Between my pre- and post-natal massage clients, my breastfeeding support group, and other momma friends, I’ve had a lot of discussions about breastfeeding in the last year. I’m constantly surprised by the reasons women have given me for why they didn’t breastfeed or why they decided to quit. Now, I’m not judging any momma – but in all of these conversations, 99% of them end with the momma saying, “I wish I would have done it” or “I wish I would have stuck it out” or, what makes me the saddest of all, “I wish I would have had someone to help me.” I honestly believe that a big reason why a lot of women don’t breastfeed is because there are a lot of breastfeeding myths out there, and sadly, not a lot of support.
I was lucky enough to meet an incredible lactation nurse during a breastfeeding class provided by my hospital, and luckier still to have had her on duty the day I gave birth. I have had the amazing gift of becoming friends with this woman (because, really, once you have experienced labor and birth with someone, that’s a special bond that will always be) – but a lot of women aren’t as lucky as I to have that support. My goal with this post is to address the four most common myths that I’ve heard and debunk them, hopefully encouraging anyone who maybe had trouble breastfeeding in the past or is afraid they will in the future.
I admit, I’m not a professional (yet, lol) – so I’m going to bring in some help here with some insight from Cara, an RN and IBCLC (“Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant”). I was thrilled when reading her responses; it really reaffirmed my own research and personal experiences, and I’m glad to know I’ve been giving decent advice to friends and clients! So, with outfurther ado…
Myth #1: My breasts are small, so I won’t be able to breastfeed.
Luka: The size of a woman’s breasts does not factor into whether or not her body will produce milk.
Cara: Breasts are made up of fatty tissue … [that] determines breast size. Almost every woman, even those with small breasts, can make plenty of milk for their babies.
Myth #2: My breasts didn’t get engorged / haven’t leaked while pregnant / in the first few days after birth, so I don’t have any milk and can’t breastfeed.
Luka: While changes in breast tissue (size, tenderness, color, etc) can be a good indicator of physical changes leading up to milk production, some women don’t notice a difference. Many women, especially those with their first child, do not experience engorment and/or leaking. In fact, the first couple days of a baby’s life are when their stomaches are the smallest (like a grape) and they only need a small amount of the thick colostrum that precedes breast milk. It can be before birth, right after birth, a few days, or even a week before “milk comes in” after the colustrum.
Cara: One thing to be aware of during pregnancy is an increase in breast size and darkening of the areola. Also be aware of nipple shape and if you have inverted (they don’t “poke” out during stimulation/shower/etc) that it may be a little more difficult for baby to get a good latch … asking for a nurse or lactation consultant who is experienced with assisting with latch is very important in the first few days and weeks.
Myth #3: I don’t get very much milk when I pump, so I’m not producing enough for my baby.
Luka: Several things are wrong with this. First, babies are much better at getting milk than a machine; babies are able to use compression, tongue movement, and suction, while a breast pump pretty much just suctions. Second, some women can feel uncomfortable, stressed, or nervous while pumping, which can inhibit flow. I knew a mom who could be sitting in her livingroom with her breast pump, everything going smoothly, but as soon as her husband would come in, her milk would just.. stop. I’ve personally noticed on days when I’m stressed or tired, I will only get a couple ounces pumping, as opposed to when I’m relaxed. So, even if you are only pumping an ounce at a time, chances are baby is getting more than that in their tummy. If you are worried about supply, there are several things you can do to help encourage better lactation. I will be talking about that more in my next post!
Cara: To help increase pumping output try … a reminder of baby near when pumping (video or sound recording, photo, something that smells like baby, etc) to help with the let down (milk ejection) reflex. I also encourage any mom that is pumping to use “hands on” pumping and massage and compress the breasts during pumping. Doing this while pumping can increase the volume of pumped milk by up to 50%.
Myth #4: Breastfeeding is painful, and I have a low pain tolerance so I don’t want to try it.
Luka: I won’t lie: there is an adjustment period. You probably aren’t used to having that much attention on your nipples, and they may be a little sore or tender. Some women may even experience a little cracking or roughness. But breastfeeding should never be extremely painful – if it is, chances are baby has a bad latch. This is where a lactation consultant can come in handy. By listening and observing baby’s mouth, throat, and jaw, an experienced lactation nurse can tell if the latch needs adjusting, making breastfeeding easier on mom and baby. In the meantime, I ditched the lanolin (too thick and sticky) and used Earth Mama’s Nipple Butter quite generously during the first couple weeks. I’ve also heard from other mommas that expressing a little breastmilk and rubbing on the nipple works wonders!
Cara: Breastfeeding should NOT hurt. Breastfeeding should be comfortable and enjoyable for mom and baby, NOT painful. Pain is a signal that baby is not latching on correctly … [while] any nipple damage, blisters , cracking, or bleeding is cause for concern and should be addressed via Lactation professional sooner rather than later. It is usually assisting to help the baby latch better that will help resolve these issues.
I hope this was helpful for some mommas out there!
Are there any other “myths” out there that you have been told that is making you nervous to try to breastfeed?? Maybe we can help ease your mind!