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5 things you don’t say to a breastfeeding mum

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While incredibly beneficial, breastfeeding is hard work, and breastfeeding mums need all the support they can get. However, people feel free to offer all sorts of comments and advice, none of which offer any support in the least. In the light of World Breastfeeding Week, a time of raising awareness around breastfeeding, here are five things you definitely do not to say to a breastfeeding mum:

1. ‘Do you want some privacy?’

A breastfeeding mum is entitled to feed wherever she likes. And she has the law behind her. In Australia, under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of breastfeeding. If someone asks a mum if she wants to go into another room to feed – or heaven forbid, the bathroom or public toilet – they’re not really thinking about the mum at all. Breastfeeding is very normal and should be treated as such. And if a mum feels like she needs a little privacy, she’ll get it … there’s no need to ask!

2.’You feed your baby a lot!’

Yes, newborn breastfed babies do feed a lot. Plus frequent feeding ensures that a mum has good milk supply. The length of time between feeds is different for every baby, and according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), it’s common for breastfed babies to feed 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Babies don’t follow a schedule and often will give their mums cues when they need feeding. It may look like  a mum is constantly feeding her baby, but it’s what her baby needs.

Telling a mum that she is feeding her child too much is only going to make her feel like she’s doing it all wrong, when really she’s most probably doing everything right for her and her baby.

3. ‘Are you sure your baby’s getting enough milk?’

It’s hard for a mum who’s trying to get her head around breastfeeding to know how much milk her baby is actually getting. There are many signs to indicate whether a baby is feeding well and a mum will probably be advised on these by her midwife, family health nurse or lactation consultant, but generally if a baby is feeding well, they’ll have five to six wet nappies in 24 hours, with pale coloured wee, as well as around three soft bowel movements. They’ll also be alert with good skin colour and muscle tone. Even if all is going well, asking a mother if her child is feeding enough will only cause worry and doubt – something she does not need.

4. ‘Your boobs are so big!’

This is definitely not the time to comment on the size of a woman’s breasts (unless you already had the kind of relationship where you’d say this kind of thing!). Yes for some women, pregnancy can make their breasts bigger. But they probably don’t want this pointed out by acquaintances (or strangers!). During breastfeeding, a woman’s breasts are working hard and can be engorged, leaky, sore, and very uncomfortable, so comments on how they look aren’t appreciated, even if they’re meant to be some sort of compliment.

On the other hand, if a woman has small breasts, people often think she’s not making enough milk. The size of a woman’s breasts does not reflect their milk production capabilities. Some women find breastfeeding straightforward, while others face more difficulties – but size has nothing to do with it.

5. ‘Shouldn’t you have stopped breastfeeding by now?’

When a mum stops breastfeeding is completely up to her and her baby – and she might not even know when that might happen herself. There are enormous benefits to breastfeeding, such as nutrition, comfort and protection against illness, so what’s the hurry in bringing to an end? The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding up to two years and beyond. When and how a mother weans her baby is a personal choice, and in many cultures around the world, breastfeeding continues well into the toddler years.

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