What Lactation Consultants Should be Teaching at Breastfeeding Classes

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I love breastfeeding, but it's not always easy. Here are 7 things I wish lactation consultants and breastfeeding classes would teach.

I am very appreciative of all the comments and shares that my previous post 11 Common Breastfeeding Myths and Lies received. Many were grateful that I was sharing the “truth.” Because, the truth of the matter is many moms have heard those well-meaning lies from doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, and even friends and family. Breastfeeding is promoted as the best and so natural, that when it hurts way more than a woman knew it was going to, and brings never-discussed complications and realities, moms get discouraged, feel guilty, and very often completely overwhelmed by the prospect of breastfeeding.  Because, what they have been taught to expect from their pregnancy and breastfeeding classes is far removed from reality.

Today I want to talk about changing those breastfeeding “lies” into things that are honestly talked about and addressed in breastfeeding classes, new mom classes, and general pregnancy classes, and even by lactation consultants themselves. So, here are. . .

What I wish was taught at breastfeeding classes:

1. Nursing Garments

One of the hardest things about nursing, for many women, is feeling comfortable enough to leave your house and nurse on the go. While some people and societies are fine with a woman nursing however and wherever she wants, without a cover, a lot of women are not as comfortable doing so. That’s why I think it would be worthwhile for breastfeeding classes to talk about, and even perhaps model various nursing garments, like the different nursing bras, tanks, and tops options. They could discuss the pros and cons of the different nursing garments.

2. How to cover-up.

Going along with number one, I think it would be extremely valuable to talk about and show various ways on how to modestly and discretely breastfeed in public. Several people in my Facebook thread talked about worrying about other people’s reactions, including from their own family members, to them breastfeeding. In different parts of the country, breastfeeding isn’t as common, nor are mother’s rooms and lounges prevalent. So, in order to ensure that those who choose breastfeeding can leave their house without fear of judgment, immodesty, or embarrassment, learning how to discretely cover up might make the difference between continuing on in their breastfeeding journey or stopping prematurely. A great breastfeeding class would talk about what to do if a baby hates covers too, as I know that is sometimes a problem.

3. Pumping Routines

As an expectant mother of twins, I felt my breastfeeding class and lactation consultant teacher did not explain pumping routines, at all. In fact, when asked about pumping, my teacher said that I wouldn’t need to: the body works on supply and demand, and pumping would just mess with my production. Plus, pumping would mean I’d have to wake up in the night to pump. That was crappy advice in my opinion. While I am not a medical professional nor do I completely understand all that goes on within the body to create my milk supply, I do know that when my twins were sleeping 12 hours through the night (which this instructor pretty much made sound like they never would), I woke up so sore and engorged by the morning. I therefore pumped every night before I went to bed to avoid that issue.

But, besides my unique twin experience, there are still many mothers who need to/choose to work part-time or full-time and will need to express milk in order to feed their babies breast milk. They need to know how to successfully pump.  Even stay at home mothers need to know how to pump, and what type of pumping/nursing schedules people use successfully, especially if they ever want to or need to be away from the baby for more than three hours. This would be highly valuable in a breastfeeding class.

4. Breast Pumps and Insurance.

Several commenters said they wished they would’ve either had a breast pump, or had a better, double electric one. Did you know that many insurance companies will cover one? Or that many hospitals will let you rent one (essentially letting you test drive it before you buy)? This information should be in breastfeeding classes!  One twin mom said “I wish I’d had the hospital grade pump provided or offered at the hospital rather than the single hand pump they gave me. Maybe we would have gotten the start we needed!”

5. What things to eat/drink to naturally increase your milk production.

I recently read the book Twin Manibreasto: A Story of Milk and Multiples by Mercedes of Project Procrastinot. And I learned from her that certain foods are actually natural milk-producers! She drank “Mother’s Milk” tea and ate oatmeal every day, along with drinking lots of water. I didn’t know that oats are one of the most notable galactagogues foods (or even what that meant!). While some tell you to shy away from such things, being a nursing mom of twins, I know I could’ve benefited from knowing about these! I often felt like my supply was low for my twins, and often supplemented with pumped milk or formula because of it.

6. The 11 Breastfeeding lies I wrote about before.

Moms need to know that breastfeeding will hurt in the beginning, and for much longer than the first week. That’s called honesty. They also need to be taught that breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to many new moms or their babies, and where they can go to get help. And for sure they need to know that breastfeeding is not a form of contraception.

7. That formula is not the devil.

Here’s the truth everyone – a child that is exclusively bottle-fed can still go to Harvard and become the CEO of a large corporation or president of the United States or fly to the moon. Formula is not poison, a toxin, or harmful at all to most babies. Formula is still going to feed your child the nutrients he or she needs to grow big and strong and smart and healthy and all of it! You should not feel bad for giving your child formula.

Breast milk is awesome, and is the ideal baby food, because, it was designed specifically by our bodies to feed our human babies, and it is made naturally, without the use of synthetic materials or chemicals; plain and simple that is why breast is best. But, formula is pretty great too, and formula research and development over the last century have made it very similar to breast milk and a healthy alternative to breastfeeding.

What would you have liked to have learned in your breastfeeding classes? What would have helped you be more successful (or experience less pain or grief) had you been better educated beforehand? What do you wish lactation consultants were more honest about?

 Please share this post and my other post, and let’s start helping each other empower women:Breastfeeding HURTS!: 11 Common Breastfeeding Myths and Breastfeeding Lies | whatsupfagans.com

If you want to know how to stop breastfeeding, then be sure to read this post:

Tips and tricks on how to stop breastfeeding a baby or toddler from a professional lactation consultant. Great ideas on how to start weaning baby from the breast, what foods to eat to inhibit milk production, and how long it takes for your milk to dry up completely, and so much more. Awesome information and help!

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  1. says

    Another thing I wish breastfeeding classes/pamphlets would teach is common medicines that it’s not ok to take while breastfeeding that is WAS ok to to take while pregnant. I thought anything that was save to take while pregnant was safe to take while breastfeeding, and that isn’t true. For example, benedryl is safe while you’re pregnant, but when you’re nursing is a sids risk because it can make the baby too sleepy. Claritin you can’t take while pregnant but you can take while nursing (not sure why on that…but my doctor told me I could). I’m sure a lot of other mothers are like me and just thought the pregnant and nursing “ok” and “not ok” meds list would be ok.

  2. C.Salas says

    I teach a breastfeeding class and I run a breastfeeding group. I do cover modest ways to Breastfeed and breast pumps and insurance. I do not go over how to pump or ways it increases your milk supply we discuss things like that at the Breastfeeding group as well as supplimenting. To much breastfeeding information in a breastfeeding class loss women attention. So you have to stick with basics and how to get started. All other situations and topics are covered in Breastfeeding groups. There are so many everywhere. Check your hospital s and WIC offices. You do not have to be on wic to attend there breastfeeding groups. WIC is trying to become the go to place for breastfeeding help. Many states are not there yet. But they are working to be. Help is out there you just need to seek it out.

  3. says

    When my son was born we just had a lactation talk to us in the hospital, no classes. And I think everything turned out right, the only thing I would have done different and could have used advice on is is pumping. I barely had extra to pump, with made it hard if we ever had to be apart.

  4. says

    This is such a great post! I am always talking about the lack of honesty and info they give while you’re pregnant. And that was an awful answer to your question about pumping! !

  5. says

    I think it may be more of an issue of not knowing what resources are out there. It’s not a lack of teaching as a whole, it’s a lack of getting the help you need from a particular source, i.e. your lactation consultant or Dr. I went to La Leche League for all my questions. They are a bit hardcore, like really, really into breastfeeding, but without them I wouldn’t have known about sizing nipple shields, pumping in the AM as that’s when you’re supply tends to be the highest, and signs of over production, and MOST importantly, I would have listened to my Dr and put my now 18 month old on Zantac at 3 months rather than take out dairy and gluten, two common intolerances in infants. I took those out of my diet and she was better soon after.

    • says

      I do think it is about resources and education for sure when it comes to breastfeeding success. That’s why I’m writing these posts. I want to help women be successful in their choice to breastfeed, by presenting the honest difficulties they may face. The LLL can be hardcore, but obviously helped you succeed! That’s what matters in the end. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. says

    Great post! Yes, there sure is a lot they don’t cover in those classes, isn’t there? Personally, I wish they had talked more about just feeding on demand and not trying to get baby on a schedule – at least for the first couple months! I have found that all of my babies (6 of them), that after the first 2-3 months they all naturally developed their own schedule. Some of them ate every couple hours, some every 3-4. That was how they liked it. Oh, and most of them wanted to nurse almost constantly (when they were awake) for the first month or two… and I wish I had known with my first that that is OKAY – and even good for your milk supply.

    • says

      Interesting! See, and I was never a “feed on demand” mom, but I think it stemmed from having twins first and not wanting to constantly be feeding, so schedule feeding is what I preferred. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. says

    I never took a class but I know that although my experience was easy, I had a friend with no end of trouble. And both of our stories are “normal.” Two thumbs up for telling the truth!

  8. says

    I never went to a breast feeding class so I have no idea what I would have been taught. I’m lucky that I never felt self conscious breastfeeding and often didn’t bother using a cover – I had enormous engorged boobs and I think the idea of trying to be discreet just felt like a joke to me. But i really sympathise with women who do feel intimidated by going out of the house and breastfeeding. Talking more about the variety of ways you can cover up – and how to deal with babies who won’t let you cover up, is a great idea. I’m sharing this on the Sunday Parenting Party Pinterest board

  9. says

    I was lucky enough to choose a midwifery group to deliver my babies, and the midwives ran a marvelous education and support group for nursing mothers. The best thing they did for us was to have moms who were already nursing join those of us who were pregnant for a real get-it-out-in-the-open evening of conversation. All the questions we didn’t know enough to ask yet, all the problems we hadn’t thought about – they helped us prepare for them. I wish more lactation consultants and ob/gyn offices would promote programs like that!

  10. says

    This was great! My favorite…formula is not the devil! So many times I tell people, “you should never feel guilty for feeding your baby” that’s what you’re doing when you bottle feed–you’re feeding your baby! Thanks for this!

  11. says

    I found out about renting a pump when my son was hospitalized. It was AWESOME! I have decent at home pump, but I love the hospital grade ones because they are powerful and quick! Thanks for the information and linking up to Countdown in Style!

  12. says

    Some really good, honest advice here. Thanks so much for linking it up to the Monday #pinitparty. It is posts like this that are really turning it into such a great resource for parents. Have pinned.

  13. says

    I loved your list last week and again this week. It has been a long, long time since I nursed my son. I bottle fed the first one and then I nursed the second one. The nurses just brought him into the room and plopped him into my lap and left. I had never nursed a baby before and had no idea what to do. I wasn’t nearly the strong willed woman that I am now so I tried. And it Doesn’t come naturually to a baby. They have to be taught how to feed. I am glad that I didn’t give up because those nurses thought, since this wasn’t my first baby, that I knew what I was doing. I was very successful with him. My doctor told me to drink a beer a day to increase milk production. Worked like a charm! Loved that doctor. May he RIP!

  14. says

    I honestly pray that I will just get the opportunity to teach my own daughters most of these things and if I have no daughters, then my daughters in laws if they look to me for that type of advice. It just pains me that each generation has to seek this out when each generation before is to teach and show the upcoming generations in my beliefs and in my opinion. I’m glad to be learning all I know my experience and now I will just pass it on to the fruit of my loins lol. Thanks for sharing your views with us at Countdown in Style!

    • says

      That is such a great point Brittnei!! We should be able to help our daughters learn these things. My mother was far away when I had my first babies, and I was the first of several friends to have children, so I didn’t know who to really talk to. But, you always think you’ll get it, and you are prepared, before you actually start… Or at least my stubborn self did. Thanks for commenting and hosting the link up!

  15. says

    I would say that one thing is certain and it’s that there’s so much that can be learned about breastfeeding and it’s unlikely it can all be covered in 1 class. I’m not an LC but I can say that most go into it to help women be successful and the intention is not to “lie.”

    I would like to shed some light on the topic of pumping and formula. It’s not that breastfeeding advocates think these things are “the devil” but that they CAN contribute to problems with supply. While some women may not have any supply problems while supplementing, many do, so formula is not recommended. And pumping is discouraged for the first 6 weeks to ensure adequate supply has been established. These things are said in hopes of long-term success. They are also generalizations taught to a group and, of course, each woman is unique. It’s also important to note that if you pump because you are engorged you are actually telling your body to make MORE milk so you are likely going to become more engorged.

    Perhaps the best thing that can be taught at a breastfeeding class is that it’s hard and almost all women experience some challenges.

  16. says

    Great post! I agree that all these are important topics. Whether or not they are covered must depend on which class you take–the one I took before my first birth was at an urban hospital, and it did cover pumping because the instructor was assuming that at least some of her students would be returning to work after having babies. Here is my advice on breastfeeding while working outside the home.

    I’m about to have my second child, so I really appreciate Gale’s note that Benadryl is not safe while nursing–I did not know that!

  17. Kaylee says

    I wish nurses/doctors/lactation consultants also knew more about D-MER. To let mom’s know that they’re not crazy if instead of having lovey dovey feelings when nursing they have feeling of sadness, anxiety, and anger. I had it with all 4 of my kids but didn’t know what it was until I was pregnant with my 4th. And now that I know what it is and have talked to other nursing moms I realize I am not alone, yet it still isn’t openly talked about.

  18. Tiffany says

    I suppose I would have to disagree. That is not to say that everything you listed should not be taught during a breastfeeding class, but that as women and mothers we do have some responsibility of our own. I was very lucky to take a class that taught/discussed everything you mentioned, but only on a very basic level. The majority of our time was spent discussing positions, form, and resources (like how to get an eletric pump from the hospital for next to nothing!) That being said, I went home and researched everything online. I wanted to be as prepared as possible to succeed and I knew that there was no short class that could cover it all; no short class that would tell me the horror stories I knew must exits; And no short class to that could show me real women overcoming the struggles. I successfully nursed my daughter for 13 months… Even when I had and abscess on my a nipple< haha like one of those awesome horror stories I mentioned.
    If all mothers are lucky enough to find a class that covers it all, to afford that class, and have the time to attend that would be great. However, we must take responsibility and be aware that no single class can cover it all.

  19. Katy says

    Thank you so much! I really enjoyed this post. So many people treat formula like the “devil.” As a new mom, I have really freaked out about that. Also, I enjoyed your Lies about Breastfeeding, every mom should read that. I felt seriously guilty for giving my son a pacifer after 2 weeks, I did not have to feel guilty.

  20. Jennifer says

    After seeing the price of a double electric breast pump I was so relieved to have people tell me my insurance would cover the cost! Then I called my insurance company and found out just exactly what they paid for. A single manual hand pump! And a cousin of mine who’s insurance did cover an “okay” pump would not buy her a better pump when she was having problems with her second child because it hadn’t been two years. There was no way working 40 a week that was going to fly, and who cares how long it has been, new baby new pump. I have never heard of getting one from a hospital either. Two kids in two different hospitals and not a peep. If it is available people should know about it before they ever deliver.

    • says

      Double electric pumps are super expensive! And yeah as a full-time working mom, a single manual pump really isn’t going to do the trick for you, is it? I hope you can figure it out and get SOME help from your insurance, or maybe your employer?

  21. Aneesha says

    Breastfeeding was THE HARDEST THING I EVER ACCOMPLISHED! I had cracked bleeding sore nipples for the longest time but the medella nipple cups saved my life giving me a chance to heal between feedings. This list is so true and I wish I had learned this prior to my baby girls arrival. I am so happy and proud that I stuck with it because at 4ish weeks it stopped being so painful and a constant struggle. I never thought I would make it to 6 weeks with my sanity. It hurts, makes your toes curl and you bear down to get thru the first latch …. But it is worth it and there is an end to the madness in sight!! Keep it up ladies.

    • says

      Thanks for you comment! It absolutely gets better! At least it always does after those first few initial weeks. Bravo for sticking through the pain and figuring it all out! I totally think it’s worth it in the end.

  22. Arwen says

    I have never been to a class, but I have successfully breastfed three children, and I am still nursing #3 while pregnant with #4. A lot of these seem very common sense to me, but the only thing I ever wanted to know about is how to not dry up when you have to pump while at work. Pumping never worked for me. My child was pretty chubby when I nursed her, but it was a struggle to get more than an oz out when I pumped. I eventually had to give up pumping because I started to dry up. I worked at a daycare so my child was there anyway. I don’t know why my director originally wanted me to waste 45 minutes pumping when she could empty my boobies out in 20. =P

    I tried again years later to pump, and it was the same. Maybe a tsp of milk came out. I was successfully tandem nursing at that point!

    Only thing on the list I disagree with is the formula part. My brother and I were supplemented, and we vomited every time. Not just spit up, but we spewed. The one time I was forced to give one of my girls formula was in a hospital. Less than 24 hours after birth, milk hadn’t come in, and they wanted to test her peeing skills with 1 tsp of formula. I let them (it’s not rat poison, right?), and that poor baby cried from the time it hit her stomach till the fowl smelling, peanut butter looking poop emerged. She got bloated and gassy, and for the first time one of my baby’s poopy diapers stunk to high heavens. My breastmilk never made them cry. It never gave them tons of gas. Poopy diapers have no odor normally besides that of a day old breast pad.

    We are taught that formula is good enough, but good enough is not what I want inside of my children’s bodies. Good enough is Geranimals sneakers instead of Nike. When it comes to what powers everything in their body, I’m not going to settle unless I have absolutely no other choice.

    • says

      It is awesome that you’ve had such great luck with breastfeeding! I love it! I am very pro breastfeeding and love nursing my own children. It’s always interesting though to hear the struggles that women have with it, like you with pumping. When I pump, I have no problems getting several ounces. Thankfully, I don’t have to do it often, as I don’t like pumping at all. Some babies cry and fuss and spew with breastmilk. I know two of my daughters have.

      Keep doing what you are doing for your kids as it feels best and right for you. 🙂 <3

  23. Dem says

    Formula is tin food breast milk is whole food. Would you live on tin food for 6 months. Yuk its not okay to promote it over breast milk. I dont like your article.

    • says

      I am not promoting formula over breastmilk, but saying that it’s not the end of the world if breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Just like if you had to, you could also live off of tin food for six months too. Not gonna recommend that, but you will survive just fine eating only canned foods for six months. Worse things have happened, like having no food at all.

  24. says


    This is so interesting! Your profile caught my eye–I’m actually a fellow young wife! However, I’m not a mother yet. Reading through these tips was interesting to me because, as you said, no one tells you these things! I’m so grateful to know that my mother breastfed her three kids and that she’ll be a resource for me to go to as a mother when that time comes. Thanks so much for opening up and sharing this! I truly feel like I got a little preview into your world!

    P.S.– I’m actually Katelin, too. 🙂


  1. […] And then there’s the medical aspect of it all.  Your body has done a LOT, so here are 5 medical things to watch out for in YOURSELF after birth.  I sometimes think I can move a mountain by myself after having a baby.  But, newsflash, not so much.  And just in case breastfeeding sucks.  Here’s my post about when breastfeeding isn’t working.  Breast is best, but God made it so you’d suffer a bit more than you’d hoped when you get that baby to nurse.  It was certainly different than I had ever envisioned.  Katelyn also has a great post on things they SHOULD teach in breastfeeding class. […]

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