There is no doubt that breastfeeding is best for your baby. While formula has come a long way, there’s simply no replacement for the antibodies, probiotics and other immune-protective components found in breast milk. In fact, breast milk is so unique that it is also 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.
Outside of the physical benefits, breastfeeding is an amazing 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 baby – that isn’t available through a bottle.
Don’t Buy Into These Breastfeeding Myths
When you strip away the societal attitudes and pressures from breastfeeding, there is a very rare percentage of women who can’t breastfeed (just around 2% – 3%) as the result of insufficient glandular tissue (not related to breast size- more on that later) or other physiologic problems.
In the meantime, the following 7 myths certainly don’t help those who are debating whether to breast feed or who are convinced they can’t. We recommend all pregnant women or women who are struggling to breastfeed get in touch with the La Leche League (LLL) before having your baby so you have ready resources to pull from. If you’ve already had your baby, contact the local LLL or your OB/GYN to get in touch with a lactation consultant who is ready and willing to help.
- You won’t produce enough milk if you have small breasts. This is simply not 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 it to milk banks. Your breasts don’t determine how much milk you produce: the amount of time you nurse your baby does – as the more demand there is from baby (and healthy nursing habits) the more milk you will produce.
- Breastfeeding hurts. If you have never breastfed before, or it’s been years since you last breastfed, you may experience a bit of nipple soreness, which will fade after a few days. If your baby isn’t latching properly (Click Here to see a picture of a healthy latch), then that tenderness/soreness can become debilitating until you and baby get your routine down. The good news is that just a little persistence and the help of a good lactation consultant or midwife will get you back on the road to pain-free, satisfying breastfeeding within a week or two.
- Some babies can’t latch on. Well, there is something to be said about developing healthy and unhealthy habits as soon as possible, so your baby may have started out with the wrong latch – and is sticking with it. This is easily corrected if you can get your nipple/areola deep enough into the baby’s mouth, making sure both lips are flanged out around your nipple AND areola. However, there is something called a “tongue tie” (occurs 4% of the time and runs in families), which can also cause latch problems and is easily corrected in the doctor’s office. If latch is a serious problem, have your baby examined to make sure a tongue-tie isn’t the issue.
- Breastfed babies can never have a bottle. This can be a tricky 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, introduce a bottle – using pumped breastmilk (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, grandma or the daycare provider – so the baby always associates mommy with breastfeeding.
- You should wean your baby after 12-months. In truth, regardless of food availability, we are one of the only cultures that does this – and it’s almost 100% driven by societal pressures. Most babies will wean themselves sometime between the 12-month and 24-month period, when they are walking and eating normal foods. At this point, breastfeeding may only be a “wake-up,” “nap,” “bedtime,” and/or “sick/post-ouchie/comfort” ritual. How long you breastfeed is up to you and your baby, but experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6-months, and then continuing to supplement solid foods with breastmilk for at least the first year up to 24-months.
- Breastmilk doesn’t have enough (water, Vitamin D, Iron, etc. etc.). This is simply not true. Period. Your breastmilk has what the baby needs at that time in its life. In fact, it changes with every feeding to match its contents to your baby’s needs. If it’s hot, you’ll produce more water-based milk, if baby is more active or having a growth spurt –it might have more fat or protein. It’s an amazing, symbiotic relationship. However, some babies are sensitive to things like onions, garlic, dairy, etc., so you may find that YOU have to alter your diet a bit to ensure your breastmilk doesn’t upset babies tummy.
- Breastfeeding makes your boobs saggy. Breast tissue swells from pregnancy and then with the first letdown of milk after your baby is born. Then – whether you breastfeed or not – the 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 you actively breastfeed or not.
These are some of the breastfeeding myths that keep women up at night, and there are plenty more. Rather than get caught up in a negative and debilitating myth, bring your fears to your next appointment at Overlake and we’ll be happy to put them to rest. We’ll also provide plenty of excellent breastfeeding resources to put your mind at ease.
Also, if you are worried about breastfeeding or don’t feel you have the support you need at home or from family and friends, think about adding a midwife to your birthing team. Midwives are breastfeeding experts and can help you out well into the postpartum phase.