Formula has come a long way, and can be a good substitute if you are struggling to produce breast milk, but it isn’t a perfect replacement. Breastfeeding means that your baby gets antibodies, probiotics and other immune-protective components that are found in breast milk. It has also been seen that breast milk is so important that it is part of streamlining how the G.I. tract works, such that the stomach and intestinal linings of breastfed babies are notably different than those of formula fed babies.
Aside from the physical benefits, breastfeeding is a strong bonding tool for you and your baby. There is a level of soothing, comfort and security produced by breastfeeding, including a dose of oxytocin for you and your baby.
However, there is a rare percentage of women who can’t breastfeed, which adds up to around 2-3%, due to insufficient glandular tissue or other physiological problems.
The following 7 myths about breastfeeding certainly don’t help those who are debating whether to breastfeed or who are convinced they can’t, and don’t help to reduce the social pressures surrounding breastfeeding.
Overlake OB/GYN recommends all pregnant women, or women who are struggling to breastfeed, get in touch with the La Leche League (LLL) before having your baby so that you have resources readily available. If you’ve already had your baby, contact your local LLL or your OB/GYN to get in touch with a lactation consultant.
So let’s get into these myths.
1. You won’t produce enough milk if you have small breasts.
This simply isn’t true. There are large-breasted women who fall into the 1 in 1000 women who have insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), and there are small-breasted women who can pump enough milk to donate excess to milk banks. Your breast size doesn’t determine how much milk you produce. Infact, the amount of time you nurse your baby does, as the more demand there is from your baby (and healthy nursing habits), the more milk you will produce.
2. Breastfeeding hurts.
If you have never breastfed before, or it’s been a long time since you last breastfed, you may experience a little bit of nipple soreness, but this will go away after a few days.
If your baby isn’t latching properly, then that tenderness/soreness can become debilitating until you and your baby get your routine down. The good news is that with some practice, the help of a good lactation consultation, or midwife, you will reach pain-free satisfying breastfeeding within a week or two.
3. Some babies can’t latch.
It’s important that you develop healthy habits as soon as possible to avoid your baby starting out with a wrong latch and developing a habit. This is easily corrected if you can get your nipple/areola deep enough into your baby’s mouth, making sure both lips are flanged out around your nipple and areola.
However, there is something called a “tongue tie”, which occurs 4% of the time and runs in families, which can also cause latch problems and is easily corrected in your doctor’s office.
If latch is a serious problem, you should have your baby examined to make sure a tongue-tie isn’t the issue.
4. Breastfed babies can never have a bottle.
The answer can be tricky to this one, because bottle nipples are much easier to drink from than breasts, which makes some babies more fussy about breastfeeding. We recommend giving yourself several weeks to a couple of months to establish a healthy breastfeeding routine, rhythm and relationship with your baby.
Then you can introduce a bottle, using pumped breast milk (which can be frozen for up to six months) and invest in a bottle that more closely replicates a mother’s breast.
Sometimes, it’s best to leave bottle feedings to dad, grandparents, or daycare providers, so that babies always associate mom with breastfeeding.
5. You should wean your baby after 12 months.
In truth, regardless of food availability, we are one of the only cultures that weans early, and it’s almost 100% driven by societal pressures. Most babies will wean themselves sometime between 12 and 24 months, around the time they are walking and eating normal foods.
At this point breastfeeding may only be a wake up, nap, bedtime, and or sick/injury/comfort ritual.
How long you breastfeed is up to you and your baby, but experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least 4 months, and then continuing to supplement solid foods with breastmilk for at least the first year and up to 24 months.
6. Breastmilk doesn’t have enough water, vitamin D, iron, etc.
This isn’t true. At all. Your breast milk contains everything your baby needs at that time in its life. In fact, it changes with every feeding to match its content to your baby’s needs.
If it’s hot, you’ll produce more water-based milk. If your baby is more active, or having a growth spurt, it might have more fat or protein.
However, some babies are sensitive to things like onions, garlic, dairy, etc, so you may find that you have to alter your diet to ensure your breast milk doesn’t upset your baby’s stomach.
7. Breastfeeding makes your breasts sag.
Breast tissue swells from pregnancy, and then with the first letdown of milk after your baby is born. Then, whether you breastfeed or not, your breasts return to their normal size and shape (unless you’ve experienced more dramatic weight gain/loss). They may be slightly less firm when your milk supply goes down, but aging, gravity, and relaxed ligaments as the result of pregnancy, and the first letdown of milk, can make breasts a bit droopy whether or not you actively breastfeed.
There are plenty of breastfeeding myths, but these are the most common ones that we can dismiss. Rather than worrying about these fears, and leaning into myths, bring these questions to your next appointment at Overlake and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have. We will also provide you with plenty of resources and information to help your worries go away.
If you have any immediate concerns, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us here, and we would be happy to help you out.