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These phrases and concepts undermine the mother/father/baby relationship, sow seeds of resentment, and make us miserable.


You’ll hear them from family, friends, nurses, doctors, even breastfeeding experts.

These are the things people say when baby needs to eat frequently, cries whenever he is put down, is not latching/sucking well, or is generally fussy.

  • “He’s just practicing.”
  • “He’s being lazy, stubborn.”
  • “He’s using you as a pacifier.”
  • “He just wants to suck/suck for comfort.”
  • “He just wants to be held.”
  • “He’s got his days and nights reversed.”
  • “He’s such a good baby.”

Why these phrases make us miserable:

They attribute negative intent to baby.

They suggest that baby is interrupting mom’s sleep for something he doesn’t need, and/or is causing her discomfort because he is too lazy to learn to eat correctly.

They accuse baby of manipulative behavior and distract us from asking “why is baby doing this?” in order to figure out what baby needs.

Newborn babies don’t have wants. Newborn babies have needs.

Babies lack the cognitive development to be lazy, stubborn, greedy or manipulative.

“He’s got his days and nights reversed.”

  • Books abound to teach parents how to get baby to sleep through the night, and alone, as if these things were of paramount importance.
  • Human babies were never meant to sleep by themselves!

“He’s such a good baby!”

  • This is (often, not always) a euphemism for, “He sleeps a lot and never cries!” or, “He is quiet and doesn’t bug me!”
  • While I’m all for a good night’s sleep, this phrase suggests that the baby that is having a rough time is not a good baby.

Babies are neither good nor bad. Babies are babies. Different babies have different needs.



Remove the negative intent and blame, instead, focus on nurturing:

  • “He’s trying to eat but not having success.”
  • “He needs help getting mom’s milk out.”

A baby who cries a lot and “just wants to be held” is a baby who has needs!

Dr. William Sears has some excellent tips on reframing. Here are a few:

  • “Babies do not manipulate – they communicate!”
  • “Baby’s cry is his language!”
  • “What do you think your baby is trying to tell you?”
  • “If I were my baby, how would I want my mother to respond?”
  • “Babies don’t play with food, they eat it!”

**Contact/touch contributes to brain growth. Carried babies cry less. The less a baby cries, the better his brain development, so for the “fussy” and “clingy” baby:

  • “He has a high need for holding – he is building more brain cells!”
  • “He is a high needs baby – he needs a high level of parenting!”

Remember – you can’t go wrong with the Zookeeper tips:

  • Tip #1 – skin to skin/babywearing
  • Tip #2 – When in doubt, ask why
  • Tip #3 – Hand express (or pump) – and feed baby!



1. How often and how long baby should eat?

Why this makes us miserable:

How often and how long a baby eats has nothing to do with a clock and everything to do with how often and how long baby needs to eat in order to get the right amount of food.

The only place to find the answer is from baby, not from the clock or the app on the phone.

Yet, the focus on “how often and for how long should baby eat?” takes our focus away from baby and making sure baby is getting what he needs.

Instead, we focus on the clock, and if he isn’t feeding the “right” number of times (too many or too little), instead of trying to figure out if he needs help getting more food, the focus is on techniques to make baby more uncomfortable so he will wake/suck more often.

Alien Zookeeper tip

  • Don’t watch the clock, watch the baby!
  • Keep baby snuggled between mom’s breasts for the first few days – this will help to make sure he eats as often as he needs to.
  • **If baby is not spending most of his time snuggled on mom’s chest (i.e. if he is swaddled in a car seat or bassinet), mom may have to do some clock watching to make sure baby gets plenty of opportunity to eat.
  • For struggling babies, instead of rubbing, tickling and making him cold to make him suck (like they do on Earth) hand express into his mouth while he’s latched!


2. Traditional positioning and latch techniques

Moms learn 3 basic positions – cradle, cross cradle, and football, and very specific latch techniques.

Why this makes us miserable:

Over-complicating things is what we humans do! And we’ve succeeded brilliantly because we’ve managed to make breastfeeding very difficult for moms and babies.

The traditional positions and latch techniques that we’ve been learning for decades actually thwart baby’s feeding reflexes!

They are often awkward and uncomfortable and don’t take into account the unique fit of each mom and baby.

Alien Zookeeper tip:


3.      Breastfeeding never hurts:

Ideally, it shouldn’t.

But sometimes it does. Sorry 🙁

There are generally two kinds of pain in the early days of breastfeeding:

  • Getting used to having someone suckle at your breasts.
  • A less than ideal latch.

Why it makes us miserable:

When feeding hurts, the focus is on making baby latch better – Mom is told to continue taking baby off the breast until he can latch without hurting her.

Yet, often the incorrect latch, and the pain it causes, is a result of trying to latch baby in a position that makes it very challenging for him. No matter how often mom re-latches baby, he won’t be able to get a good latch.

And sometimes, baby is simply incapable of doing any better than he is doing.

If the pain is part of “getting used to someone suckling on your breasts,” constantly re-latching baby will result only in a hungry, frustrated baby and a tired and sore mom.

The idea that breastfeeding never hurts sets moms up for unrealistic expectations, and causes increased frustration and resentment when she is having pain and latch struggles.

Alien Zookeeper Tip:

  • Ask why? Why does it hurt?
    • “Is it the way baby is latching or is it the fact that breastfeeding is new?”
    • “What can I do to help baby latch better?”
    • “Maybe this is the best he can do right now.”
  • Work on getting a good latch. But baby still has to eat. Find a balance between the perfect latch, and accepting that progress may be gradual.
  • If it hurts too much, hand express your milk for baby.


4.      Mom always makes enough milk/formula is bad

Most moms DO make enough milk.

Some moms even make too much milk.

And some moms make too little milk.

Why it makes us miserable:

Most babies do not need additional food – i.e. breastmilk or formula.

But some babies do. Some need it for a short time, some for a longer time.

The baby who is struggling to get enough milk will often do things like – fall asleep at the breast, cry when he is put down, want to eat a lot, not suck well at the breast.

Yet, because of the “mom always makes enough milk” concept, instead of asking why, “why is baby falling asleep?” “Why does he cry every time he is put down?” “Why isn’t he sucking well?” we use the phrases that make us miserable:

  • “He’s just practicing.”
  • “He’s being lazy, stubborn.”
  • “He’s using you as a pacifier.”
  • “He just wants to suck/suck for comfort.”
  • “He just wants to be held.”

Alien Zookeeper tip:

  • Feed baby when he is hungry, feed him until he is done.
  • If he is struggling to get the milk out, hand express it for him!
  • If mom doesn’t have enough milk, use donor milk. If you don’t have donor milk, use formula.
  • I’d love it if we had better access to milk banks. But we don’t.
  • Until then, I’ll take formula, thank you very much!

Next: Bringing The Best Of The Zoo To Earth – Part Four – Know When To Visit Earth – Harsh Realities