I am now officially a certified post-partum doula. Between that and nursing my own babies, I’m a bit of a breastfeeding expert. So let me bust some common misconceptions for you.
1. Breastfeeding makes your boobs saggy.
Actually, gravity, age, and genetics make your boobs saggy. Experts say that people who breastfeed don’t have visibly more sagging than people who don’t.
2. Size matters.
While not true for everything – heh heh – when it comes to nursing a baby, size doesn’t matter. Whether your chest is flat as a pancake or you’re rocking GGGs, you can breastfeed regardless of how small or large your boobs are.
3. Moms with flat or inverted nipples can’t breastfeed.
If you have flat or inverted nipples, breastfeeding may initially be more challenging – but not impossible. Get on board with a CLC (certified lactation consultant) before having the baby so you can work together from day one on strategies for breastfeeding with your particular nipple shape or size. Many women with flat or inverted nipples have successfully breastfed their babies.
4. The volume you pump indicates the volume the baby gets when feeding at the breast.
Many women worry that because they can’t pump large volumes of milk, the baby must be underfed during on-breast feedings. Actually, these volumes can be vastly different – because the mechanisms for pumping and breastfeeding are different. When you are pumping, you are getting milk out by pure suction. Your baby’s little mouth is much more efficient at getting the milk out, and your body responds differently to the baby than to the pump. So in most cases you pump less than what your baby gets directly from the breast.
5. Brand new babies should breastfeed only when they’re hungry.
Even in some baby-friendly and pro-breastfeeding hospitals, after a baby is born, she is given to her mama every few hours to “eat” and then given a pacifier in between. Unfortunately this is based on an idea that newborns are “hungry” every few hours and then just “want to suck” the rest of the time.
First of all, newborns aren’t hungry – they have just been on a 40-week all-you-can-eat buffet of whatever Mom has been eating. They suck because their sucking teaches your body to produce milk. Specifically, when a newborn latches on the breast, it’s the signal that your body needs to form prolactin receptors which are needed for milk production. More sucking = more receptors. These receptors are formed within the first three days of birth, so the first 72 hours are most crucial for baby to get on the breast early and often. The important thing here is less about addressing their “hunger” and more about building up your receptors. (If baby is in NICU or not latching, you can pump in the first three days to stimulate receptor development.)
6. Your milk supply is fixed – you make how much you make and can’t do much to change it.
Thankfully this is not true! Your milk production is based on a straight supply and demand equation – the more demand there is, the more supply there will be. If your supply is low, keep putting baby or pump on the breast and your body will learn to produce more milk according to the increasing demands.
7. You should completely stay away from alcohol while breastfeeding.
While you don’t want to over-indulge, according to La Leche League, it’s OK to have a drink while nursing. The amount of alcohol that gets into the milk is minuscule, and is metabolized within 3 hours. So if you’re still concerned but would like a glass of wine, you can always wait 3 hours before breastfeeding again.
8. Certain foods and nutrients help you produce more milk.
This is controversial because so many people recommend certain “milk boosting” foods – but ultimately it is untrue. So why do some women swear that certain teas, chocolate, or ginger cookies increases milk supply? The most likely explanation is that those things are pleasurable, comforting, and often shared with friends or loved ones – so the act of consuming them gives you a boost in the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in milk production. Put more simply, it’s not the nutrients in the food itself, it’s the comfort derived from them that may help your milk output. The exception to this is beer: which may slightly increase prolactin levels, due to a sugar in the barley the beer is made from.
9. People with breast implants or breast reduction surgery can’t breastfeed.
This is also a myth in many cases – depending on the type of surgery, the type of implants, and other individual factors. Some people with implants or a reduction can try breastfeeding with no issue, while other types of surgery preclude breastfeeding. You should definitely check with a CLC (certified lactation consultant) while you’re pregnant and discuss your options and possibilities.
10. Breastfeeding is easy/breastfeeding is hard.
The truth is that breastfeeding is different for every woman, and every baby. Some women have an easy time and some have a harder time. Many find that their different kids are completely different when it comes to breastfeeding. If you need support, you should ask for help as soon as possible after birth, and be vocal and persistent with nurses, midwives, and lactation consultants when you need help.