Unfortunately, breastfeeding is extremely misunderstood in our culture. We no longer have a society where all babies are breastfed and girls learn from their mothers how to manage pregnancy and postpartum challenges, normal or abnormal. Many women are left feeling like a stranded boat navigating stormy waters when they become mothers. They get occasional calls over the radio with advice that’s not always accurate. There are many myths surrounding breastfeeding. Today I want to talk about a few myths that most moms can probably benefit from learning a little more about!
Myth: Mothers should allow breasts to refill between feeds
It is a common misunderstanding that breasts need to feel full all the time, and must be given an opportunity to “fill up” between feeds. Some mothers may put off a feeding, despite baby’s cues, because she feels as if she doesn’t have enough milk in her breasts yet.
Fact: Full breasts signal the body to stop milk production! The fuller your breasts are, the less milk you will produce. Milk is made while the baby is nursing. You could consider the breast to be like a bottomless mimosa at brunch.. The waiter doesn’t bring it till you order it (ie breasts don’t need to produce until the baby puts in his order by nursing), and the waiter keeps on bringing them (ie breasts keep making milk) until you let him know you’re done. If you have a full glass, the waiter won’t bring any more. But if you empty your mimosa, he’ll be right there with another… Nursing when your baby signals he's ready to eat is the healthiest approach for mom and baby!
Myth: Babies should be put on a feeding schedule
Many people assume that babies need to be on a set feeding schedule. Some misunderstand nursing “every 2-4 hours” as a hard fast rule that must be adhered to.
Fact: There are very few “rules” with breastfeeding… Nursing on demand, as opposed to on a rigid schedule, is the best way to build your supply and meet baby’s needs. As babies hit growth spurts or go through developmental changes, they may require more frequent feedings.
Myth: Some babies have poor weight gain because their mothers have low quality milk
It is sometimes believed that if a woman doesn’t have a healthy diet, or baby is having trouble gaining weight, the milk is to blame.
Fact: Mothers who are extremely malnourished have been proven to have only slight, non problematic differences in the makeup of their milk. If a baby is having trouble gaining weight it is likely do to some circumstance regarding milk transfer, production, or even metabolic disorders in baby. If your baby is having trouble gaining weight appropriately, you may want to work with a Lactation Consultant and Pediatrician together to develop a plan for successfully meeting baby’s needs and reaching your breastfeeding goals.
Myth: Never wake a sleeping baby
Fact: In some cases, newborns may have medical reasons they are not capable of waking themselves for feedings, and therefore must be woken to feed at regular intervals. If, however, a baby is healthy, gaining well, and just so happens to sleep through the night… get your sleep, mama!
Myth: You can’t get pregnant while nursing
Lactational Ammenhorea (LAM) is often a welcome “side effect” of breastfeeding, and many are aware that breastfeeding can work as a natural contraceptive. This topic, could be an entire post itself (maybe I’ll write one soon!) Fact: Pregnancy is possible during lactation. When used “properly” so to speak, Lactational Ammenhorea is quite effective in preventing pregnancy. However, it is possible still to get pregnant, especially if you don’t meet the LAM criteria.
After 6 months, the chances of pregnancy increase. Some women will practice Ecological Breastfeeding to reduce their chances of returning to a state of fertility. Still, some women will find themselves fertile.
Natural Family Planning is still a completely viable and reasonably effective method of contraception for a breastfeeding family, as long as the woman is well versed in understanding her fertile signs and the "safe" approach to sex. Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a great resource in learning more about menstruation and understanding the process of a woman’s cycle. Keep in mind that women can ovulate before the return of menses, and so you may not have the “red flag” that fertility has returned that you expected.
The bottom line here: Don't carelessly have sex assuming it's impossible to conceive. If you plan to use breastfeeding as contraception, be informed and deliberate in your choices.
Myth: Babies shouldn’t breastfeed past 12months
In the United States, only about 18% of babies are exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age… Only about 26% of babies are breastfed at 12 months old.
Fact: Despite these low statistics, it may shock you that the AAP recommends a minimum of 12 months of breastfeeding, introducing complementary solids around 6 months of age. The World Health Organization builds on this recommending a minimum of two years of breastfeeding. Both organizations support breastfeeding toddlers as long as both mom and baby desire to continue the relationship.
Breastfeeding toddlers is beneficial nutritionally and emotionally for little ones. Consider the fact that many toddlers still have picky appetites, and are often recommended to begin a toddler formula or nutritional supplement. This is proof that there is something more mother nature intended for toddlers, and that something is breastmilk. Breastfed toddlers rarely need to supplement their diets with shakes and other commercial products.
Believe it or not there are many more myths surrounding breastfeeding. I could have a full conversation with you on each of these myths, and every other myth in the book... Stay tuned for more focused discussions on each of these topics.
I’m sure you’ve heard of a few crazy ideas or old wive’s tales in regards to breastfeeding. Have you gotten strange, inaccurate advice from well meaning “advisors”? Are there some myths you’ve been wondering about yourself? Comment below!
Did you learn something new from this list? If so, please share this post with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest! They may be surprised to learn a thing or two they never knew! Help me spread information and support for families who plan to breastfeed!
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