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Breastfeeding Myths Busted

Written by Carla Shirer


Posted on March 17 2020

Here are but a very few of the myths that we hear.

Breastfeeding can be hard.

Breastfeeding, like many things in parenting, is easy for some, harder for others for whom it is a learned skill, and others cannot do it through no fault of their own.

The facts:

Women have been breastfeeding for eons. According to the CDC "Among infants born in 2015 in the United States, 4 out of 5 (83.2%) started to breastfeed, over half (57.6%) were breastfeeding at 6 months" (If you really want to geek out on data, the CDC is your place to go...and we wrote this a few months ago, but everyone probably has the CDC bookmarked now.) 

Eons ago babies were fed. If one mother couldn't feed for some reason, someone else in the village fed that baby.   We will skip the socio-economics of wet nurses, but will point out that until the advent of formula in the 20th century many women used wet nurses.  (Want to learn a little more about this, start at one of our favorite non-profits, Wikipedia.  They are not a small business suffering from Covid-19 restrictions, but they are, for us, a valued non-profit, so, throw them five bucks when you're there?) 

Breastfeeding was a lost art that has been making a comeback. At the turn of the 19th century the majority of babes were breastfed *, by 1972 only approximately 22% were breastfed. The result is that we have generations of women who did not have a support system in place. In the past breastfeeding techniques were taught from mother to daughter or sister to sister. Some of that is coming back in this generation and the previous, but this transition takes time.

A little CDC data.  No judging.  Just data.

Percentage Breastfeeding at Baby-Friendly Facilities, 2018*

Map indicating breastfeeding rates in each state.

Modern society has bombarded women with fear, guilt, shame and over the top expectations. So, maybe start by asking yourself what "hard" is. It is natural, it may not come easily.  The real question is, if it does not come easy, how hard do you want to try. And that is up to you.  You're the mom in charge. Do not judge yourself or others.  You are the right mom for your baby.

I spoke with someone yesterday who is a single mother sheltered in place with a 7 week old.  Due to complications breastfeeding was hard.  She was advised to triple feed, and did.  If you think breastfeeding takes time, triple feeding takes more. She is now nursing and supplementing. (Haven't heard of triple feed?  e-mail hello@momstheword.com and we'll send you a pdf).

When someone first learns to drive a car they focused on how to operate the vehicle.  Hands firmly embracing the steering wheel for control. Eyes checking the mirrors for any approaching hazards, remembering to use signals.  It takes time, diligence and patience.  And many parents hire an instructor. After a bit of driving the seasoned driver has music blasting while confidently switching lanes and drinking a soda.  

And, like driving, be aware of your stress level.  Take a bus or train or cab/uber/lyft/juno/gett etc. Get support.  No one has ever handed car keys to someone who's never been in a car and said "Drive!". Whatever you do, do not berate, shame or otherwise torture yourself.  There are options. You will get there, baby will be fed and that is truly what matters.  

Even "easy" breastfeeding can be a hard.  As the Mayo Clinic states, it is a round the clock commitment.  Some women simply cannot do that for a multitude of reasons- which are the business of that baby and that parent and no one else.  So, if you see a baby with a bottle, just smile, that baby is being fed so they can thrive.

Mental health is health.  Being a parent is hard, it's the best, but it's hard.  The most important thing is that baby is fed and mother does not shame herself. Let's just keep it real. There is absolutely no need to make life harder on yourself as a parent! What really matters is that mother and baby get to build a bond.  

Information coming from friends or relatives about breastfeeding or nurturing your baby can be helpful or hurtful.  Be your own advocate, do your own research, take nothing for granted but most of all follow your own instincts. You will get through, easy or hard. Follow your heart and do what feels right.

Breastfeeding Can Hurt

The sensation of pain is different for each individual. You were pregnant and for nine months; your body went through physiological changes. You were in LABOR for an extended period of time. You may have had a C-Section.

You are not unfamiliar with pain by the time you are nursing! 

The facts:

Considering all that your body has been through, a mother is acutely aware of sensations and anything that is different. Breastfeeding is a different body sensation. Your breasts become full. Milk moves through the milk ducts and it is felt. This is feeling the "let down". It does not hurt. It is just another new sensation. When the baby latches onto the mother's nipple it may be uncomfortable. The mother can adjust the position of the baby for a more comfortable latch. The hypersensitivity will decrease as the mother continues to nurse. The more the mother breastfeeds the greater understanding she has of the physiology of breastfeeding. Please note, that if the mother is experiencing pain for more than two days she needs to contact her physician or lactation consultant.

I will lose my breasts!

Breasts change during pregnancy whether you breastfeed or don't. So, they have changed before you breastfeed.  You no doubt noticed that!

The facts:

You will feed your baby, breast or bottle.

Your breasts will become larger when pregnant, they may get larger nursing, but as you know, they get bigger before nursing even begins.  So, pregnancy is what you should avoid...?

Your breasts will never be the same.

Just the truth. As you shed your pregnancy weight and you slowly wean your baby, your breasts will return to the normal size. They will not return to their normal perky state if they were perky before.  But, as above, that happened during pregnancy.   

To prevent or reduce stretch marks invest in several properly fit bras and a good moisturizer. Several bras really because in order to keep your bras doing their job you need to wash them regularly to prevent killing the elastic.  When your baby is fully weaned get some new properly fitted sexy bras to support those beloved breasts who supported you and your child.

The babe in you,and your baby, deserve nothing but the best. 

This post is a collaborative effort.

Carla Shirer is Certified Lactation Consultant who, under normal circumstances (not what we are currently in) can be found in our LA store on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.  Want a mini lactation with your nursing pieces purchase?  Schedule an IRL appointment or email/text/facetime consultation by emailing hello@momstheword.com. Although we are in Shelter in Place, she is still available to chatt.

Sarah Pollak has spoken and consulted with hundreds of thousands(not kidding) of pregnant and nursing women in her 23 years at Mom's the Word, and has two children, one of whom she was pregnant with when the store opened.  In addition to talking to pregnant and nursing women IRL, she has read "pretty much every book, blog and article on getting a baby to sleep", and is happy to chat about all matters parenting. sarah@momstheword.com.

We've got you covered in all things pregnancy and nursing:)



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