August marks the start of National Breastfeeding Month. During breastfeeding month, we shoutout, lift up, and embrace all the accomplishments and challenges mothers alike face when it comes to breastfeeding. Despite the controversy surrounding breastfeeding, such as whether or not mothers should be able to breastfeed in public spaces, breast feeding is still the prevailing method of feeding newborns and infants alike. More than 8 in 10 mothers in the US chimed in and told Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) they've breastfed their children. To celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, Mummy's Miracle will feature a running series of articles on breastfeeding tips and tricks. We're starting this series with started with debunking the most popular breastfeeding myths.
11 Breastfeeding Myths Debunked and Explained
1. Your nipples are too big/small, flat, or [your choice of adjective here] to breastfeed - MYTHAll bodies come in an assortment of varieties, tall, short, wide, stocky, etc. Your breasts and nipples are no different! There is no such thing as "bad" breasts or nipples. These things have nothing to do with how well your baby will take breastfeeding.
2. You can't drink wine or beer when breastfeeding - MYTH-ISH
After birth, moderate alcohol consumption is okay, especially when waiting at least 2 hours before nursing. Meaning you can have that glass of wine at the end of your day to unwind! Just don't overdo it.
3. Your baby knows your scent - FACTYour baby's keen sense of smell can detect your scent as far away as one to two feet away! Your baby develops its sense of smell by the second trimester. They've had months to memorize your pheromones, aka your own personal, natural perfume. Your breastmilk also has its own unique smell, so your baby automatically knows to turn their head towards your chest when they're hungry.
4. Breastfeeding will make your breasts sag - MYTHNo evidence supports this. Skin typically begins to sag due to aging.
5. Breastfeeding can help ease Postpartum Depression - FACTAccording to a study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry, women who breastfed weren't as likely to be diagnosed with postpartum depression in the first four months post-birth than those who didn't. Why? Well, there are a few likely reasons. Oxytocin, the chemical linked to feeling happy, is released while mothers breastfeed. Another reason can be that mothers feel more confident and happier when checking off a milestone accomplishment such as breastfeeding. On the inverse, new mothers who faced difficulties with breastfeeding were found to be more likely to develop postpartum depression.
6. Engorgement is to be expected - MYTHEngorgement (when your breasts become painfully swollen and tender) has been normalized, but that doesn't mean you should expect this to happen to you right off the bat. Engorgement can be caused by a feeding issue (latching problems, for example) or oversupply. It can also be caused by skipping feedings/pumping sessions, weaning too quickly, or not expressing enough breastmilk. Not every mother will face engorgement problems. The mothers who do should reach out to a lactation consultant to get things back to normal.
7. It takes time to get the hang of breastfeeding - FACT
You will face a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding. Getting a steady routine down for you and your baby can take weeks. However, don't ignore warning signs. Suppose your baby is regularly still hungry after nursing and not gaining weight. In that case, you should definitely reach out to a pediatrician, lactation consultant, or another trusted medical professional. Passing things off as something that just takes time may result in some serious medical issues down the road. Being concerned about feeding your baby is a valid and normal anxiety parents-alike face.
8. You will always have the perfect amount of breast milk for every feeding - MYTH
There's a huge margin of difference when it comes to milk production. You can see the difference by the amount of breast milk you're able to pump versus how much you can express when nursing your baby directly. It's not abnormal for moms to not be able to produce enough milk for their babies. It happens, and it's okay. Giving your baby milk formula to supplement breastmilk is a perfectly healthy way to make sure your baby is getting the nutrients they need. If they're gaining weight and soiling their diapers, you're on the right path!
9. Using formula while breastfeeding is okay - FACTSupplementing baby formula for breastmilk is perfectly safe for your baby. Make sure you're giving your baby enough formula by giving them ample time to nurse with the bottle.
10. Reducing the frequency of nursing will ensure more milk for next time - MYTHYour body creates milk according to how often it is expressed. Meaning, the more breastfeeding sessions you have, the more milk your body will produce. Express milk as regularly as possible to ensure you have a steady supply of milk ready to go.
11. Don't give your baby the "pre-milk" your body makes before you give birth - MYTHThis sticky, often yellowish, milk is known as colostrum. Doulas call it 'liquid gold' because it's everything your baby needs to get a healthy head-start on developing. It contains crucial antibodies, minerals, proteins, potassium, and calcium your baby needs.
Breastfeeding offers a super-charged emotional way of bonding between a mother and their baby. No mother will have the same exact experience as someone else when it comes to breastfeeding -- and that's okay. You and your baby's relationship is your own, no one else's. Forget the idea that you're somehow flawed because breastfeeding has been challenging for you. Every suggestion should come with the warning your mileage may vary instead of being touted as the end-all, be-all way of doing things. Find what works best for you and your baby.