Everyone around you – from your best friend’s mum-in-law to your hairstylist – will pile you with suggestions, opinions, and advice concerning breastfeeding in a seemingly innocent attempt to help.
And some of the wisdom imparted might even be useful. However, chances are that a significant chunk would not be. There are so many myths about breastfeeding surrounding nursing mothers that it often gets hard for them to tell what is true and what isn’t.
So, if you are not sure whether the nursing “advise” you got is a fact or a fallacy, do not worry. Luckily, I am here to help!
To help you sort and navigate through it all, below, I have shared some of the most common breastfeeding myths and the actual truths behind them.
Myth #1: Latch-on pain is normal.
Many people believe that it is normal for breastfeeding to hurt, but let me tell you, it is not. Though initial discomfort is expected, experiencing pain is a strong indication that your newborn is not latching onto your breast appropriately.
Keep in mind, for nursing, the baby’s focus should not only be on your nipple. Instead, they should be opening their mouths wide and pulling your breast along with the nipple deep into their mouth. Moreover, the baby should also use their tongue and jaw to massage milk out of the breast. You should also keep altering your position until the baby feels safe and secure.
If this is your first baby, be sure to get acquainted with breastfeeding before you pack a bag for the hospital for the big day.
Nursing is a natural process, but remember that it does not come naturally for many. However, with continuous practice and tons of patience, both you and your baby will get it right.
Myth #2: Small breasts do not produce enough milk to sufficiently feed a newborn baby.
Many new mothers have come across this one. But let me break it to you, loud and clear – when it comes to nursing, the size of your breast does not matter! In fact, the breast tissue women need to feed a newborn baby grows in a natural response to gestation regardless of their breast size.
It’s in this presumed functional tissue – instead of in the fatty tissue that’s accountable for breast size – that the ducts for milk production are situated. Therefore, be assured that your breasts – whether cup size A, B, C, or D – are very much capable of producing and supplying as much milk as your little one needs for healthy growth and nutrition.
Myth #3: The nipples should be toughening for nursing.
Absolute nonsense! Many lactation experts and pediatricians have revealed that the breasts naturally undergo a transformation that gets them all prepped up for nursing during gestation.
In fact, the area around the nipples will get thick, and the glands in the areolas will begin producing oils for protection and lubrication even before the baby is born. Once you initiate nursing, a gush in the oxytocin hormone will make the nipples stretchier and more pliable for the newborn’s mouth.
If you have inverted or flat nipples, ask your pediatrician about nursing techniques to make the entire breastfeeding process easier for you and the baby. You might also try Googling it.
Myth #4: Women should not breastfeed a baby if they are on antidepressants.
Postpartum depression is probably the most overlooked facet related to pregnancy and motherhood, even though its effects can be adversely substantial for both the mother and the baby. Please remember that postpartum depression can make breastfeeding more stressful and complicated than it already is for many first-time mothers.
Therefore, it is crucial to seek help if you’ve felt low or depressed for two weeks or more. Remember that it’s OK to feel the way you are feeling at the moment, and also know that help is always available. All you have to do is ask. A mental health specialist or your pediatrician would know which antidepressants are safe to prescribe to nursing mothers.
On the contrary, if you were on antidepressant pills before the delivery or during pregnancy, stick to the same drug to keep the baby’s exposure to a minimum.
Myth #5: Breastfeeding results in saggy/droopy breasts.
I know so many mothers who have avoided nursing due to this one breastfeeding myth. In reality, saggy breasts are not really an outcome of nursing but rather a result of pregnancy. During gestation, a storm of hormonal fluctuations and changes occurs within a woman’s body, causing the ligaments underneath the breasts to get loose and stretch.
And as women gain weight during the natural course of pregnancy, their breasts grow bigger and heavier and might start to sag. In addition, when you first begin to breastfeed, the breasts might get enlarged (or engorged) with milk and grow larger. Remember that they will eventually shrink in size once you have developed a proper nursing routine.
Once you have weaned your little one, the breasts will turn softer, and you should anticipate them to return to their pre-gestation size unless you have gained or lost substantial pounds. So be sure to chart your pregnancy weight gain for optimal health. Nobody (including yourself) should criticize you for gaining weight.
Leave a comment below if you would like to see a blog post on the healthy weight you should gain during pregnancy!
Myth #6: Women can’t breastfeed if they have had a breast reduction or breast augmentation procedure in the past.
According to experts nowadays, breast implants are typically inserted beneath the chest muscle or breast tissue and near the armpit, which should not really pry with a woman’s ability to nurse.
On a separate note, if you have undergone surgery where the nipples were removed to insert a breast implant and then reattached, nursing might be hindered. This surgery interferes with the nerves that supply milk. In that case, you’ll most likely have to supplement with formula.
A woman’s ability to naturally feed her baby after a breast-reduction operation also depends on how the surgery was executed. If the nipples are left partially attached during the surgery and then reattached once the undesirable breast tissue has been removed, the woman may still be able to breastfeed.
If you’ve ever had either kind of breast procedure, let your pediatrician know ahead of time. That will allow them can keep a close watch on your newborn’s nutrition and weight gain.
Myth #8: Mothers should not breastfeed when they are sick.
The reality is the complete opposite of this breastfeeding myth. Continuing to nurse your baby while you have the flu or a cold can help protect your little one from the illness. Germ-fighting antibodies the body is making while combatting the ailment are, in fact, transferred to the baby every time you breastfeed.
As a result, the baby probably would not get sick at all; even if they do, it will be a milder version of whatsoever is ailing you. In addition to this, keeping up and strengthening your bond during the nursing sessions can improve and uplift your mood despite feeling awful.
Myth #9: Breastfeeding makes babies dependent and clingy.
On the contrary, several pieces of research have shown that babies who benefit from the connection and affection nursing are usually more independent in their lives as they grow up. So, don’t let the myth that your child will be dependent on you for the rest of their life keep you from breastfeeding.
Some people might take the baby’s whining as clingy, but frankly, crying for food is solely a natural facet of human nature. Don’t believe me? Let’s experiment: deprive yourself of any sort of food and water for an entire day. Meanwhile, ask your partner/husband to eat your favorite meals in front of you, and let’s see how you will react? I’m confident it will be more than just whining and complaining.
Myth #10: Breastfeeding needs to be done every 2 hours – around the clock, no less, no more – to ensure the baby gets enough food.
Remember, a newborn’s eating and consumption pattern is as individual and unique as their parents’. That said, several babies do inherently fall into an every-2-hours feeding routine. Nevertheless, lactation experts and pediatricians always emphasize nursing mothers to “watch their babies and not the clock” as a reference for feeding times.
As I said, every child is different with distinct food needs and requirements. Nevertheless, if you are worried that your newborn is not getting “enough” to eat, see the number of diapers they dirty every day. The general rule is a newborn should use at least eight diapers in a day – two or three for “seedy” stools and at least six wet diapers).
If you are still worried that your newborn is not getting desired nutrition or enough food to eat, you can always get help from an expert. Schedule a weight check with a pediatrician and ensure everything is as it should be for your personal satisfaction.
Myth #11: Breastfeeding should not be done if there is a breast infection or blocked duct.
The truth is entirely the opposite of this breastfeeding myth. Experts reveal that if a woman has a blocked duct, the best way to treat it is to breastfeed as often as possible. And you might not know this, but the best way to prevent a breast infection is to clear a clogged milking duct. So how do breast ducts get clogged in the first place? It typically happens when a newborn’s feeding patterns alter, and the breast becomes overloaded.
For example, when your newborn begins eating solid foods, takes longer naps, and sleeps through the night. In this case, your baby might want to feed less often, leading to blocked ducts.
Apart from frequent breastfeeding sessions, applying heat – in the form of a wet washcloth or a heating pad – before every session can also help clear a blogged duct. Additionally, check that your bra is not too restricting, and try not to wear underwire bras, as they can compress ducts.
Myth #12: You are a bad mother if you do not breastfeed.
Though nursing has significant health benefits to offer for both you and the baby, choosing not to breastfeed for whatever reason doesn’t mean you’re a bad or unfit mother. If you decide to formula feed, choose one that you feel good about and move on.
Ultimately, what truly matters is that you and your baby are healthy, safe, and thriving, irrespective of whatever means you choose: breastfeed, formula feed, or a combination of both.
If you have heard about any other breastfeeding myths, please let us know in the comments below.