Is There Any Truth In These Breastfeeding Myths?
For the past forty years, Ireland has had the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe and one of the fallouts of this unfortunate legacy is that most people don’t really know much about breastfeeding and consequently breastfeeding moms are often given all sorts of inaccurate advice. The advice is often well meant but, because it is wrong, it can cause problems for the mom and may even cause her to give up breastfeeding.
A lot of common breastfeeding pieces of advice are actually “myths”. These myths are often seen as gospel and are rarely questioned. It is really important to know what the myths are, and why they are wrong and what the correct breastfeeding fact is instead.
Here are three of the most common breastfeeding myths:
Myth No.1 - It’s Normal For Breastfeeding To Hurt
This is sometimes disguised as “it’s ok to have cracked and bleeding nipples – you just have to tough it out, honey”.
This has to be the most harmful of all the breastfeeding myths because it is based on a complete fallacy. The fact is that when a baby is latched onto the breast correctly there should be no pain. It is important to know that breastfeeding is not meant to hurt. Your nipples are not supposed to become damaged, cracked or bleeding and if any of these issues happen then this signifies that there is a breastfeeding problem that needs urgent attention.
If you have any of these issues at any time while you are breastfeeding, including the first week, then you need to see an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant as soon as possible. An IBCLC will be able to figure out why you are having pain and also be able to rectify the problem for you because she knows that breastfeeding is not meant to be painful.
This myth is so harmful because it can lead to a mom giving up breastfeeding earlier than she wanted to. This happens because people tell her it is expected to be in pain and consequently she doesn’t get help for the problem. Most moms will suffer through the pain until they can go on no more and do eventually give up breastfeeding. Unfortunately, the mom can feel like she has failed, when in fact she has been failed by all bad breastfeeding advice. Many women have given up breastfeeding because of this myth so we need to replace the myths with breastfeeding facts.
Fact No. 1 - Breastfeeding should be comfortable. If it isn’t, then you need to get skilled breastfeeding help.
Myth No. 2 - Your Baby Feeds Continuously Because You Don’t Have Enough Milk
Other variations of this myth might be, "You have a hungry baby” or “Your milk isn’t enough for your baby”.
This myth kicks in about 48 hours after the baby is born and then is said repeatedly to mamas for the first 6 weeks and sometimes longer. It can be devastating as it totally undermines her belief that her body can provide enough nourishment for her baby. Frequent feeding is completely normal for a breastfed baby. Newborn babies have tiny stomachs (about the size of a cherry) when they are born, so they need to feed frequently because they can only take in small amounts with each feed.
This frequent feeding also benefits mama because it stimulates her body to produce milk. The normal feeding frequency for a breastfeeding baby is at least 8 to 10 feeds in a 24 hour period, but it is often more frequent than this. Each feed will be between 10 to 40 minutes and there will be no routine in the feeds. The timings are erratic throughout the 24 hours depending on what the baby needs.
It is important to know that this is normal. Baby will go through periods of very, very frequent feeding - the first one happening on the second night after the baby is born and then at certain times over the first 6 weeks. The fact is that baby needs food. Baby needs to grow and so baby needs to eat… a lot!
Fact No. 2 - Breastfed babies feed very frequently, at least 8 to 10 times in 24 hours. This is very normal. The frequent feeding will ensure an ample milk supply.
Myth No. 3 - Letting Baby Comfort Feed Will Only Create Bad Habits
This myth is wrong because it operates under the assumption that there is something harmful with providing comfort to a baby (a scary thought!). The fact is that the baby is coming from a place of an instinctive need (not a want) to survive and survival means being close to mom as she is safety and the food source. Infant neurological research shows that the baby’s ability to self-soothe and self-calm is very immature and babies actually cannot calm themselves and they need help to calm and settle.
It is really important that we understand that moms body is the most comforting and safe place for baby. The most effective way to calm a baby is the smell, the sound, the touch and the feel of the mother. Breastfeeding is ingenious because it provides all of these and also provides vital nutrition.
The myth is wrong because babies need comforting in order to thrive and breastfeeding facilitates this need. Breastfeeding and comforting go hand in hand.
Fact No. 3 - Babies breastfeed for food and comfort and both are essential to a baby’s wellbeing.
Have you got any other breastfeeding myths that you would like to debunk? Let us know in the comment section below!