Mother-to-Mother On-Line Support Can Cause More Harm than Good

There are so many groups on social media that are supportive of mothers who are expecting a child or breastfeeding. Women can post their issue or problem in hopes to get FREE advice. The benefit to this outlet is that a mom can get instant advice, support and validation. But what if that support disguised as simple and “helpful” is not anywhere accurate or evidence based?

For example a mother writes on a facebook group or any mother forum and states:

“I have sore nipples and my baby cries all day. I went to my pediatrician for the 2 week check up and my baby isn’t gaining weight. My pediatrician wants me to supplement but I don’t want to.”

Immediately as women we want to embrace this mom and let her know that she is not alone. We want to validate and help her in anyway. What would you say to her? Have you had this experience yourself?

Some of the common responses are:

You don’t need to supplement. My baby didn’t gain weight until 4 weeks and my baby turned out fine.

Just keep your baby at the breast. Their tummies are small and don’t need much to eat.

Take a bath with your baby. Lots of skin to skin.

“Get a new pediatrician! It is really important to have a pediatrician support your wishes. You are the mom, you don’t have to listen to anyone.”

“Make sure you get a good nipple cream for your sore nipples as I really thought olive oil helped with healing my nipples.”

“It is normal for your baby not to gain weight at first.”

“Your nipples will toughen up. Hang in there.”

“Use a nipple shield, that helped my sore nipples heal. I couldn’t have breastfed without it.”

When we are sick with a 104 temperature and coughing up blood, we sure are not going to tell anyone not to listen to their doctor and to just go back to bed and drink lots of water. We are going to suggest that they go to the doctor to rule out the flu, bronchitis, sinus infection, or something more serious. That way, the person can know what is really going on and get the proper treatment for wellness.

As a professional I look into this question with ALOT of red flags. Is this baby tongue tied? Did this mom have a really hard labor and alot of IV fluids and her milk is slow coming in? Does she have postpartum depression and has disconnected to her baby and therefore not paying attention to proper latch and position therefore, causing sore nipples and baby not gaining enough weight? Is this mom in that 1% where they just don’t make enough milk? Does this baby have a sucking issue caused by a tongue tie or birth trauma? If any of those questions I pose are true then none of the suggestions this mom is receiving is going to help and actually, reduce her confidence in breastfeeding even more.

What I would say instead;

“I know you would prefer not to supplement, but let’s find the real reason why your baby may not be gaining weight and the cause of your sore nipples. There might be a way to avoid supplementation, your baby gain the necessary weight and have your doctor be happy. Let me ask you some more questions about what is going on and we can figure it out together.”

As a mom offering advice on a mom fortum or facebook group when not an IBCLC can ask more questions to let the mom know that you are validating her. For example,

“Having sore nipples is not normal. There might be another underlining cause. Can you pay a visit to a lactation consultant or a Le Leche League Leader?”

“You sound frustrated and rightly so. We want to be good moms and then a doctor comes along and tells us we might be doing something wrong. I would look into finding someone who deals with lactation so they can assess the situation.”

“Hang in there Mom, you can do this and congratulations on choosing to breastfeed. The best success is finding a professional to help you.”

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