Everyone has something to say about raising a child, which definitely includes breastfeeding. Your mom, your relatives and friends, even strangers, will try to either convince you to breastfeed or talk you out of it.
Unfortunately, some of the things you are bound to hear about breastfeeding are not true! So how would you know which is which?
The Basics of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a natural act done by countless of mothers all over the world. While it certainly is not for everyone (many mothers cannot breastfeed), if you can breastfeed, then it will result in many benefits for both you and your child.
Often called the “ideal food” for babies, breast milk provides ample and appropriate nourishment. It contains the right mix of protein, fat, and antibodies that boost not only your baby’s physical growth but also their immune system. Aside from that, breast milk changes its composition to always be suitable for your baby’s current phase of development.
But despite the amazing virtues of breast milk, the act of breastfeeding still remains to be widely misunderstood. Let’s explore the breastfeeding myths that you have probably heard — or have yet to hear — and the breastfeeding facts.
10 Myths About Breastfeeding
1. Breastfeeding is easy and comes naturally.
Breastfeeding Fact: Nursing is a natural act, but that does not mean that it will come naturally! For some women, breastfeeding is easy, but for most, it takes time, patience, and effort.
New mothers need to learn the proper latch and the proper breastfeeding position in order to be successful. Moms also need proper support and guidance because breastfeeding can be taxing both physically and emotionally. However, the good news is that once you get the hang of it, breastfeeding becomes a lot easier.
2. You will feel excruciating pain when you breastfeed.
Breastfeeding Fact: Some amount of pressure is normal, but breastfeeding should not be excruciatingly painful.
Pressure and discomfort are some of the words you can use to describe the feeling of breastfeeding for the first time, but excruciating pain should not be one of those. Pain is a sign that your baby has not latched properly. To see if your baby has latched correctly, you shouldn’t see much of your areola and there is a movement in their jaw and ear area.
3. You need big breasts to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding Fact: The size of your breasts are not a factor in determining your success in breastfeeding!
Due to pregnancy, the breast tissue that is responsible for nursing grows, whether or not you have ample bosoms. The milk ducts are located in the aforementioned tissue and not in the fatty tissue that determines breast size.
4. Breastfeeding requires a strict diet.
Breastfeeding Fact: As long as you are eating a balanced diet of foods containing essential nutrients, you are good to breastfeed.
A common breastfeeding myth says that for a mom to breastfeed, she needs to eat only bland foods to not affect the quality of her milk. This has kept many women from breastfeeding, but the truth is that you are not required to change your diet if you choose to breastfeed! As long as you’re eating a balanced diet, then you are good to go.
5. Breastfeeding causes your baby to become clingy.
Breastfeeding Fact: Breastfeeding has nothing to do with your baby’s level of clinginess or overall temperament.
Breastfed babies are held a lot throughout the day (and night), which gave birth to the myth that breastfed babies are clingier. The truth is that some babies are just born clingy, and it’s not caused by breastfeeding! Also, don’t worry about it if your baby appears to be “clingy” because all babies are born with a need to be held and comforted.
6. You can’t exercise if you breastfeed.
Breastfeeding Fact: Exercise does not change the taste or scent of your breast milk.
It was once widely believed that vigorous physical activity, such as workouts, causes lactic acid in breast milk to spike — which causes breast milk to taste sour and smell funky. The good news is that you can continue working out because it has been shown that exercise does not affect the taste or scent of your breast milk! If you are conscious about the taste and scent of your sweat, it’s helpful to shower after you exercise.
7. You have to wean your baby if you decide to go back to work.
Breastfeeding Fact: So many mothers all over the world have successfully kept up with breastfeeding their babies even after they return to work.
Going back to work should not mark the end of breastfeeding for you! Many workplaces have designated areas where moms can pump in peace even during work hours. Store your pumped milk in safe containers and take them home. Don’t forget to delegate someone to feed your baby your expressed milk! During, you can continue feeding your baby directly.
8. Breastfeeding is an effective birth control method.
Breastfeeding Fact: Lactational Amenorrhea is a real thing, where breastfeeding delays the return of your period. But use other birth control methods to be 100% safe!
While breastfeeding has been shown to delay the return of menstruation, not every woman is the same. For some women, menstruation returns after several months, but for others, it returns right away even if they breastfeed. If you are not yet ready for another child, then it’s wise to use other birth control options to be safe.
9. Extended breastfeeding is harmful for your baby.
Breastfeeding Fact: Extended breastfeeding — or breastfeeding beyond 2 years — is not harmful. Instead, it has been shown to result in many benefits!
Just like breastfeeding, there are a lot of myths surrounding extended breastfeeding. Some say that it harms the child by hindering independence, while some say that breast milk is no longer nutritious at that age. Both of these are incorrect. Breastfeeding does not cause a child to be socially inept, as can be verified by numerous studies and anecdotal experiences.
Also, breast milk composition changes as the child grows, which means that the milk a 3-year old or even a 4-year old child ingests is still suitable for their needs.
Let’s set the record straight: breastfeeding is not the be-all and end-all of raising a baby. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, what’s important is that you give your baby the proper care and attention that they need. However, if you do choose to breastfeed, it is best to be armed with correct information and be able to determine the breastfeeding facts from the breastfeeding myths!