Let’s Bust Some Breastfeeding Myths
There are so many breastfeeding myths floating around it can make your head spin. From lovely advice about putting cognac on your nipples to make them stand up and make it easier for baby to latch (what?!), to making sure you always top off with formula because there is no way your baby is getting enough from your breast. Most of the advice is well intentioned but ill informed. It can confuse a new mother who is already struggling to keep afloat in the baby’s first few months of life. So here are some common myths and reality.
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Breastfeeding Myth 1: Mom does not make enough milk after baby is born and thus formula supplementation is necessary.
Truth: Some breastfeeding myths can ruin a breastfeeding journey from the get go. And this is definitely one of them. The truth is that most women begin to produce the first milk called colostrum well before the baby is born. The production starts in the second trimester of their pregnancy. While some women can leak colostrum before birth, others don’t. This may add to the misconception of not producing anything.
Colostrum is different from mature milk because it is much thicker and typically much darker in color. It contains incredibly important substances like antibodies, immunoglobulin A (which populates the intestines and helps protect the baby from viruses and infections), probiotics and of course the perfect combination of nutrients. Baby will only eat about a teaspoon of colostrum at a feeding. But that is because their stomach is the size of a marble. So there is no need for formula because the baby is getting enough.
One caveat, you do need to keep an eye on your baby’s diaper output. If you’re seeing that they’re not having bowel movements and are not producing wet diapers, bring it up to your nurse in the hospital. Also talk about it with your pediatrician at the check-up. That is a sign that they are not getting enough. If they are crying inconsolably no matter how much time they spend on the breast, that is also something to talk to a medical professional about. It is not normal for the baby to never calm down and sleep.
Breastfeeding Myth 2: Breastfeeding is painful and having cracked and bleeding nipples is normal.
Truth: This is one of those breastfeeding myths that’s often perpetuated by our own well meaning older relatives. A lot of them were left to fend for themselves when they breastfed. They often faced mastitis and other issues without having any proper guidance and support. The reality is that yes, there will be some pain and some discomfort but if the pain is not getting better and there is bleeding, you need to see a lactation specialist. The most likely culprit is an improper latch or a tongue/lip tie. It needs to be addressed before you find yourself in so much pain that you are giving up breastfeeding.
The peak of pain is typically day 3-5 because baby cluster feeds and by about 2 weeks in, things start feeling a little better, and by 8 weeks most of the discomfort is gone. But don’t be surprised if it doesn’t. Some of us are blessed with painful breasts as long as we continue nursing and very little helps.
Breastfeeding Myth 3: Baby needs to be fed on a schedule
Truth: In the beginning, feeding on demand is the best way to go with baby. Let your baby dictate the feeding schedule. Some babies may seem attached to the breast 24/7 and some will go for a few hours between feeds. It’s all individual and there is no need to force it. As long as baby is in the room with you, you will see and hear their hunger cues; feed them and all will be right in the world.
By about 2 months you can start establishing a schedule with your little one in order to bring some order and sanity to your life. Watch your child’s cues and don’t let them go too long without food, especially if they’re showing hunger signs (rooting, licking their fists, turning their head, yawning). On the flip side, there is no need to stick your breast in their face at the smallest sign of distress. Yes, it may calm them down but down the road, you will be the pacifier and baby will nurse not just for food. It is up to you to decide if you want that or not.
Breastfeeding Myth 4: You need to wake up your baby to feed because your newborn is too weak/sleepy
Truth: This myth hits close to home for me and I call such bs on it. Yes, there are situations with labor interventions that may cause your newborn to be groggy and sleepy but generally that is not the case. Most newborns are alert enough to wake up and request food and it may not be every 2 hours. They may nurse every hour during the day and every 3-4 during the night. All of that is normal. As long as your baby is producing wet and dirty diapers and is not crying inconsolably, there is nothing for you to worry about. Your child knows their hunger needs better than anyone else.
Breastfeeding Myth 5: You will lose weight by breastfeeding
Truth: This one is a half truth and all depends on your body. Some women do lose weight by breastfeeding and some don’t, while others gain weight during breastfeeding. I feel that this myth is told as a selling point for breastfeeding and sets up some moms for disappointment.
The reality for most breastfeeding moms is that they are ravenous and no amount of food seems to satisfy their appetite. They may also have cravings that are more severe than anything they experienced during pregnancy. It’s a bit hard to lose weight when you want to stuff your face with full fat yogurt, wash it down with a gallon of full fat milk, and add some crunch with a box of cookies. Weight should not be your main focus while you’re breastfeeding, instead you should concentrate on eating nutritious meals and drink plenty of water to keep your energy up.
I hope these truths help clear up some confusion about breastfeeding. There are many more myths to address and talk about and that can fill up a whole book. I wish you an easy start and successful continuation of breastfeeding.
I’ve recently partnered with a Rachel Da Silva, RN, BSN, CLC, founder of Mommy Did You Know and became an affiliate for her wonderful breastfeeding courses. She has 3 tiers of courses: Milk Minutes Free Breastfeeding Class, The Milk Minutes Breastfeeding Crash Course, Milk Minutes All About Feeding Your Baby (Premium Version). She has a variety of helpful resources on her page, including an online consultation to answer your postpartum related questions. If you are interested in checking out and purchasing any of her courses, click here.
Quote of the day:
“As a breastfeeding mother you are basically just meals on heels.” — Kathy Lette
Mental Health Tip of the Day:
If all the unsolicited advice about breastfeeding becomes too much use your partner as your shield. Let him/her deal with the well-wishers and steer them towards more useful things like helping you clean the house. After all, that is a much better use of their time than spreading breastfeeding myths.