Bringing a tiny human into this world, protecting them and feeding them is scary enough without being overwhelmed with the myriad of breastfeeding myths that manage to resurface over and over. You have enough to manage without second guessing how you’re feeling just because a complete stranger in the coffeeshop has opinions on your choices. The Mama Bear Club is here to help with some good old-fashioned myth-busting of some common misconceptions around breastfeeding that can lead to stress, frustration, and a reduction in milk supply.
1) Breastfeeding Myth: It Won’t Hurt.
It shouldn’t hurt and it doesn’t have to… but most Mamas out there do experience some discomfort when breastfeeding. This discomfort can range from slight irritation to full on bleeding nipples and searing pain. You are not a failure if it hurts! Pain means that your baby’s latch probably needs some work. 99% of the time it is fixable. It also can take time for your nipples to get used to the actual feel of breastfeeding. There are many awesome resources out there that focus on what a correct latch looks, feels, and sounds like (yup that’s right, a correct latch often has a specific sound).
If troubleshooting on your own doesn’t fix the issue quickly (within 2-3 days the pain should reduce significantly), don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant. They are fantastic at their jobs, can often fix latch issues in just one visit and are well-versed in the plethora of breastfeeding myths out there. Whatever you do, don’t hide your pain just because you’ve been told it won’t hurt or think it shouldn’t. Ultimately, the result could be a reduced milk supply or even a damaged breastfeeding relationship. Make sure to let your midwife, doctor, or support person know if you’re feeling discomfort so you can find a solution that works for both you and your baby.
Reality: There are times when it will hurt – if it does: Fix. The. Latch.
2) Breastfeeding Myth: It Will Feel Completely Natural
The way the media, your mom/aunt/sisters, and the ladies in the coffee shop talk, breastfeeding sounds like a magical bonding act that you and your baby will instinctively know how to do. New moms often believe breastfeeding will make you feel like a divine being full of light and grace. For some women, it can be like that. For most of us mortals though, the first couple weeks (or months!) of breastfeeding can involve pumps, feeding syringes or tubes, cluster feeding, engorged and/or painful breasts, breasts that shoot milk clear across the room, clogged ducts, mastitis, and a huge variety of other things that decidedly don’t make you feel like a Goddess.
Yes, eventually you will get into a rhythm, figure out what works best for you and your baby (or babies), and maybe even feel comfortable whipping out your breasts every couple hours but there is often a settling in period. Suddenly being completely responsible for feeding a tiny human (who needs to eat so, so, much) is a lot. It will take some getting used to – so don’t beat yourself up if it all feels a bit weird. Stressing over how you’re ‘supposed’ to feel instead of embracing how you do feel is a waste of time and energy that would be much better spent cuddling, sleeping, eating or showering.
Reality: It will probably feel weird at first and that’s okay!
3) Myth: Guinness Will Help Your Milk Supply
This breastfeeding myth is actually born of a very clever ad campaign on the part of Guinness! In reality, limited research has shown that barley hops, like those found in Guinness, can aid prolactin production, which helps with milk production… however alcohol has been strongly linked to a decrease in milk production, so any benefits are quickly trampled all over.
If you want to increase your milk production through your diet, there are other options that are fully beneficial, or at least won’t harm your milk supply! These foods/herbs/teas are known as galactagogues and include powerhouses like oatmeal (or oat milk), fenugreek (normally drank in a tea), fennel seeds (which make a lovely mouth freshener too), and products like lactation cookies or lactation teas. Diet can help your milk production, but remember – the very best way to increase milk production is to feed or pump frequently, drink lots of water, get as much rest as you can, and keep your stress levels low.
Reality: Hops might help but alcohol won’t.
4) Myth: Breastfeeding = Birth Control
Breastfeeding often delays the return of your period but not always. Sometimes your period can return as early as five weeks after you give birth, even while breastfeeding (because life just isn’t fair). Ovulation occurs before you have your period, so even if your period hasn’t returned while breastfeeding after birth, you could very well get pregnant again! Some breastfeeding women don’t even realize they’re pregnant again for a couple months as their period just never comes back. This happens more often than you would think, so if you plan on having sex and aren’t ready to get pregnant again right away, make sure to use some type of contraceptive!
Reality: Nope. Not even a little bit.
5) Myth: Breastfeeding Will Make You Lose Weight
I wish this one were true! While technically it should be true because making breast milk burns calories, I’ve yet to meet a Mama who managed to keep her diet the same (calorie-wise) post-baby and who lost weight through breastfeeding alone. Breastfeeding makes most women hungry all the time, because you’re making milk all the time. Women who never ate breakfast pre-baby wake up starving and a snack after every middle of the night feed feels like a reward you definitely deserve.
This myth feels particularly harmful because pregnancy and birth cause our bodies to change so dramatically that the promise of assisted weight loss after birth makes those changes feel temporary and more manageable. Discovering you’re not losing any of that baby weight due to breastfeeding can contribute to postpartum depression and stress – both of which majorly impact milk production. The best way to combat this one is to a) accept that it is unlikely breastfeeding alone will help you get back to a pre-baby weight b) spend a little bit of time honouring the amazing things your body did to grow and give birth to that beautiful baby, and c) eat healthy, nutritious food that will nourish both you and your babe.
Reality: Not unless you can stick to strict calorie counting (which is not recommended while breastfeeding).
6) Myth: If the milk doesn’t come immediately, switch to formula.
While for some new moms, breast milk comes in strong and fast, other moms need some help getting the milk flowing. It’s actually very common! If your milk supply doesn’t come in immediately, don’t give up and don’t panic! Using a breast pump (like the Mya Joy) between feedings will stimulate your body to make more milk and is a proven way to increase milk production (it can also help relieve pressure if you’re an over-producing Mama). If your baby was born early and is struggling to suck, pumping milk regularly and feeding with a syringe is a great way to ensure your baby is getting your milk, gaining weight and growing stronger while helping your body get into the rhythm of regular feedings.
Reality: With a little help, most Mamas can get the milk flowing.
You’re probably going to get a lot of advice, most of it unsolicited, and most of it unhelpful throughout your parenthood journey. Knowing how to spot when something feels off or untrue is a key skill to learn as soon as possible, and breastfeeding myths. Above all, remember that every journey in breastfeeding and parenthood is different and trying to compare them will always lead to feelings of confusion and/or disappointment. Trust your instincts, feel empowered to ask questions and, above all, ask for help when you need it.
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