We all have questions about what “normal” and “typical” feeding looks like for our babies. We also have lots of questions about when things go different than we anticipated or we run into problems with breastfeeding. So often we turn to other mom’s experiences that we find on social media or internet blogs. We think we’re doing something wrong or we inadvertently pick up the bad habits of others. Some of us learn fact from fiction by trial and error. Others turn to family and friends for help, but they each may have a very different answer and it can be extremely confusing. How do you make the right decision? By getting your information from the right, trusted source, you can save yourself from experimenting with things that may work in the moment but will set you up for feeding failure in the future. Here are common breastfeeding myths.
Myth #1: Breastfeeding is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, so it should come naturally to me and my baby, right?
There are many reasons why you or your baby could experience difficulties breastfeeding, from anatomical differences to coordination issues. Babies are just as brand new to feeding as you are and it can take some time to learn the skills needed to effectively eat. Many moms see happily breastfeeding infants with their smiling mothers and just assume it will be easy. Due to poor education and lack of support, they can become easily frustrated or discouraged when challenges arise.
Take time before your baby comes to learn how to breastfeed and all that accompanies. Don’t wait to ask for help. As soon as you notice any problems with feeding, call for help. There is no stupid question. Even if you took a class before birth, you aren’t expected to know everything. We are here to help!
Myth #2: My body knows how much milk to make
Actually, you have to tell you body how much milk to make, which is why it is so important to stimulate milk production in the first 24 hours. The more you breastfeed, the more milk your body produces. The less you feed, the faster your milk decreases. Frequent breast stimulation tells your body that milk needs to be produced.
If baby is having difficulty latching and nursing early on, your baby has difficulties staying awake during feedings, or your baby sleeps for a long time, pumping or hand expressing will continue to facilitate milk production until your baby gets the hang of feeding and gets into a more regulated sleep/wake cycle.
As I always tell moms with babies in the NICU, if you’re away from your baby and your goal is to breastfeed, you still need to feed something or you will see a decrease in milk supply. If you can’t feed your baby because you are at work or your baby is in the NICU, feed your pump until you can feed your baby.
Myth # 3: Breastfeeding will be painful
Many new mamas try to muscle through nipple pain, cracks, blisters, and bleeding because they think it’s all part of the process. This is one of the biggest and worst myths out there! While this is the experience of many women, it doesn’t have to be yours! Pain is not normal!
In my classes and consultations, I will teach you how to differentiate between the pressure and sensation of a proper latch and the pain associated with an improper one. What you should feel is something moms describe as a “tugging and pulling”. What you should not feel is pinching or sharp pain. Pain is always a good indication that something isn’t right! This is most likely a signal of a poor latch and you need to break the latch (you can slide your pinky finger in the corner of the baby’s lip between his lip and your areola to break the latch) and start over, repositioning the baby to improve the latch.
Myth #4 I can just get all the information I need at the hospital
Giving birth is one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting experiences you can have as a woman. If you give birth in a hospital, there is actually little time to rest. Nurses will come in every two to three hours to check on you and your baby. Then they will go over a whole laundry list of information, from umbilical cord care and monitoring poops, to symptoms you and your lady bits might experience and what to do about it. They will talk about car seat safety, birth certificate information, diaper care and follow up appointments with your physician. Do you really want to try to squeeze in even more information about the essential task of feeding your baby? Being prepared ahead of time will lighten the load your brain will have to process and let you focus more on just enjoying your new baby.
Myth #5: I don’t want to bother anyone with my problems, I’ll just figure it out
No mama is an island. We all need support, and this especially true for breastfeeding. Research shows that the opinions about breastfeeding of those close to you (including the baby’s father and your mother) affect the duration of breastfeeding overall. It is so important to have support when it comes to breastfeeding. Without it, many mothers wean within a week of giving birth!
Successful breast feeders typically have at least two people they know they can turn to for breastfeeding support, be it a friend, aunt, or cousin. Bring your spouse with you to a breastfeeding class. Talk to those around you about your breastfeeding goals. Join a Facebook breastfeeding support group. Hearing about other moms’ obstacles and how they overcame them can be so encouraging. Find another mom whose baby is a few months older than yours that you can talk to about each stage you’re in and what’s to come. Let me help connect you to other moms in your area.
Myth #6: I’ll just use formula since it’s just as nutritious and so much easier
This one’s a big myth that many people believe! While formula companies would like you to believe they are as nutritious and convenient as breast milk, the truth is actually quite the opposite! The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association and the World Health Organization call recommend that breastfeeding is best for babies up through one year of age, as it helps defend against infections, prevent allergies, and protect against a number of chronic conditions. Breast milk contains antibodies that can lower the occurrence of ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and meningitis. It contains the correct proportions of lactose, protein and fat, which are easily digested by a newborn baby. Babies that are formula fed are more likely to suffer from digestive problems, have a higher risk of childhood obesity and more likely to develop allergies and illnesses. They also do not receive antibodies from their mothers, which means they are less protected against infection and illness.
Not to mention formula is expensive. Feeding a baby exclusively formula can cost up to $3000 for the first year. There’s also the cost of time. Time to wash bottles, time to prepare bottles (especially at 2am this becomes a tedious task), time to buy formula ahead of time so you don’t run out (running out at 2am is the WORST!). And if you want to leave the house you have to consider carrying, storing, and preparing formula away from a full kitchen.
Myth #7: My baby has nipple confusion
The scenario is all too common. Mom has to go back to work or wants a night out so she offers the baby a bottle for the first time. The baby gets fussy, starts pulling off the bottle nipple and screams, spits our milk and gags or vomits. Mom tries fifteen different bottle systems and none of them seem to work. Both mom and baby are super frustrated. Let’s start with the truth. There is no such thing as nipple confusion. Your baby is not confused about what a nipple is. But she is confused about the rate that the liquid is flowing at from the nipple. The rate at which milk flows from the breast, in most moms, is significantly slower than a bottle nipple. Breastmilk flow is stimulated by the baby sucking, and goes through various rates depending on if the baby is just starting a feeding versus in the let down phase of feeding. Bottle nipples, however, are on demand and constant. As soon as that baby starts sucking there is milk available. And it’s always available as long as the baby is sucking. When babies are just born and/or exclusively breastfed, they can easily get overwhelmed by the high flow rate of the standard nipple that comes on most bottles. Signs of being overwhelmed by flow rate include pulling off the nipple, crying, arching the back, turning the head away, refusing to latch, hiccupping, coughing, gagging or choking, Starting with a slower flow bottle nipple, using positioning and pacing can all help the transition from breast to bottle. You can also learn other tips and tricks of the trade in my special breast to bottle feeding consultation.