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I have breastfed three babies. Each experience has been different from the others, and the more I have done it, the more I know. It's crazy to me how much misinformation is out there about breastfeeding, especially since mothers have been doing it for all of time. (You'd think we'd know the "right" way to do it by now.)
The sad thing is that breastfeeding education isn't a top priority in most health professional circles. Women rely on advice from their friends and their own trial and error to decide what's right and true for their breastfeeding experience. Because women don't get the professional help that is needed, they are often unable to breastfeed their babies for as long as they'd like. They are unable to establish a positive breastfeeding relationship with their baby.
I have seen firsthand the negative consequences of believing some of these common breastfeeding myths. I thought I'd set the record straight so that other moms won't make the same mistakes that I did. And remember, professional help is almost always necessary! Find a lactation consultant near you or join a breastfeeding support group so that you and your baby can have the breastfeeding relationship you've been dreaming of. Here are 20 common misconceptions about breastfeeding...
1. Breastfeeding doesn't hurt. While it's true that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, most women experience some pain during the first few days or weeks of breastfeeding. If you are experiencing pain, get help right away. Lactation consultants can help you and your baby establish a correct latch and resolve any other issues that are causing you pain.
2. Most women can't produce enough milk. In fact, most women can produce more than enough milk. Poor milk supply is almost always the result of infrequent feedings or poor latch.
3. The amount you pump is equal to the amount your baby can get from nursing. Not true at all. Even the best hospital-grade pumps cannot drain as much milk from the breast as a baby can. A good way to see how much your baby is getting is to take them to a clinic to be weighed, (no clothing, no diaper,) feed them, then weigh them again. Many lactation consultants can do this at their office.
4. Breastfeeding isn't the norm. For whatever reason, breastfeeding has become a hot button issue, making it seem tabboo. In reality, over 85% of new mothers breastfeed their babies.
5. Breastfed babies can go 2-4 hours between feedings. In reality, some babies eat every 30 minutes (cluster feeding!) while some can go even 5 to 6 hours between feedings. It's up to you to read your babies cues and feed them when they are hungry
6. Frequent nursing doesn't allow your breasts to fill up with milk. This is probably the biggest misconception about breastfeeding. When your baby sucks at the breast, it tells your body to produce more milk. When you take a break, it tells your body to slow down. Trying to stretch out feedings can actually lead to poor milk production.
7. Only moms who give birth vaginally can breastfeed. While it's true that babies and mothers are given a happy dose of hormones when baby travels through the birth canal, c-section moms and even adoptive mothers can still breastfeed.
8. You must drink plenty of milk to maintain a healthy supply. Milk (or dairy, for that matter) is not necessary for milk production.
9. Only stay-at-home moms can breastfeed. While it might seem like only mothers who are with their babies 100% of the time are the only ones who can successfully breastfeed, that's just not true. Plenty of working mothers have been successful at breastfeeding their babies. Even if baby has to take a bottle a few times a day, a positive breastfeeding relationship can still be possible.
By some cruel trick, growth charts for babies are based on norms for formula-fed babies. Make sure you have your pediatrician talk to you about what's normal for breastfed babies.
10. The only milk beneficial to baby is the colostrum and milk the mother produces the first few days after birth. True, this milk is incredibly valuable and beneficial to baby. But any breastmilk, whether your baby is 2 months or 2 years old, is beneficial.
11. Breastfed babies are usually underweight for their age. By some cruel trick, growth charts for babies are based on norms for formula-fed babies. Make sure you have your pediatrician talk to you about what's normal for breastfed babies. As long as they aren't losing weight, you have nothing to worry about.
12. Pumping is a must for all moms. Yes, if you have to be away from your baby for long periods of time, pumping is necessary. But if you are with your baby 100% of the time, there is no reason to pump.
13. Breastfeeding is much harder than formula feeding. While it might be harder in the beginning (there is a learning curve, especially for first time moms) breastfeeding can be very easy later on. It's much easier to lift up your shirt than to make a bottle! (Plus, it's free!)
14. Breastmilk is only important the first 6 months of your baby's life. Not true at all. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends breastmilk during the first TWO years of life.
15. If your baby is eating all the time, it's a sign they aren't getting enough milk. Actually, it's a sign that you're doing things right. Especially during the first few months of your baby's life, they will eat around the clock. Their mouths are tiny and their stomachs are small! The good news is that frequent feedings can only boost your milk supply!
16. The only benefit from breastfeeding is the nourishment from the milk itself. Another huge misconception. Breastfeeding has so many benefits, for both the mom and the baby. Skin to skin contact is amazing for your baby and helps you bond with your new little bundle of joy.
17. Breastfed babies do not sleep well. Breastfed babies sleep peacefully. (Many babies fall asleep while nursing, in fact! It's THAT intoxicating.) They are less gassy, too. While breastmilk is digested faster than formula, it doesn't mean they sleep poorly
18. Poor milk supply is the result of poor diet, fatigue, and stress. These things play a very small part in your milk production. The #1 cause of poor milk supply is infrequent feedings. If you are worried about your milk, put your baby to the breast more often. You'll see a surplus in no time!
19. Breastfeeding mothers shouldn't allow their babies to use them as a pacifier. The thing is, many breastfed babies don't take pacifiers. (Why would you when you have the real deal?!) Another benefit of breastfeeding is the way it calms and soothes your baby. Most breastfeeding moms acknowledge their super powers and let their babies calm down with a little breastfeeding session.
20. If you are breastfeeding, you cannot get pregnant. For most women, ovulation does not return when they are exclusively breastfeeding. However, this is not a sure-fire way to avoid pregnancy. Always use protection if you are trying to avoid pregnancy.