There are literally hundreds of myths about breastfeeding bandied about nowadays. These myths and urban legends are dangerous, as many mums believe they are true and either choose not to breastfeed or believe that they cannot. In this post I am going to do my best to dispel some of those myths.
Myth #1 — You Need Big Boobs in Order to Breastfeed
Boobs come in many different shapes and sizes, and the size of your equipment has absolutely no bearing on your ability to breastfeed. Breastfeeding in certain positions, such as with your baby in a wrap sling, is actually much easier if you have smaller breasts!
Myth #2 — Breastfeeding Will Make My Boobs Saggy
It is true that having babies can cause things to move in a more southwards direction. However, it is not purely the fault of breastfeeding. Your breasts grow a lot during pregnancy, so wearing a supportive bra (and having regular professional fittings) can help prevent sagging. You may think that the sudden increase in breast size when your milk comes in will affect their pertness in the long run, but this isn’t true. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, your body will still produce milk. Lots of formula feeding mum’s end up with saggy boobs, too! The best thing you can do to prevent it is always wearing a supportive, well-fitting bra — not avoiding breastfeeding.
Myth #3 — Most Women are Unable to Produce Enough Milk
This is totally untrue. Only 0.01% of women are unable to produce breast milk. However, there are a lot of contributing factors that can affect supply, and there are many situations which a mother might think point towards low supply. The only way to combat this myth is with in-depth and consistent supply of breastfeeding information and support throughout pregnancy and the postnatal period.
Myth #4 — Once it’s Gone, it’s Gone
Again, this is completely untrue. Women who have never even been pregnant have been able to lactate partially, if not fully, in order to breastfeed their adopted babies. Relactation and lactating for adoption is not an easy road but it’s certainly possible with determination and the right support.
Myth #5 — There’s No Point in Breastfeeding Past ‘x’ Age
We’ve all heard this one, and it always seems to be a different age at which breastfeeding magically loses it’s value. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although older children are able to get nutrition from other sources, the nutritional and immune benefits of breast milk are still just as important and valid. And besides; breastfeeding isn’t just about the transfer of milk into your child. It provides them with comfort, security, and a way of coping with what can be quite a big scary world at times. Breastfeeding is a way of mothering your child, it’s not just physical nourishment.
Myth #6 — If You Don’t Wean Now, You Never Will!
All children wean. Some of them will wean at a later age than others. If you don’t wish to allow your child to self wean naturally, there are many ways to encourage the process. Many women feel it’s unfair to breastfeed when they know they will wean after a few months, but it won’t feel like that to the baby. Any length of time that your baby receives breast milk will be beneficial.
Myth #7 — You Can’t Breastfeed If You Have To Go Back To Work
Here in the UK, we are very lucky to be entitled to at least 9 months of paid maternity leave following the births of our babies. By law, we can take 12 months off in total and still be entitled to return to our jobs at the end of it. However, not all countries are as progressive as ours with regards to maternity laws. In the US, the maximum amount of time that women are entitled to take off after the birth of their babies is 3 months. Most women will end up having to return to work after just six weeks. This obviously makes breastfeeding more difficult, but certainly not impossible. Many women are able to sustain a successful and happy nursing relationship with their babies, despite having to return to work after just a few weeks.
Myth #8 — Babies With Jaundice Need Formula
Actually, colostrum is the very best substance for a baby with jaundice. Most babies will get a mild case of jaundice, which will be solved easily and quickly with frequent feeding. More severe cases may require phototherapy treatment but there is still no reason why a mother cannot breastfeed her jaundiced baby. If the hospital treating the baby is concerned that they aren’t receiving enough milk to help flush the jaundice out, the mother can pump extra milk for her baby or request that the baby is supplemented with donated breast milk rather than formula.
There are, of course, many other myths and legends regarding breastfeeding. I’d love to hear some of the gems you may have heard in your time!