Myths and Breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding is natures nurture. As natural as it is for a mother to grow and birth her baby, so it is to breastfeed them. What can add to the challenge of it all is breastfeeding can be surrounded by a multitude of myths and misconceptions, making it harder for parents to make decisions on how to feed their baby. So let’s take a look at some of these myths and separate fact from fiction and shed light on the true benefits and challenges associated with this nurturing practice.
Myth: Breastfeeding is natural and therefore easy
Yes breastfeeding is natural, but it is also a skill, and like any skill it needs to be practiced and fine-tuned to work. Babies are born with reflexes and instincts which help them to explore and find their mothers breast when placed skin to skin on mums chest. Breastfeeding can become easy but doesn’t always begin this way for many mums. Mums need practical support to ensure this skill can be developed correctly and be given the best start. They also need support to manage the demands breastfeeding can put on your time.
Myth: I won’t have enough milk for my baby, I have small breasts
In fact breast size is unrelated to mum's ability to make milk. Regardless of breast size, most women can produce sufficient milk to nourish their babies. Milk production is influenced by your hormones and your baby feeding at the breast to create enough milk. This is why sucking makes milk! When your baby is born they feed often and on demand, meaning every time your little one needs to they go to the breast to feed. This helps the receptors in your body to know you need to produce milk, the more often your baby feeds the more often these are cued and milk producing cells are formed. Soothers are best avoided until the milk supply is well established; and restricting feeds to certain timings and eliminating night feeds is not advised, as this can both limit the amount of milk your baby gets in 24 hours and fails to let your body know how much milk is actually needed for your little one. This will then limit the production of milk producing cells, which in turn limits the milk your breast can produce.
Myth: Breastfeeding is Painful
The fact is breastfeeding should never be painful. Pain during breastfeeding is not normal and often indicates an incorrect latch or other issues. As you start your breastfeeding journey a little tenderness is common as your body adjusts to breastfeeding, but should never be uncomfortable and make feeding painful. Proper positioning and latch techniques can prevent discomfort and damage, not only this but ensure your baby gets enough milk to thrive and protect your breast milk supply. If the pain persists, seeking help from a lactation expert can address the underlying problems, and help make all the difference to your experience.
Myth: Formula is as Good as Breast Milk
Breastmilk cannot be replicated. It contains essential nutrients, antibodies, and immune-boosting factors that help protect the baby from infections and promote optimal development. It is perfectly tailored to your baby’s growing needs. It changes as your baby grows and develops to meet new demands of their immune system. Formula meets their nutritional needs when breastmilk cannot be given but it does not change or provide unique immune protection.
Myth: Breastfed babies are always hungry
This is a common misconception because the feeding pattern of a breastfeeding infant is very different to bottle fed babies. The simple fact is Breastfed babies are not always hungry. A newborn’s tummy is only the size of a marble and takes small volumes to fill. In the very first days of feeding, tiny amounts of colostrum are all a baby takes at each feed. These drops just about fill a teaspoon but are packed with all the nutrients, protection and energy to meet your baby’s needs. It is also easily digested meaning your baby may need to feed more often than a bottle fed baby. Additionally, cluster feeding demands extra feeds and it may seem like baby is unsettled because they want to be snuggled with you and not placed in a cot. This is normal, learning your baby’s cues and responding to their needs helps to meets their feeding and comfort needs. This is why rooming in is so important.
Myth: Breastfeeding prevents my partner and others bonding with my baby
Breastfeeding does not hinder others from bonding with your baby. It’s true that breastfeeding creates a strong bond between you and your little one but this is not limited to just mum breastfeeding. Other family members can engage in nurturing activities, that fosters strong emotional connection. Baby’s love skin-to-skin and cuddling and all babies need nappy changes and bath time, these are activities others can help with, in doing so enjoy time with baby but also allow mum some time to herself.
Myth: Breastfeeding is Not Suitable for Working Mothers
Many working mothers successfully breastfeed by expressing milk and storing it for their baby's caregivers, with a little planning ahead your journey can continue. With supportive workplaces and pumping facilities, breastfeeding can be sustained even after returning to work.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and beneficial journey that provides numerous advantages to both the mother and the baby. Seeking support from a lactation consultant can help the journey and its challenges, help dispel misconceptions, and empower parents to make informed decisions and embrace the joys of breastfeeding while nurturing a healthy and loving bond with their child.
Pitman, T. and Newman, J. (2014) Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. 3rd edn. London: Pinter & Martin.