Breastfeeding - A Little Myth Busting

Anne answers many breastfeeding questions such as: What are the benefits of breastfeeding? What books and online resources are available? Should I take a breastfeeding class? How to tell if my pediatrician is breastfeeding friendly? Subscribe to Ask the Midwife Newsletter: bit.ly/askthemidwife

If you were to ask 100 different moms about what breastfeeding means to them, you might literally receive 100 different answers. You could also ask 100 different babies to wax poetic on the subject, but I’m uncertain as to just how far that would get you.

I’m not here to talk about positions, nor reasons why you should consider nursing on demand, nor to expand upon the chemical properties of breastmilk nor debate the latest in breastfeeding nightgown technology. What I am here to do is to dispel a few myths that inevitably pepper nursing conversations whenever they pop up at a cocktail party (at which you will not be having a cocktail):

IT’S JUST A FACT – BREASTFEEDING WILL BE HARD. Yes, it might be. But it might not be at all. Some babies have a little difficulty in the beginning, some nurse like champs from the get-go. We’ve done such a good job of warning women about potential issues that now everyone expects challenges. But you and your baby are likely to be just fine, either immediately or very shortly thereafter. Professional support is critical, so don’t be shy about asking for some!

WOMEN NEED TO PRIME THE SKIN ON THEIR NIPPLES PRENATALLY FOR NURSING. When moms-to-be ask me about this, they don’t gently inquire about creams and salves. No – they want to know about (brace yourselves) sandpapering their nipples. And to all the women that have ever posed such a query, I say one thing and one thing only: Don’t even think about engaging in such suffering. It’s wildly unnecessary, and, um, OUCH!  However, you might consider getting your nipples analyzed (yes, seriously) by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She will be able to tell you if your nipples are flat or inverted, which could be predictors of early nursing concerns. The good news is – if your nipples meet the criteria – you can actually do something about it! The “something” comes in the form of suction cups made just for this purpose (fun fact – these “Supple Cups” were actually developed for porn industry actors). Bet you didn’t know how hot all of this could be!

BREASTFEEDING SHOULDN’T HURT. Well, ultimately, when the baby has established a good, solid latch, it’s true, nursing shouldn’t make you want crawl out of your skin and actually should be quite pleasurable. However, it’s not unusual that until you get the hang of it (remember, this a learned art for both parties), you might experience some discomfort. Pain upon the initial latch, slightly cracked and/or bleeding nipples -these things are not uncommon – as the nipples are being sucked frequently, strongly and for some duration each day.  If any of these things persist or become excruciating – please make sure you contact an IBCLC right away for help.

I HAVE A WEIRD NURSING ISSUE – NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO HELP ME. Wrong! There is so much help out there! Midwives know about breastfeeding, so do postpartum doulas. Some pediatric practices have lactation professionals on staff. Support groups like La Leche League have chapters all over the world. Optimally, IBCLCs are specialists who can help you tackle any issue you may be having. Web resources can be invaluable, but make sure to be selective and choose only reputable sites.

BREASTFEEDING = BIRTH CONTROL. Please take this one to heart: nursing exclusively might offer protection for some, but NOT for all. Don’t fall for this rumor unless you are ready to have another bun in the oven like, now. Your care provider should discuss birth control options with you at your 6-week postpartum visit, but if you want to discuss them sooner, then by all means, pick up that phone!

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I WILL BE TOTALLY EXPOSED IF I NURSE IN PUBLIC. This is, of course, a natural concern, and our culture can be so confusing. After all, we seem to have no trouble exploiting women in mainstream media for entertainment and advertising purposes, but a post a photo of a mother feeding her baby? Well, stop right there and text the Breast Police! Babies can eat anywhere, and there are laws that protect the rights of breastfeeding. Walk into a midwife’s office or a La Leche League meeting and you’ll see that nursing is as normal as adding milk to your bowl of cereal.

Unless you are already completely topless when you leave the house, you won’t be exposed at all. Think about it. If you lift up your shirt, and if you have a nursing bra on, your upper breast is covered by said shirt, your baby’s head covers the rest of your breast, and her body covers your belly. It’s really that simple. However, if you still have modesty concerns, just drape yourself with a jacket or blanket or one of those nifty nursing covers.

THOSE WHO HAVE HAD BREAST SURGERY, ARE ADOPTING THEIR BABIES, HAVING THEIR CHILDREN WITH THE HELP OF SURROGACY, OR WHO ARE EXPERIENCING SEVERE NURSING ISSUES DON’T HAVE ANY OPTIONS. Happily, there are indeed options for these awesome mammas! I advise women to consult with providers who specialize in the above so they can gather the facts and make the feeding decisions that are right for themselves and their babies.

I hope that has cleared the air a bit and that you enjoy this nursing knowledge as you go forth in feeding!

What other myths have you heard? Let us know by commenting below – we love to hear from you! 

RESOURCES:

Breastfeeding Inc. – breastfeedinginc.ca

Kelly Mom – kellymom.com

La Leche League International – llli.org

Breastfeeding and Baby Care

RESOURCES:

Breastfeeding Inc

Kelly Mom

La Leche League International