More and more women are hoping to breastfeed their babies than in any of the previous generations. Some new mothers may not have grown up seeing as many women breastfeed as in previous generations though, so there is a gap in knowledge of knowing what’s true or false when it comes to all things breastfeeding.
Nowadays our thoughts about breastfeeding now seem to come from our favorite influencer or circle of mom friends, both of which can be polarized perspectives depending on someone else’s journey with breastfeeding!
Our resident lactation expert, Jaren Soloff, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and is here to help answer some of the most common breastfeeding and lactation myths to help you navigate breastfeeding with confidence!
Myth 1: Bigger breasts make more milk
Milk production has absolutely nothing to do with your breast size. Women with all types of breast sizes can produce ample milk supply for their babies, since breastmilk supply is dependent on glandular tissue (found in your breast). How much milk you produce is determined by how often you feed or pump, as breastfeeding is a supply and demand system.
Myth 2: Pain is normal during breastfeeding, you will just toughen up
You do not have to “toughen up” to breastfeed! Breastfeeding should not be painful or hurt. While the initial latch during the first few days may feel slightly uncomfortable (feeling like a tug at the breast) this is an adjustment period as you get used to this more frequent stimulation. Some women do find the stimulation at the breast to be intense in the first few days due to shifting hormones after birth. If you are experiencing pain, cracking or bleeding as a result of breastfeeding you need the support of an IBCLC, you can find one here!
Myth 3: If you eat gassy or spicy foods your baby will be gassy/irritated
Breastmilk is made from your blood, not the contents of your stomach. This means that what you eat does not just transfer into your breastmilk. The contents of your stomach are digested and pass through your body, and while you may experience some gas or discomfort from certain foods that are higher in fiber or spice, these compounds do not pass through to your breastmilk.
Your breastmilk can be “flavored” by the foods you eat and in infants who have parents with strong family histories of allergies, certain proteins such as milk or protein may cause irritation. However, the majority of parents can eat to their heart’s content and feed their baby!
Myth 4: You have to pump and dump when drinking alcohol or taking a medication
Pumping and dumping is often touted as the solution for when a mother is taking a substance known to either alter her state or is suspected to be harmful for the infant. Pumping and removing the milk from the breast however does not remove the substance from the blood.
Since milk is produced from the blood, it will contain an amount of the substance as long as the mother’s blood level contains it. For example, if a mother were to have a glass of wine the blood alcohol level would rise but then it would fall. The same is true with breastmilk, as the level of the substance decreases in the blood the level decreases in milk.
Check with your primary care provider for specific guidance however pumping and dumping is not commonly recommended as timing when to feed an infant based on the type of substance, how much was taken and when the mother will feed the infant next.
Myth 5: You can’t breastfeed if you have flat/inverted/large nipples
While some nipple shapes might take more creativity with positioning, all nipple shapes work for breastfeeding because babies were born to breastfeed!
Depending on your nipple shape, your baby may need some assistance from you to latch to the breast, however you can help them with getting a good latch by experimenting with some different breastfeeding positions and holds.
Very very rarely truly inverted nipples can be a challenge for some infants to latch onto however with the support of a skilled lactation consultant you can develop some strategies for latching with these types of nipples.
Myth 6: Breastfeeding makes your breasts sag/droop
Breastfeeding has no impact on the shape of your breasts, as it is the hormone Relaxin during pregnancy that changes the shape of breast. Relaxin serves to loosen joints/ligaments to help with labor and birth and as a result the breasts can change. This shift occurs regardless of whether breastfeeding takes place at all!
Myth 7: It comes naturally/should be “easy”
This is probably the biggest myth out there when it comes to breastfeeding! Breastfeeding IS natural and babies were designed to breastfeed, but it is not always easy. While for some their journey in breastfeeding is smooth sailing, learning the ins and outs of feeding a small human is sure to come with its challenges along the way.
Know that in previous generations, breastfeeding was supported by a circle of women/other mothers who had “been there” and could provide modeling and guidance to new mothers. In our here and now, we are still learning what is normal when it comes to breastfeeding and it is normal to need support in learning this new skill!
Wherever you are, know that when hearing new breastfeeding information that sounds questionable, working with a lactation consultant (IBCLC) can provide you the facts on all things breastfeeding.