When it comes to feeding your newborn baby, other people will have a lot of OPINIONS and THOUGHTS about how you should be feeding them. What method you should use, how often you should feed them, whether you should stop to burp them mid-feed or post-feed (or both), how to feed them (or not) in the night, what brand of breast pads/nipple cream/breast pump/nursing bra/ to use… It’s a bit overwhelming. That is why I am here to tell you the only rules you, the new parent, need to know about feeding your baby. Read on, because I, a complete stranger, have all the answers. And also, everyone else is giving their opinion on how you should feed your baby, so why shouldn’t I chime in?
Rule #1: Make sure you do everything that everyone else tells you to do, even if you get conflicting advice. After all, your job as a new mother is to keep everyone besides yourself happy, right?
Rule #2: Things were DEFINITELY better in your grandmother’s/mother-in-law’s/distant auntie’s/older coworker’s day, so advice from 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or even 100 years ago is most certainly more useful than today’s “newfangled” science-based information.
Rule #3: Make sure to keep everything completely covered up while you’re breastfeeding, because no one wants to see your baby eat. Not even you, the mother, should be looking at your own bare breast to make sure your baby’s latch is correct. Please wear a nursing cover over your whole entire body. Even if it’s 42 degrees in the shade. Everyone else’s comfort is paramount.
Rule #4: If you’re bottle-feeding, keep all that stuff covered up as well, because that’s also completely unacceptable. In fact, see Rule #5.
Rule #5: Nobody wants to see your baby eat, full stop. We should all pretend that babies are sustained by the fairies or by the air, because no matter how you’re feeding your baby, you’re feeding them wrong. So just hide when you do feed them, so no one ever has to think about it.
Rule #6: Please don’t even think of eating while you’re feeding your baby. I know you get hungry, sustaining another human being and everything. But nobody wants to see you eating, either. Or drinking. Save it all for a darkened room at midnight.
Rule #7: Never, ever, under any circumstances, should you ask for help when it comes to feeding your baby. Lactation consultants, midwives, LMCs, friends, the La Leche League, Plunket, your GP, the other mums at your coffee group — they’re not going to help you so don’t even consider asking them. You won’t have any problems with baby feeding, anyway, because of Rule #8.
Rule #8: Feeding your baby is easy and no one ever has any difficulties with it, so if you’re having a hard time, you’re mistaken.
Actually, forget all that crap above, because I was trying to write something funny and I ended up just getting angry. Angry that women are still feeling upset and ashamed and confused and hurt and unsupported and uncomfortable and like failures when all they want to do is keep their babies alive. Angry that I know people who have experienced every single one of those stupid “rules” I wrote above, from judgemental, rude, and downright cruel people who actually believed that stuff. Angry that I experienced some of it myself.
Here’s the truth. I’ve fed my own babies in almost every way you can imagine, even the medical methods that are rarely talked about. I know what can happen to mums when they are made to feel terrible about their baby’s weight gain or lack thereof. Cracked nipples, thrush, mastitis, inverted nipples, low milk supply, breast surgery that prevents or prohibits feeding, babies with disordered suck/swallow/breathe reflex, babies with poor latch, babies with oral aversion, babies with reflux, babies with tongue tie, babies who fall asleep at the breast… The list of things mums have to deal with when feeding their babies is a long one, and woe betide the person who thinks it’s their business to pass judgement.
Mamas, you’re keeping your baby alive by feeding them, and I’m proud of you.
People with OPINIONS and THOUGHTS — unless you’re a medical professional or a helpful baby feeding support person, just bring that mama a snack and a drink and tell her how proud of her you are.
Medical professionals and helpful baby feeding support people — thank you for all you do to help mums feed their babies.
Everyone else — go hide under a nursing cover and come out when you’re ready to be a kind, compassionate human.
BUMP & baby is New Zealand’s only magazine for pregnancy and early babyhood. Our team of mums and mums-to-be understand what it’s like to be pregnant in this connected age, and that’s why BUMP & Baby online is geared toward what pregnant women and new mums really want to know.
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