- Bryna Sampey, IBCLC
Top 10 Myths & Misconceptions About Breastfeeding
Hey all! Long time, no see! I keep starting blogs and abandoning them...but this one I was really motivated by friends and colleagues to write! You see, I was recently asked to give a talk for the Camas Wellness Festival- and when they asked me for "something about breastfeeding" I was initially at a loss. "breastfeeding" is a huge topic; And truthfully, what is there to say about breastfeeding that hasn't already been said by others who are more experienced or more qualified than myself?
Also, how do I make breastfeeding interesting to someone who is thinking of attending a festival and wants to enjoy their day without feeling compelled to attend a class? The two are sort of at odds with one another... it's difficult to feel festive when imagining sitting for an educational lecture!
I decided to borrow from clickbait articles and make a list that is short and sweet. Since I learn best from a combination of written and visual input- I added some eye-catching graphics that will hopefully make sense when you recall the information! I posted an image of JUST the visual portion of the infographic-style handout from the talk, and folks asked for more! So here it is, my super short & sweet overview of common myths & misconceptions that plague parents, new and experienced alike! i hope it's helpful to you personally, or if you're a provider, for your clients!
It’s all in your head
Sometimes breast-feeding doesn’t work for a myriad of reasons. Physiological reasons (like a lack of sufficient glandular tissue), trauma, severe hormone imbalances, certain cancers, medical complications, depression, D-MER (dysphoric milk ejection reflex), or other reasons.
Added note: That's not to say that this not-exhaustive list of conditions can't be overcome, but for some they make breastfeeding the wrong choice for their families. That's okay- and it's not your fault. It certainly isn't all in your head if these cause early weaning for your family.
Anyone can do it or It’s Natural
Breastfeeding/chestfeeding isn’t instinctive. It’s a learned behavior and that’s why a lot of people have a really hard time- they haven’t had a lot of exposure or experience with breastfeeding people to learn.
Society stigmatizes breastfeeding or chestfeeding in public- people are always getting thrown out of places, asked to cover up or leave, having dirty cloths thrown onto their babies and their bodies, or even arrested while attempting to feed their kids in public. Small wonder folks are afraid to nurse in public, and even smaller wonder that folks haven't had a lot of exposure or learning opportunity when it comes their turn to nurse their children.
Your milk isn’t good enough
A common refrain from formula companies (especially, but even some doctors!) until truth in advertising legislation put a stop to it. The damage was done, though, and a lot of people think that their diet and lifestyle must be perfect in order to make good milk for their baby. It’s simply not true. Your body makes milk that is tailor-made for your baby in some amazing ways- no need to worry. It’s important to be healthy for yourself, though. Your body takes whatever is needed to make the best milk no matter what- so you want to refill your own stores!
Only good parents do it
Breastfeeding isn’t a mark of a good parent- it’s a great thing for your baby and really important for a lot of good reasons, but someone who breastfeeds isn’t by default a better parent than someone who doesn’t or can’t. We are all trying our best. Most of us are trying our best. Well, most of us are trying our best. Some of us are just happy to make it through the day with everybody in one piece! While we are at it, breastfeeding isn’t just a bio-mom- thing, either. Trans-men/dads, adoptive parents, and even grandmothers can breastfeed or chestfeed.
You have to eat a special diet
Your body makes excellent milk no matter what you eat. Your body also has an excellent filtration system. Your milk is made from your blood. It’s very rare for baby to be bothered by foods in your diet that are commonly accused of causing gas (like garlic, onions, spicy foods or broccoli). You can enjoy an occasional glass of wine, too.
It has to hurt or be uncomfortable
Breastfeeding can be extremely painful- when things aren’t going well. It’s common for parents to “soldier through” without good quality help- and many times things improve! But often breastfeeding ends early because of this pain. Pain is a signal to the body that something is wrong. If there is pain, help is needed!
You can’t take meds while nursing
It’s more likely that you CAN nurse while on your meds than not. There are very few medications that are incompatible with breastfeeding. The best person to talk to about this is a lactation consultant. There are also parent-accessible references available online and in app and book form.
Your baby doesn’t like to nurse
A lot of difficulties can arise when babies are having trouble nursing- sometimes they arch or push away from the breast, or even can “strike” from nursing for a myriad of reasons. This doesn’t mean that your baby doesn’t like you or your milk or doesn’t want to nurse. Often, they're trying to find a way to nurse comfortably. Usually, babies will nurse happily when their challenges are solved.
You make too much milk
A lot of internet advice forums will erroneously recommend block feeding (nursing on only one side for one or more feedings to reduce supply). It’s an outdated practice that can cause plugged ducts, inflammation, damage, and mastitis, or worse. Often, it’s suggested when there isn’t an oversupply and can even result in low supply and early weaning.
You don’t make enough milk
Lots of common challenges can mask as low supply, when supply isn’t the issue. Additionally, the things many try to increase perceived low supply can end up causing supply problems. It takes experience and expertise to pick apart common breast-feeding challenges, and when the internet gets involved, a lot can go awry. Reaching out to professionals can prevent a lot of expense, heartache, headache, and boobache.
I hope this list, while definitely not exhaustive, is helpful for you and for your clients or patients! Did you have different challenges? Have you heard a lot of bad or shady advice? Tell me about it in the comments below!