6 things you shouldn’t say to a new mother who isn’t breastfeeding

Baby bottle feeding
Baby bottle feeding
11:45am, Thu 25 Mar 2021
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New mums have a lot to worry about. From round-the-clock feeding and nappy changing to recovering from the physical stress of labour itself, the first few months of motherhood can be a really overwhelming time.

So the last thing anyone needs is to become a target for breastfeeding criticism from well-meaning friends and family.

It’s something former Towie star Kate Ferdinand has recently spoken out about on Instagram. The reality star revealed she chose not to breastfeed her son Cree, but was worried about admitting it, for fear of shaming comments.

As Ferdinand notes in her post, the decision to breastfeed is completely individual – but too many people feel like they’re entitled to have an opinion on it. Here are some things you shouldn’t say to a new mother who’s using formula…

1. ‘Why aren’t you breastfeeding?’

Breastfeeding is a deeply personal decision and it’s easy to feel judged when someone starts questioning your parenting choices. There can be all manner of physical and psychological reasons why a woman might not breastfeed, and switching to bottles might not be a choice either.

Some mothers can’t produce a healthy breast milk supply, or perhaps they’re taking medication that makes it unsafe to feed their baby. Or they might just choose to formula feed their baby. Whatever the reason, you never quite know what’s going on behind closed doors, so the kindest thing to do is avoid asking.

2. ‘Breast milk is the best thing for your baby’

While breast milk does provide the ideal nutrition for babies, some mums can have a really hard time getting their baby to feed.

Nursing can be painful, overwhelming and stressful, so phrases like ‘breast is best’ can easily leave a new mum feeling like a failure if their breastfeeding journey didn’t work out.

3. ‘Don’t you worry it might effect your bond?’

Experts say that the act of breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which is a love hormone that promotes bonding between mum and baby.

But choosing not to breastfeed doesn’t make someone a bad or unloving parent. Bonding happens through caring for and protecting a baby, whether a mum chooses to breastfeed or not. As long as they’re providing all the love their little one needs, that’s all that really matters.

4. ‘Breastfeeding was the best thing I ever did’

Some women breeze through breastfeeding with little discomfort. Others can battle with sore nipples, poor latching, leaking breasts, clogged milk ducts, thrush and all manner of uncomfortable nursing issues.

For women who always planned to breastfeed, admitting defeat can cause a large amount of disappointment and grief. And there’s a lot of guilt attached for anyone who doesn’t or can’t feed, too. The last thing they really want to hear is how easy the process was for you.

5. ‘Have you tried…’

As well-meaning as this comment might be, trust that the mums you know have done their own research.

Chances are they’ve already spent hours Googling breastfeeding tips after several sleepless nights of sobbing in frustration as their baby refuses to feed.

6. ‘It’s more natural to breastfeed’

Breastfeeding may be more natural, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

The pressure to breastfeed can have a profound impact on a new mum’s already fragile mental health, and according to WHO, about 13% of new mothers experience a mental health disorder.

Instead of shaming women for their parenting choices, we should be praising them for navigating what’s easily one of the most challenging times of life.

Whether bottle or breast, they’re still a superstar, and one that deserves a massive pat on the back for surviving all the sleepless nights and teary tantrums.

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