All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Suck a finger with Tizzie Hall?

I've received a number of emails and Facebook comments following the blog entry examining Tizzie Hall's methods and SIDS, asking since breastfeeding is a topic I frequently cover - do I plan to address the inaccuracies in her breastfeeding information? So I looked at a few of the breastfeeding PDFs, I watched at a couple of clips of her on TV,  and I thumbed through my copy of the book (second hand natch).  The truth is even as a relatively prolific dedicated "mommy blogger", I'm simply not sure if it's a task even I can face!   The job of tackling it all is mind boggling, the man hours it would take overwhelming - maybe I need some £300 per pop forums to fund the process? ;).

So let's suck a finger with Tizzie!

Self styled "international baby expert" Tizzie Hall the "International Baby Whisperer," has decided that despite others training for numerous years to become lactation experts - a bit of self experience (two children is it?) and a good marketing team does her an expert make.

The most obvious place to start was Tizzie's Facebook group - and almost immediately I found this message posted by Tizzie.
"If following my breastfeeding guide before you milk comes in you will slowly get your nipples used to the baby sucking on them which will stop you getting sore cracked, bleeding nipples or engorged breast, which can happen if a baby is feed too often and for long periods of time before the nipple is conditioned for breastfeeding. You can test this theory by picking one finger and sucking on it for 20 minutes every 2.5 hours in a 24 hour time frame for 5 days and pick the same finger on the other hand and follow the sucking times in my routines and compare the difference in the fingers.
No this wasn't a joke, yes she really was asking people to suck their finger for 20 mins, every 2 1/2 hours - both day and night for five days.  Some agreed to start it and I would love to know how many completed the challenge!

I had to reply:
Hi - so many flaws in this theory without testing it out. I'm slightly concerned that when lacking understanding of the very basics such as this, you've produced a "breastfeeding guide". What qualifies you to do this please?
Firstly, babies don't suck nipples to obtain milk, they milk the breast.
Fingers are not made for regular sucking, they do not become erect when rubbed nor stretch and give as a nipple does.  Fingers are not surrounded by sebaceous glands that secrete a waxy, lipoid fluid to lubricate, moisturise and protect the areola and the nipple - look at your nipple and your finger, do they look vaguely similar to you? 
When feeding the infant's tongue grooves to support the nipple, fat pads stabilise and the nipple is drawn back to the point just before the hard and soft palate meet.
This is NOTHING like sucking a finger!!
IF a mum is experiencing sore/cracked nipples, her baby is not for whatever reason attaching and feeding effectively at the breast, we know this because when the baby has the nipple in the correct place - there is nothing to rub/cause friction or indeed damage the nipple. (see image above)
Engorged breasts are a separate issue to nipple trauma and occurs after milk has "come in" when mum has a supply too large or baby is not effectively draining the breast - which they wouldn't be if  sucking on it like a finger!
IF a baby is wanting to suck constantly, for loooong periods and all the time - establishing WHY is essential, nipples no more need conditioning for breastfeeding than a penis does for intercourse or a mouth does for talking - it's their biological function.
Please if you have a problem and are experiencing engorgement, soreness or cracked nipples - understand this is NOT just something that happens when you start breastfeeding. Seek help from someone fully qualified to help - ensure they have the letters IBCLC after their name!
I should of course also have mentioned breastfeeding counsellors and so on, but generally that raises discussion from someone who thinks they've seen a breastfeeding counsellor, but have actually seen a peer counsellor (as this discusses) and it seems to easily end up messy, so I went for short n direct .  What happened next is rather a shame as a mum who had experienced difficulties asked a question, I linked her to some free relevant information that could help her understand why she had struggled so much - and that plus following responses were immediately deleted.

Cover image expansion
Journal of Human Lactation
It genuinely baffles me when it comes to breastfeeding advice how so much evidence can just be dismissed in favour of opinion.  If you are sick you see a doctor, if you have a psychological illness you might see a psychologist and so on - within those professions you will have great and not so great practitioners, but the qualifications identify a basic level of training.  Furthermore few people would consider them qualified to start writing books on either of those subjects, particularly if they had no qualifications whatsoever and their ideas flew in the face of decades of science; even fewer I suspect would follow that advice if their own health was in question, particularly if their GP was pointing out all the flaws in the theory.

Yet infant feeding, which can be hugely important both for mothers who want to do it and from a health perspective, seems a free for all.  Despite the fact that unlike many other areas of parenting it's not "opinion based", milk production and transfer is of sound scientific base (the formula companies have spent bucket loads in exploring breastfeeding and breastmilk in their attempts to mimic it - what has been learnt in just the past twenty years is staggering).

The problem is that as a new mum, many can't tell good advice from bad; because those who don't fully understand breastfeeding see certain people still succeed even following the advice; that reassures them it must be good and if it doesn't work for them put it down to "some people just can't breastfeed".

In reality the amount of people who really can't breastfeed biologically is tiny, in practise the amount of people who really can't breastfeed is huge - because for whatever reason nobody managed to identify their problem and resolve it.  I have met mums who really couldn't breastfeed, but we have always worked as hard as possible to establish why (involving other health professionals and doctors as required).  If there is a true physical explanation for what is happening, whilst a mother may feel grief at the loss of a desired nursing relationship - she can begin to understand and be supported through the rest.

Leaving mums who wanted to breastfeed with no answers, opens the door to them feeling bad when the subject of infant feeding comes up - that perhaps they should have put up with agony or constant feeding or crying baby for longer, or defensive because they know what they endured and that it really wasn't working!  It hurts to read about risks of something they felt they had no other option but to do - and that sucks...Bigtime.  The system that failed to support them soon forget the mum they didn't help - but the mum has that experience for life.

Sadly this creates a catch 22 situation - some experts sell the notion it doesn't really matter (appealing to the biggest chunk of their market in most cases) because otherwise they would risk making mothers feel guilty and thus their market and ultimately profits would fall.  Instead they sell what they think mothers want to hear.  And so the cycle of passive and frankly often "never going to work" support continues....

Telling a mum with cracked/damaged nipples that her baby is attached perfectly is akin to suggesting trainers that causes huge blisters fit brilliantly.  The suggestion of finger sucking beyond bizarre.

Whether you follow Tizzie Hall as her biggest fan or not, if you have breastfeeding problems and want to succeed, please contact an expert.


Why I'm concerned about Tizzie Hall's Breastfeeding Advice - PART 1


  1. Funny as I genuinely did think that cracked, scabbed nipples were something you just had to go through to get BFing established. Both my girls gave me horrific pain ('sobbing at each feed' type pain) but because it went away by 2 weeks post-partum I just assumed it was the old 'get the nipples used to it' thing. It didn't bother me as I knew it would pass and it was just something I had to soldier through to get to the good bit. My latch was perfect, or appeared so!

    If I'd known it wasn't normal, I would have kicked up a fuss as it makes me very sad that women stop BFing because of the pain. Because they aren't given the right information.

    It turns out number two possibly has a tongue tie. Maybe number one had the same but went undiagnosed.

    Another great post x

  2. Hi H
    Yes as it's genetic it can often be seen in several children - but it can be in a different place/impact with differing severity.
    Thanks for the feedback

  3. Honestly, if there was this much wide-spread ignorance about sex, none of these babies would ever be conceived in the first place! Tizzie...really....fingersucking?? Honestly words fail me.

  4. I was told by 3 midwives & 2 lactation consultants that my daughter had a perfect latch, yet I had a similar experience to the above comment - me crying at each feeding for the first two weeks. What could've been the problem? How could I have fixed it?

  5. Hi Lindsay there can be different reasons. Some people who state latch is great, actually aren't all that good at identifying a good one! I much prefer people look for effective milk transfer -

    You are welcome to email me if you want to discuss specifics :)

  6. The best advice I was told when I was pregnant is "if it hurts, take the baby off immediately". It worked for me - it was a bit uncomfortable in the first few days but I could definitely tell the difference between nipples that are not used to it and bad latch. Also, I had issues with oversupply which went away once I stopped trying to stick to a 3 hour routine and just fed my baby often - now she's 5mo and fed every hour or so.

    By the way, I read that in cultures where the baby is carried all the time and feeds almost constantly things like cracked nipples and engorgement are almost unheard of... I wonder if they know about this finger-sucking trick there? ;)

  7. Well you know my history...there is so much crap spoken/written about breastfeeding that it really is astonishing, especially given that it is the bedrock of health.

  8. I would have given up breastfeeding early on had I relied on advice from 'experts' like TH and even my HV. The only sources which explained the process of BF correctly were bloggers like you, Armadillo, as well as excellent sites like and the LLL forums. Thank God people like you are there to educate and support women like me, frantically trying to sort the good advice from the crap. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart - my baby has been EBF since birth and we're still going strong at 5 months :-)

  9. Thank you so much for this. Excellent advice and explanations of sucking and breast feeding. I really appreciate your comments for us formula feeding mums, who have been left in the proverbial wildness, with no support, no understanding of what went wrong, and the extreme guilt we feel. It's comforting to know that there are breast feeding professionals out there that understand the intense emotions that come with giving up on a breast feeding relationship against our will.

  10. AA, I reviewed the first 30pages of Save Our Sleep. I couldn't get any any further. It was just so mind bogglingly awful. I felt like you: to critique the whole would have been an absolute mammoth of a task, there is so MUCH wrong with it. I wrote 4 x A4 sides JUST on the first 30pgs. Goodness knows how long my review would have been if I'd kept going :-/

  11. You = my hero. Thank you for taking this on. And frightening that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Despite there being plenty of poor info out there as it is anyway, this is still a new low. I am astonished that anyone believes a thing this woman says.

  12. Totally agree with Suzy H. It's online support that got me through first time. I had my first abroad and the BFing 'advice' there was "can we give her a bottle yet?". It was only my stubborn side and the support of online forums and sites like Suzy mentioned that helped me keep at it.

    People may scoff at SAHMs sitting at home on the internet but it is an absolutely invaluable support!

  13. And I also agree! You have a mighty fan here in California!!!

  14. Out here in Dubai, the first OB I saw told me that I had to lubricate my nipples with olive oil and stretch them to prepare them for breastfeeding... I kid you not! Needless to say I never saw her again!
    I've linked thess TH posts to a FB friend after she posted that she'd 'failed' with SOS and would be trying again, I've asked her to try and spend the time cuddling her newborn rather than reading that lunatics book.

  15. Great blog. I loved it. I struggled for ten weeks with thrush and cracked bleeding nipples with my daughter. I knew it was a long time but I just did not give up. I know now I should have seen a lactation consultant. At the time as a first time mother I did not know they existed. My mother in law told me to sunbake topless, two days later I was better. My daughter self weaned (much to my sadness) one month before my son was born (she was 20 months old) I never experienced one minute of discomfort breastfeeding him. Thank you for sharing this information. I hope a lot of mums read this that are having trouble and seek professional help. Breastfeeding is awesome!

  16. One of the most unhelpful things I was told, by trained people, when Breastfeeding my first was that "His latch must be good, he's gaining weight" His latch was crap, it was just that I had so much, freely flowing milk that he didn't need to correct it in order to flourish.
    So many people think that if baby is gaining weight and mum is determined to continue there is no problem and they should be concentrating on others. ALL mums need to be taught about latch, all mums need the chance to be seen and observed by someone who really knows what they are talking about, and there needs to be public awareness of just how much bad information there is out there masquerading as expertise. Keep up the good work Armadillo!