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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in Life | 5 comments

Bad breastfeeding advice

Bad breastfeeding advice

Photo source: Joe Thorn

Have you seen this story? Child Protection Services were called on Mariah Carey because she was trying to follow some breastfeeding advice that she received. One of her nurses advised her that drinking Guinness would help increase her milk supply, which would in turn help her to feed her newborn twins. A “concerned citizen” saw her sipping from from a bottle of Guinness stout in the hospital and reported her to CPS for “abusing drugs and alcohol”.

I am not the biggest fan of Mariah Carey, but reading this story makes me feel so sorry for her. Can you imagine? There she was, following the advice of her nurse, and trying her best to ensure she could successfully breastfeed twins, and someone does that to her. I could understand the concern if she was shooting up heroin, or knocking back vodka shots, but sipping a beer? Seriously? When I was breastfeeding, I certainly heard the advice that drinking beer could help with milk production. I’ve written before about how I am a big fan of Bavaria 0.0% beer – I drank it throughout my pregnancy, and I drank it several times a week while I was breastfeeding. I definitely noted that it helped with milk supply.

The night that I got home from hospital, I had a glass of wine with my dinner – my first alcohol in almost ten months. It was a little celebration for me that I was no longer pregnant and my body was my own again – for the most part anyway! Should someone have called Social Services on me? I don’t think so!

The first few months with a newborn are hard enough as it is. You get a lot of advice – not all of it wanted and not all of it wise. And it can be hard to know what advice to follow, and what advice to ignore. With breastfeeding, I think this is especially true, because many of the people offering advice never breastfed, are not educated about breastfeeding, or mistakenly believe that a breastfed baby should feed in the exact same way as a formula fed baby. I’m not saying that the advice from Mariah Carey’s nurse was wrong – as far as I know, and based on my own experience, beer does actually help with milk supply. But, non-alcoholic beer works just as well, if not better, than regular beer. So perhaps that’s what the nurse should have recommended?

While I was in the hospital, I encountered a wide range of advice from the nurses and midwives about breastfeeding. One nurse recommended nipple shields in hushed tones, the next denounced them as “extremely damaging to the breastfeeding experience.” Two nurses tried to help me express milk using a method that I later learned would never produce so much as a drop of milk for me. Two minutes with a lactation consultant showed me how ineffective that method was, and how effective the correct method of hand-expressing was. But how was I, as a first time mother and first time breastfeeder, to know that some of my health professionals were not experts in breastfeeding, even though they were offering me advice as though they were? I still don’t know the answer to that.


  1. The first few weeks of breastfeeding were very confusing and often frustrating. Because our little one required help with his blood sugar and with jaundice, I was supplementing with formula via a tube taped to my nipple. He was down in the NICU so every couple of hours, I’d head down and we’d fight to keep our various cords and tubes and wires from tangling up and then try to nurse. Each NICU nurse (bless them!) tried to offer differing advice on how to make the whole experience better. We experimented with the different “proper” holds – of which none felt comfortable. Five days in the hospital and we must have tried almost everything. When it went smoothly, I’d feel triumphant and relieved that we’d figured it out. And then the next feed wouldn’t go as well. We continued to meet with lactation consultants after being released. I remember during one visit, I sheepishly admitted that I had found a way that was working for me but it wasn’t the “right” way. She assured me that as long as the baby was feeding (and gaining)and I wasn’t hurting, I was doing great. I think back to those first few weeks and am grateful for all the advice but also just wish I had met that particular lactation consultant earlier. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you’re not screwing up. 🙂

    • You’re completely right Tammy. You know I’ve read accounts from women who’ve breastfed several babies, who say that the experience was different with each one of them. And now it makes sense to me that each breastfeeding relationship is different and that each mother and baby has to find their own way of feeding, their own way of doing it. But I think that I heard so much “if you’re doing it right, it won’t hurt”, etc. that I believed there was a “right way” to breastfeed. There wasn’t for us! It was a matter of both of us learning what worked for us.

  2. I was advised to drink Guinness while breastfeeding Anthony he was a very quiet baby. Maybe thats why he is so fond of the black stuff today.

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