As someone who has both succeeded and struggled to breastfeed, I have learned a lot. Mostly, I have learned that there are just some things you should never say to someone struggling with her milk supply.
Here’s the thing. If I’m breastfeeding my baby, I look at my milk as the ONLY food for my baby. Rational or not, I see myself as the sole provider of food for this child. Imagine if all the grocery stores ran out of food, and your kids were crying because they had empty bellies. You would probably beg, borrow or STEAL to feed your children. You’d blame yourself for not stocking up. You’d be willing to do ANYTHING to feed your kids. Am I right?
Moms struggling with milk supply are likely tired, stressed, and at their wits end. They have spent countless hours scouring the internet for anything that could help them. It’s also quite likely they are SUPER sensitive to their situation. It’s a terrible combination of feeling helpless and like you are a failure. Therefore, my friends, it’s best to be sensitive to the situation, and offer only supportive words of encouragement, rather than unhelpful advice.
As a disclaimer, people never say these things to be a dick….they’re just a dick without realizing it. (And I say “dick” in the same loving manner I refer to my kids as my “shitty kids”) In fact, some of the people who say these things will be the people closest to you in your life. So, here’s the list of things NOT to say to a mother struggling with her milk supply:
- My kids were all formula fed, and they’re FINE! Well what a relief! I was secretly waiting for your personal testimonial before deciding to buy formula.
- You know, you can just switch to formula? Oh, you mean, chemical milk? Geez, they sell it right on the shelf at the store…why didn’t I think of that!? I know formula is out there as an option. But here’s the thing….you got to CHOOSE to use formula. Nobody wants to feel forced into something. It’s akin to telling a vegetarian to “just eat meat already”.
- Is it really worth all this frustration? This isn’t camping out on a sidewalk to get a Black Friday deal on an Xbox, this is the health of my child. YES. Yes, it’s worth it.
- I tried breastfeeding, but it was too hard. Pardon me, but I’m still trying to breastfeed here. Quit trying to play your Jedi mind tricks on me and get ME to quit too.
- Just feed your baby some rice cereal. Ok, good plan. Because that solves my milk supply issue, how??
- What matters most is your baby, don’t let her be hungry. Thanks for the words of encouragement. I’m hooking myself up to this pump for 3 hours a day for ME. I super love it. Without your helpful words, I would have selfishly lost sight of that fact.
- How long are you going to keep doing this? Truthfully, I think I’ll give it another 2-4 years to make sure I really gave it my all. Thanks for letting me know how hard I make all this mother-hood business look though.
So, should you happen upon a Mom in this unfortunate situation, just be kind. Be encouraging. Speak in a quiet voice, and suppress the urge to bring her Enfamil coupons. Tell her you support her decision to keep breastfeeding. Tell her that this won’t last forever, and she’s doing a great job. Bring her a Decaf Americano and sit with her for 40 minutes and take her mind off pumping. But DEAR LORD…..don’t tell her bottles are so much easier….