Men, Breast Feeding And Crap Information.

For as long as I have been a midwife I’ve seen many women start to breast feed and stop after 2 weeks. Looking at the statistics this pattern seems to have been going on for a long time. 
A woman has a right to change her mind about her feeding choices, and guilt should never be the feeling she is left with, but what I object to is the amount of substandard advice and information given to breast feeding women by so called birth professionals (midwives etc).

Often the support offered is in direct conflict with what we know about how breast feeding works, what’s going on? Do some midwives not fully understand the physiology of breast feeding? 

‘Top your baby up with a bottle, you need the rest’.

‘Wake your baby in the day to feed, you need to get this baby into a routine’.

‘Nipple shields are a good way to get you through this painful feeding period’

‘Your new born is sleeping too much, wake the baby up and offer the Breast’. 

This is said to women who have had a ‘straight forward’ birth and whose baby is a good weight, physically well in every other way, just sleeping.

I’m sure you could add your own example to this list. 

Even a basic understanding of the physiology of lactation would cure this pernicious sabotage of breast feeding which often leads to the demoralisation of desperately tired and worried new mothers. 

Breast feeding stops because the advise given has been taken and thus impacted on this ancient process that has kept man kind (mammals after all) alive on the planet for millions of years. 

Like the process of birth, breast feeding works perfectly and birth professionals would do well to humbly step back, deferring to a woman’s inner intuitive knowing.

I am working on a resource aimed at men who are supporting their breast feeding lovers. Recent ‘evidence’ from Australia and Brighton (UK) suggest that when men are involved with breast feeding education, breast feeding longevity is impacted significantly.  

It will include video clips , a full explanation of how breast feeding works, liking that physiology to our evolutionary development over many years. 

Examples of baby feeding signals, good ‘latching on’ and position for feeding will be shown to him. He will understand the function of the brown fat across his baby’s scapular in those early hours as the placental hormones flushes out of his lovers body allowing prolactin to do its work. 

After a man has seen the video and worked through some written material including exercises designed to reinforce this knowledge, he will intuitively know what is poor/good advice (this can be done on his own or in a facilitated group).

He will then be able to support his partner in her feeding choices. The truth will set him free from the constraints of having to ignorantly follow the advice of professionals visiting his home. 

Watch this space for further developments. If you have examples of the kind of poor advice given to breast feeding women please post in the comments section below. 


29 thoughts on “Men, Breast Feeding And Crap Information.

  1. This is all too true. As a peer supporter I regularly chat with mum’s and their partners and have to stop my self face palming at some of the “advice” they have been given. I would also add incorrect advice about medications and there compatibility with breastfeeding and a slow response or a lack of one completely of tongue tie (but that can be a whole different topic!).
    We often hear how Dad wants to be involved in feeding baby and how soon can mum start expressing so he can give a bottle. Explaining the other ways dad can bond and help out often comes as a surprise to them as if feeding a baby is the only way to become close to them.

  2. I was told at eight weeks postpartum that getting up twice (something I was fine with) was too much and he really ought be sleeping through the night. The health visitor told me to give him cooled boiled water if he woke. I didn’t take her advice but never quite shook off the idea that it was abnormal to have a waking baby.

  3. I was told that “big babies” need lots of filling up (with a worried look on her face that really undermined my confidence to breast feed). I was also told my baby was tongue-tied/not tongue-tied/a little bit tongue-tied and that tongue-tie makes no difference to breastfeeding anyway…

  4. I have soooo many examples of improper advice given by midwives to breastfeeding mums. The thing I see the most is midwives ‘supporting’ mums by grabbing hold of mum’s breast and the baby’s head and forcing the two together. Then walking off and leaving the mum to it. It infuriates me! Along with mums being told 10 minutes on each breast, baby is not ready to feed until they are crying, give a top up of formula after every feed etc. Mums have also been told many times when discussing sore nipples ‘ oh that’s nothing I’ve seen much worse!’ Every time this happens a breastfeeding mum is disempowered from believing that they CAN breastfeed their baby successfully.

    • I qualified in 1994 as a midwife and ever since then I have witnessed the kind of stuff you are talking about, longevity BF rates haven’t changed in all that time. It’s now time for a very different approach and educating the male (and same sex) partners is a place to start I think.

  5. I got soooo much bad advice! Health visitor told me to leave my baby with my mum for a few hours and get out, because I needed time on my own (I did not! I needed my mum to fix dinner so I could nest with my baby! )
    Visiting midwives told me everything from ‘8 feeds in a 24 hour period’–which was okay advice but not great, to ‘just top up with formula’–at 3 days old when I had barely gotten started! Another midwife said ‘don’t let him use you as a dummy’–as if comforting my crying baby by letting him suckle would be some kind of sin.
    NCT lactation expert talked so much about trendy ‘laid back feeding’ that she never really got across basic concepts about how often to feed.
    Finally one day an old friend said to me ‘just feed him as much as humanly possible. I messed up my supply with a schedule. Just feed all the time, and be happy when you get a break.’ Aha! I thought. And it worked. My baby was calmer, I was calmer, and I stopped calling it ‘cluster feeding’ and instead just thought about constant feeding and cluster interruptions.
    I don’t want to shame people who change their minds about breastfeeding. But I think if midwives know that a mum wants to bf, they should support rather than undermine. Imagine if I’d ‘topped up’ at three days old–that might have been the end! Luckily I knew enough to ignore her but it hurt at a time that I wasn’t feeling strong. And the health visitor caused a major family argument! New baby due in a month, I will not let people make me feel that way again.

  6. When my baby was a week old or so (my first) the health visitor cast doubt on my feeding her and my impression she was gaining weight (she was visibly fatter and filling out the baby grow more) I am a confident person and a GP and so felt able to insist she was wrong which she really wouldn’t accept -she said her scales had just been checked. I gave her a pack of flour to check again and they were completely out.

  7. All of the points above were said to me. My baby lost 8.3% of her body weight and she had a tongue tie. On one visit the midwife said, ‘I’m coming back tomorrow and if this baby hasn’t put on any weight you need to give formula.’ I did not take this advice and continued to breastfeed exclusively, but I was made to feel incompetent and as a tired hormonal mum I burst into tears as she left. I was given the same advice with my first baby and told. ‘You mustn’t be doing it right. You have to give formula.’ I took this advice as a first time mother, I regretted switching to formula so much after having severe preeclampsia, a traumatic delivery & failing at breastfeeding I felt really depressed so I was determined to persevere this time and ignore the line on the graph. She is now 6 weeks old and although slow to start she has put on 2lb now weighing 8lb 4oz. My partner supports me by changes, bathing, winding etc and bonds with her through dancing and music (he is a musician.) I just wish I would’ve ignored the bad advice with my son so I could’ve had the same bond.

  8. I am a midwife and I love my job. I’m unsure how I can talk to staff and have them report back how none of them give this crap advice or manhandle a breast and baby together. Yet women still report it happening and cannot remember names.

    I think educating the partners is a wonderful idea. Their role is to support and protect the new mother. Crap advice needs addressing.

    I wish the media showed breastfeeding to be normal, night feeding to be normal and to never hear “are they sleeping through the night yet?” I am 30 years old and I still get up in the night for the loo and water- it’s NORMAL

  9. Completely agree about educating partners – I did some research around this for essays and a dissertation at uni and found that partner support made a difference, especially if they know how a baby needs to be positioned for latching on as they can help when home and I say to dads it’s good for you both to know. If mums have any difficulty latching baby on for first feed (I currently work in a birth centre) I teach them how to express so baby can smell it. But have heard things such as babies can be spoiled if held for too long, using breasts as dummies (which always makes me laugh as dummies came so much later!), big babies need more and probably much more too. We don’t have enough time as midwives to spend supporting women breastfeeding and that’s a big part of the problem and so sad. If that could change then I think that would be step in the right direction however I’m unsure it will ever happen the way maternity care is going!

  10. My baby’s tongue tie wasn’t diagnosed until she was 4 weeks and losing too much weight. The health visitor did point me in the right direction for decent advice, but her advice wasn’t worth much – she told me to pump about 2 x day, as and when I could. My LLL advisor told me point-blank that I wasn’t making enough milk and I needed to pump 8 x day and top her up at least 4 times a day (with my ebm) in order to get my supply up. Frankly, too many people were tiptoeing around the issue when I needed specific, real-world advice. Once I knew how to tackle the issue, she started gaining weight almost immediately. We had her posterior tongue tie snipped at 4.5 weeks but she still needed ebm top-ups for another six weeks.

    I had every single advantage available to me – I had 4 older children whom I breastfed until over a year each, so I knew what feeding a baby was all about. I had friends and family who were supportive, I had access and money to reach professional help, and it was still the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

  11. Children need to be educated if we really want to see a cultural change in breastfeeding success. In the same way that the dangers of smoking have been taught in schools, leading to generational decline in smoking over 20-30 years; how to breastfeed, and that breastfeeding is normal needs to be accepted by boys and girls right from the start. Breastfeeding must be seen as a natural part of reproduction. It could take many years to change society’s attitude to this, but we all need to be part of valuing a mother’s role in nurturing babies, rather than rendering them useless if they can’t get enough sleep and get back to work as soon as possible. Unfortunately our government seems to feel that providing more childcare so that parents can earn/spend money is more important than securing children’s emotional needs. Until we realise that love is more important than money we will always find it difficult to have enough time and patience for our children, and a child who needs constant care and attention will always be seen as an inconvenience rather than perfectly healthy and natural.

  12. I too hear lots of myths and poor advice about breastfeeding (I ‘m a Breastfeeding Counsellor), but as frustrating as it is, perhaps we need to look at why this is the case. Surely midwives wouldn’t give out poor information on purpose, but perhaps they are brining some of their ‘ baggage’ with them. Another thing to question is how much training do they get in breastfeeding?

    • Thanks Rachek you are right for sure, their are lots of constraints and pressure that midwives feel….most midwives get a ‘baby friendly’ yearly update I think.

  13. Oh and one more thing… I think you are right that educating the partners is a good place to start, but the grandmother of the newborn can also have a huge role to play in supporting or undermining breastfeeding.

  14. I lived in France when I had my baby. At about 12 weeks old we had a check up with the paediatrician. Despite reflux, my baby was doing great and gaining weight perfectly, but the doc insisted I shouldn’t be feeding on demand I had to set a routine and he wanted to see me 4 weeks later to check how it was going. So I did and 4 weeks later she’d dropped off her weight line. Doc insisted it wasn’t the routine and I just wasn’t producing enough milk and now needed to give her formula. I went back to demand feeding, baby went back to her curve and I never went back to the doc.

  15. When my son was born it took a few days for my milk to come in and he lost 9% of his birth weight. At his one week appointment he was gaining but not as much as the midwives wanted. By the two week appointment he was nearly at his birth weight but my midwife wasn’t happy and told me to keep him at the breast as much as possible. I was beginning to get discouraged and bought a pump to increase my supply once I wasn’t feeling engorged anymore. The first time I pumped after a feed I only got half an ounce out of each breast, so I called my midwife thinking I should be pumping more. She seemed so upset that my son wasn’t gaining weight fast and that I didn’t pump much milk that she told me I was starving my baby and I needed to run to the store and buy formula to supplement. I wish I had done more research at the time instead of relying on my midwives.. I continued to have problems feeding and my son was fussier at the breast until I ended up exclusively formula feeding.

  16. Educating men is a great idea – especially now where so many women live away from family (like I do) and the partner is the sole source of consistent support. The bigger challenge is the men who refuse to do any research and insist they know best. My partner and I found ourselves pitched at opposite sides of a ravine – after a traumatic birth, I was determined to breastfeed, but every stumbling block along the way was met with ‘right, I’m off to buy formula’ because that was how his first son was fed (11 years previous) ‘and there’s nothing wrong with him’ (it’s impossible to compare, but he does even now have a terrible approach to food and food-related eczema), and none of his mates’ partners breastfed. My son was fortunate that I was so attached to an idea of wanting to reclaim control following said birth that I dug my heels in and stuck it out. He refused to ‘bond in other ways’ eg bathing, massaging, nappy changes (refused all poos until the first time he was left alone with our son at 12 weeks-plus) and used my determination to breastfeed as a weapon of self-destruction. Looking back, I think he was (probably) also traumatised by the birth, and (deep down) wanted to make life easier for me because he knew I was struggling with the demands and the tiredness (despite a VERY easy breastfeeding journey – we were very lucky there), but he is incapable of communicating his emotions and instead got angry about the breastfeeding. The key will be getting into the heads of men like this – otherwise bright, but doggedly attached to some idea or other that has no basis in fact or proof. The idea that ‘I/you/my mum/dad/fill in the blanks were bottlefed, it didn’t do them any harm’ seems to be the biggest one to shake. Actual HCAs were uniformly shocked that I continued past every milestone, but were broadly supportive – unfortunately, because of work needs etc my partner was never able to hear the positives – he only saw the downsides of me being stuck under a feeding baby for up to 6 hours a day.

  17. I was told told to wake my son regularly through the night. And I blame this on his poor sleeping pattern now.

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