Other than “pain is a natural part of it”
As with every other aspect of pregnancy, birth and parenting, or culture is steeped in all kinds of old wives tales and misinformation about breastfeeding. Sometimes it comes from a well meaning relative, a friend, or maybe it was just “something I read somewhere”. For example, “pain is just a part of the process.” This is certainly NOT true and you can check out my previous blog post about pain while breastfeeding for a deeper look at that one.
Regardless, these “myths” surrounding breastfeeding often cause more unnecessary stress about an already difficult transition, not to mention are completely untrue. Here are the top 5 Breastfeeding myths you can confidently throw out the window and spend more time, hopefully enjoying, breastfeeding.
Want to know more about breastfeeding, and how to get the best possible start? Download this FREE Breastfeeding guide for all the real, evidence based information, tools, tips and tricks you need to reach your breastfeeding goals!
1. Certain foods a breastfeeding mother eats cause colic or gassy babies.
A breastfeeding mother’s diet is really important so it makes sense that new mothers who are breastfeeding are hyper vigilant of what they are putting into their bodies! You may have heard that certain foods like apricots, prunes, peaches, pears, plums, and the citrus family, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, artichokes, asparagus, cauliflower, onions, and garlic can cause gas and/or colic for breastfed babies. That’s just a small list of suspected “culprits”! If a nursing mother were to eliminate ALL the suspected ‘tummy irritants” from her diet, she would likely be left eating nothing but chicken and rice for however long she chose to breastfeed. If it were me, that would be maybe a month MAX!
So here’s the good news! Contrary to popular belief, this myth simply isn’t true. While food allergies are possible in babies and can lead to a breastfeeding mother needing to eliminate certain foods from her diet (most commonly dairy and eggs), there is no evidence to suggest that these fore mentioned foods cause gas or colic in breastfed babies. All my fellow garlic lovers say HALLELUJAH!
If you suspect that your baby might be sensitive to something you are eating, have a chat with a Lactation Consultant to help figure it out!
2. Breastfeeding mothers need to avoid caffeine.
If you’re like me, this is a rule you willingly disregard anyways. I simply MUST have my morning coffee to do the things, although, it wasn’t without a pang of guilt that I used to sit and sip my coffee while simultaneously nursing my babies.
More good news! While it is still recommended to limit caffeine while pregnant/breastfeeding, it is absolutely SAFE for you to enjoy a couple cups of coffee or tea a day without worrying that it might affect your baby. There is no evidence to suggest that caffeine, in reasonable amounts, has any effect on a breastfed baby. That being said, every woman is different and caffeine does sometimes have an impact on certain, more sensitive bodies supply. Also, avoiding caffeine in the evening is probably best practice for your own sleep (which we all know is precious)! So don’t be afraid to enjoy your morning/afternoon coffee without worrying about its effects on your baby.
3. You need to make sure your baby gets enough “hindmilk”.
I bought into this one with my first AND my second. It kind of makes sense, right? “Fattier milk is the best kind of milk for a growing baby, and fattier milk must be at the back.” It wasn’t until I got my education in the breastfeeding space that I learned that’s just not how it works.
In the lactation field, we no longer use the terms “foremilk” and “hindmilk”. There really is only one type of milk. Amazingly, your milk actually changes its composition based on your baby’s communicated needs! When your baby cues to eat, it doesn’t matter what ‘type’ of milk s/he receives as it will increase and decrease in fat throughout the feed, the day and as the weeks and months go by.
If your baby is just “nibbling” at the breast and not drinking, then they aren’t getting milk! It wouldn’t matter if they were at the breast for 5 minutes or 30 minutes or if it were fore or hind milk. Babies know when they have gotten enough of what they need from a feed and will continue to ask for more until they receive it. This is why it is not recommended to feed with rules like “every 3 hours, for 20 minutes per side” as that is not how the system of breastfeeding works to nourish and satisfy our babies!
It’s OK to feed your baby until they unlatch on their own and seem satisfied. If your baby unlatches from one side but still seems unsettled or only seems to be nibbling at the breast with few drinks, attempt a burp and offer the other breast. Baby may feed for a shorter amount of time on that side, but will be satisfied by the increased milk flow and subsequent full tummy.
4. Scheduled feeds are a good way to keep up your supply and make sure your baby is fed enough.
Breastfeeding works as a supply and demand system, not a one size fits all regiment. It’s tempting and even comforting to think that “if I feed X number of times a day for X amount of time, I won’t have any trouble keeping up my milk supply”. Unfortunately, scheduled feeding creates barriers to that supply and demand system by essentially “capping” the demand. It can also impact a baby’s growth and temperament! A hungry baby, or even a baby who is just less than satisfied most of the time, is more likely to be fussy or hard to settle.
Every mom and baby dyad is different! Some babies grow more rapidly than others and each one will find their own unique rhythm within this supply and demand system. Just like you or I don’t always eat the same amount of food at the same time of day, sometimes babies want to eat more or even less depending on their bodies needs.
The best way to maintain your supply (barring any other barriers or challenges) and to ensure that you baby is getting all of what s/he needs really is to feed your baby when they cue for food and ensure that feeds are efficient (proper latch and effective drinking/emptying of the breast).
If you are struggling with supply, feeding on demand, and suspect that your baby is latched/drinking effectively (or even just want to be sure), reach out to a local Lactation consultant for help!
5. Flat/Big/Small/Long nipples mean I will have trouble breastfeeding.
The short answer to this one is simply this; your baby doesn’t mind what size or shape your breasts or nipples are. Babies know how to breastfeed and while you may need to get creative with how to help them get started, the system will work regardless of your unique (and beautiful) anatomy.
Achieving a proper latch is a learned skill and can take time and practice for you and your baby to perfect. If you are having trouble finding that perfect latch or are experiencing pain/discomfort while your baby is at the breast, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local Lactation consultant or Breastfeeding educator for help!
And now you know!
So there you have it; the top 5 Breastfeeding myths “debunked”! Hopefully this helped calm some of your concerns and give you the confidence that you and your baby can make this work! I referred a LOT to Lactation Consultants and can NOT express enough how instrumental their support can be in helping you achieve your breastfeeding goals.
Here is a list of other amazing resources for breastfeeding mamas in case you want/need some extra support!
La Leche League Groups are in almost every city. Attend meetings where local IBCLCs, Doulas and other breastfeeding moms meet to breastfeed, discuss, ask questions and get help for common (and not so common) breastfeeding challenges.
Kelly Mom.com is a wonderful, evidence based, online resource for all your pregnancy, birth, postpartum and breastfeeding information.
Mommy Connections is another great organization that facilitates meet ups and group activities for new and expecting moms! Look for a chapter in your city and get connected!
Don’t forget to search for online support groups! There really is magic and comfort in knowing you aren’t alone and that others are facing/have faced the same challenges that you are!