Sadly, in the United States, breastfeeding is still not widely accepted. I am sure you have heard about mothers being kicked out of coffee shops and department stores because they are breastfeeding in public. When you really think about this, it is absolutely absurd.
What can be bad or wrong about breastfeeding a baby?
Nothing. People are not comfortable in their own skin, so they get super uncomfortable seeing a woman use her breasts to feed her baby. It is very normal in most other cultures around the world; it is part of everyday life.
Education and awareness is the first step in creating a shift in beliefs. There are many myths about breastfeeding that still circulate. These myths can be busted, or they can be perpetuated. I say we bust the myths about breastfeeding and continue educating the public about the hazards of formula.
Here are the top three myths about breastfeeding.
Myth #1 Breastfeeding Hurts
If it hurts then something isn’t quite right. In the beginning, sometimes the nipples can be sore. Most often, it is an incorrect latch. Although breastfeeding is normal, the MotherBaby is learning together and individually.
Usually, with a few minor changes in positioning, the latch can be corrected and the problem solved. There can be other issues such as the baby’s suckling, or position of his tongue, that may not be readily visible.
If working with positioning and latch does not resolve the sore nipples it could be time to call in a Certified Lactation Counselor or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. There are also WIC Peer Counselors available in many communities. Of course, La Leche League is the best well-known support group for nursing mothers. You can get lots of questions answered and develop friendships.
If the breasts are sore, and somewhat hard this could be engorgement. In the early days when the colostrum is transforming into breastmilk, the key to avoiding this fullness is early and often feeding. It is highly recommended for women to learn hand expression of milk to help get the milk out.
Pumping with a manual or electric pump is not recommended in the early weeks unless there is a medical need. Pumps can make sore nipples worse. The baby is the best pump. If you do choose to pump in the early days, remember not to over pump.
Too much pumping could create an oversupply. The stimulation of the action at the breast sends a message to the body to produce more milk. It is a delicate balance that you will figure out as you go. Always reach out for support if you aren’t feeling better. For comfort, hot showers feel great!
Feed your baby with a small cup or a syringe when not feeding at the breast, so you can avoid nipple confusion that might occur.
Myth #2 I Can't Eat What I Want
Yes, you can eat what you want. The more variety of flavors you eat, the more variety your baby experiences. Your baby got a taste of all your food in the amniotic fluid they swallowed throughout pregnancy.
Eat your normal diet. If your diet isn’t the best, think about adding foods you know are healthy for you. Remember, moderation is the key, especially if you do notice your baby is fussy after eating certain foods. You can consume moderate amounts of chocolate, coffee, tea, and soda.
Because I get asked about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding, I thought I would throw this in the mix to explain what some of the experts have to say.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol, in moderate amounts, is okay to consume with breastfeeding. One drink, beer or a glass of wine is acceptable. Dr. Jack Newman says that you do not have to pump and dump. The alcohol is in the same proportion in your milk as it is in your bloodstream. The biggest concern about over consumption is your ability to handle and care for your baby. It is never recommended that you drink to excess. Use your best judgment.
Do not eliminate anything, unless you suspect the food is causing discomfort in your baby. A lot of times this is whey in dairy foods the mother is consuming. If you suspect this, it could take 10 days to 2 weeks to completely eliminate these foods.
Keep a food log if you do suspect that your baby is reacting to something in your diet. In time, you will figure it out.
Myth #3 My Partner is Left Out
Breastfeeding is a special time to bond with your baby, and partners can become a bit jealous and feel left out. There is so much more than a baby’s needs beyond breastfeeding.
Your Partner can also bond with his baby, and do so many other things besides breastfeeding. They can help you with positioning and comfort, and making sure you are well-nourished. This is also very important, so you stay hydrated. If you have breast tenderness, they can help you massage your breasts, or hold the baby while you take a nice long shower.
Partners can burp, and change the baby. This is a great time for them to bond. They can sing, and talk to the baby. Partners can soothe the baby in their own way. They can do skin-to-skin, and massage and give a baby a bath.
This is only the beginning of a journey of teamwork. Together, you can figure out what works for you, and what makes the most sense for your family. Breastfeeding is a dance between the MotherBaby, and it still takes support. Especially in the early weeks after birth.
If you do not have a partner, you can enroll another support person (family member or a friend or postpartum doula), to help you to get off to a good start. They can make sure you are fed, and you are getting adequate rest and hydration.
Breastfeeding is the gift of health, and as the World Breastfeeding Week theme states, the Foundation for Life.