfeeding for at least two years or longer. This usually puts them back in their box fairly quickly! 

9. “I didn't breastfeed and my kids are fine.”

Yep and that was your choice. Just like it’s my choice to breastfeed. This statement is all about how the other person feels. Perhaps they really wanted to breastfeed but didn’t have much support? Maybe they feel guilty or are jealous of your journey and are projecting that on to you? Whatever the case, it’s about them not you. Best not to enter into any discussion on this one as it could open up a minefield. A polite nod of the head and changing the topic might be a good tactic here.