Busting Breastfeeding Myths

Breastfeeding - Cheeky Monkey Blog

Just like old wives tales and urban legends, breastfeeding myths make their way around the community now and then. As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, dispelling breastfeeding myths is a regular part of my job. Some people say myths may hold a bit of truth, but in the case of breastfeeding, myths are often a result of lack of specialized breastfeeding knowledge and support. This is where it may be beneficial to speak with an Internantional Board Certified Lactation Consultant prenatally or after baby arrives to receive qualified breastfeeding information and follow up. Here are just a few common myths and the actual truths.

  1. It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt for the first while. It’s annoying to hear “Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt” when a mother is in pain. But the truth is, it shouldn’t hurt at all. Mothers would not nurse throughout the world from the beginning of time if breastfeeding wasn’t enjoyable. While there can be sensitive or tender nipples in the early days when hormones are changing or if mom has full breasts, the nipples should not be cracked, bleeding or damaged in any way. If it hurts, call your healthcare provider or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant for immediate support.

  2. Mothers don’t make enough breastmilk in the early days. Colostrum, is breastmilk and amazingly it matches your baby’s tummy size! Newborn’s stomach capacity: Day 1:  5-7ml (1/2 tsp), Day 3:  22-27ml (.75-1 oz), 1 Week:  45-60ml (1.5-2oz).

  3. Babies don’t really need to eat at nighttime as much as daytime. While it’s true that your baby can’t tell time, you may find it gives you more sanity to turn your clock around or at the least cover it up for the time being. Night nursing or pumping is just as important as day nursing and provides valuable calories to match your baby’s growing needs. It’s interesting that nutrition programs now exist that teach adults to stabilize blood sugar by eating often with a balance of protein, fat and carbs, much like baby’s diet of perfectly balanced and digestible breastmilk.

  4. Breasts need time to fill up with breastmilk between nursings. The truth is your breasts continually fill up as soon as you remove milk. The less you remove, the less your body signals for you to make. Continue the law of supply and demand by offering baby your breast when baby cues to nurse.

  5. It’s hard to tell how much breastmilk the breastfed baby is getting. I get this, it is hard to quantify what baby is getting if we don’t see numbers. But with breastfeeding there are numbers. You can look at baby’s swallows when drinking or you can count the baby’s diaper output. Some mother’s find it is helpful to track nursings or diaper output for the first week or so until they are feeling confident baby is drinking well. Another sign is that baby is fast out growing their cute outfits and sleepers.

  6. If breasts are soft, mother must not be making any milk. Your breasts will regulate to match your baby’s needs. This means that a woman that once felt intense let-downs, leaking and full breasts may now have soft breasts and no longer feel the let-down. This is totally normal and means that your body is now matching baby’s milk making needs. Your body will continue to produce breastmilk as long as baby or a pump is removing milk.

  7. Nursing your baby often and holding them will spoil baby. Babies cannot spoil, babies are not fruit. Holding a baby and nursing a baby is nurturing and nourishing a baby. Rest assured, baby will soon be walking, running and holding their own fork at meals. Independence will come, but right now your baby fits in your loving arms.

  8. Avoid letting baby fall asleep at the breast. Baby will fall asleep nursing a lot of the time. It’s okay – honest. You are not setting your baby up for dependence on your breast forever. Nursing offers baby food, comfort and a relaxing routine to sleep. Just like adults we have a routine of putting on pajamas, brushing our teeth and reading a book or going online before bed. Babies like routine too and breastfeeding is part of that. There is an old saying that goes something like, ‘The days are long, but the years are short.’  Enjoy these sleepy nursing moments together.

  9. Breastfeeding mothers must not eat gassy foods or caffeinated beverages. The truth is breastfed babies love what you eat. Babies got a taste of mother’s food while in utero and enjoy varying tastes now too. This is often thought why breastfed babies tend to enjoy a variety of tastes when they start solids. No need to change your diet unless you strongly feel baby is telling you otherwise. If you eat gassy foods it will not bother your baby. Breastmilk does not come from your GI tract; it comes from your bloodstream. So, if you enjoy cabbage, broccoli, beans, even things containing some caffeine such as chocolate, tea, coffee - enjoy in moderation and baby will too.

  10. Feed baby one side per feeding to ensure they get a balance of foremilk and hindmilk. Concerns of breastmilk composition and the focus on amounts of foremilk vs hindmilk seem to be a current trend. Instead, the focus of nursing is the flow of breastmilk and the volume overall that baby is receiving in 24 hours. The truth is, it’s important for baby to finish one breast and it’s just as important to offer both breasts. Restricting nursing to one side or block feeding for a number of hours is actually counterproductive to your milk supply overall. If baby drinks well on one breast, a letdown will occur in both breasts.

A mother is bound to hear lots of breastfeeding myths on her journey of feeding her baby. A family may benefit from a private home consultation or by attending a breastfeeding drop in clinic with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. An IBCLC will answer her questions, observe her nursing and provide positioning and attachment improvement techniques as well as ongoing follow up.

Marijean supports individual breastfeeding goals through prenatal breastfeeding workshops and home and hospital breastfeeding consults. Marijean is the proud mother of two breastfed daughters and loves to continue her passion of breastfeeding by supporting families and educating healthcare providers in the community.

- Marijean Amesmann, IBCLC, RLC, CLE

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