During and after pregnancy, expectant parents receive countless pieces of (sometimes unsolicited) advice. Everyone has an opinion, and sometimes they aren’t shy about sharing! While the help and support of family members and friends during this time is invaluable, sometimes the information they pass along isn’t. Particularly when it comes to breastfeeding, many “old wives’ tales” and misunderstandings still persist, and can dissuade some women from choosing breastfeeding to nourish their infants. Here are five of the most common lactation myths, along with an explanation of the truth behind the fiction.
Myth #1: It’s easy.
Truth: In reality, there’s a learning curve for most moms and babies. From learning proper latching techniques and the best positions for nursing, to understanding how to use a breast pump and manually express milk, breastfeeding is a skill that takes some practice. Lactation specialists can support and coach new moms and their partners through common breastfeeding challenges. International board certified lactation consultants (IBCLC’s), doulas, midwives and breastfeeding peer counselors are available through most hospitals and clinics as well as organizations like La Leche League and WIC.
Myth #2: It hurts.
Truth: Breastfeeding should be an enjoyable experience for both mom and baby. Pain during breastfeeding is typically due to a bad latch or to positioning the baby incorrectly. Click here for details on properly positioning your infant for breastfeeding. Other reasons for breast soreness include flat or inverted nipples, or breast engorgement (often caused by not feeding or pumping frequently enough).
Myth #3: Some women don’t produce enough milk to meet baby’s needs.
Truth: The vast majority of women have the physiological ability to produce an adequate supply of milk. Some women worry that their milk supply is too low if their babies lose weight or fail to gain enough weight. However, most often this is the result of the baby not getting the milk that the mother has. It’s important that new moms be shown how to breastfeed properly as soon as possible after birth to ensure that feeding goes smoothly for both her and her infant.
Myth #4: It’s inconvenient.
Truth: Breastfeeding is 100% natural, and women should feel empowered to feed their babies whenever and wherever they need to. Minnesota, along with most other states, has laws protecting the rights of breastfeeding mothers. Most workplaces and many other public spaces have private, comfortable nursing areas or lactation rooms. A growing number of schools and child care centers are taking steps to accommodate and support the needs of breastfeeding mothers.
Young infants should be fed on demand (usually every 2 hours or so), but older infants can go longer periods between feedings. Once a “schedule” has been established, many women find that breastfeeding can fit easily into their schedules, even if they’re returning to work. Pumping breast milk and feeding an infant with a bottle is common, and most breast pumps are covered by insurance.
Myth #5: Breastfeeding moms must have perfect diets to optimize milk supply.
Truth: Eating a balanced, varied diet and staying hydrated is important during breastfeeding, as in any other time of a woman’s life. Many women experience increased hunger during breastfeeding, which is normal due to the metabolic requirements of creating breast milk. It’s important for women to take good care of their bodies after having a baby; dieting or trying to lose “baby weight” while breastfeeding isn’t encouraged. Some women consume herbal supplements like brewer’s yeast to increase their milk supply, but those aren’t supported by scientific evidence. Just like during pregnancy, women are encouraged not to smoke, to drink caffeine in moderation (about 2 cups of coffee per day) and limit alcohol. Overall, a balanced and moderate diet that includes plenty of fluids is the key to keeping women and their infants well-nourished.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/pregnancy/breast-feeding/nursing-your-baby-does-what-you-eat-and-drink-matter
La Leche League http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb.html
International Breastfeeding Centre http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&id=27%3Amyths-of-breastfeeding&Itemid=17
Breastfeeding Basics https://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/articles/increasing-your-milk-supply