There are a lot of common misconceptions about breastfeeding. Expecting mothers are often given breastfeeding advice (sometimes without asking), and often times the advice can be, well, wrong.
For ten years, Lila Luster-Stipe has provided support and guidance for expecting moms, new moms, formula feeding moms, and she says she’s heard it all.
“I take a joy in busting these myths and showing them that, you know, if your breastfeeding is hurting, then you’re not doing it right because breastfeeding doesn’t hurt,” Luster-Stipe said.
Here are a few myths she’s heard over the years:
Myth: It’s Normal for Nursing to Hurt
Many women think breastfeeding is something that is painful. Although there may be some discomfort, in the beginning, pain is a sign that your baby isn’t latching onto your breast properly. Be patient and know that your baby is learning, too. Your nipples may be sore when your baby latches on or during a feeding, but with practice, you will both get it right.
Myth: Some Mothers Run out of Breastmilk
There’s a common myth about not having enough milk. “You do have milk,” Luster-Stipe said. “We’ll go through what’s called manual expression and show them that they actually do have milk.” While you are still pregnant and just after birth, your breasts make colostrum. It is often dark yellow or orange, so people call it “liquid gold.” This is a thick, rich food that is small in volume. It is important to remember that your baby’s stomach is very small and does not need a large amount of milk to be filled. If your baby seems satisfied and is making the correct number of wet or dirty diapers, you can feel confident that your body is making everything that your baby needs. Keep nursing when your baby is telling you that he or she is hungry and your body will respond to the signals to make more milk.
Myth: It Will Cause Your Breasts to Sag
“I always crack a joke and tell them, ‘Time is going to do that – not the baby,” Luster-Stipe said. When you first begin to nurse, your breasts may become swollen with milk (a temporary process called engorgement) and grow larger; however, they’ll diminish in size once you’ve established a solid breastfeeding routine, according to Parents.com. Most moms can expect their breasts to return to their pre-pregnancy size after they wean their baby off breastfeeding.
Myth: You Have to “Pump and Dump” After You Drink Alcohol
“So basically, nursing mothers should not be drinking and consuming any alcohol when you are breastfeeding,” Luster-Stipe said. There are some moms who say, “My doctor told me I could have one glass of wine.” Luster-Stipe’s advice is to give your body plenty of time to digest the alcohol before breastfeeding, should you decide to have that drink. Some providers recommend waiting at least two and a half hours before nursing. You may want to consider pumping before drinking in case your baby needs to be fed while you’re waiting for the alcohol to leave your system. There are also over-the-counter test strips you can purchase to test your breast milk.
Myth: If You Don’t Nurse, You’re a Bad Mom
“Milk production is a popular question,” Luster-Stipe said. “Whatever you’re born with is what you have. Breast size does not have anything to do with it.”
It’s all about the mammary ducts and glands. You can have a mom with small breasts and lots of mammary glands and a mom with large breasts that has very few glands. Once you realize that you do have a low milk supply, there are things you can do to help increase production.
“Going to a good breastfeeding education course prior to delivering will help with latching,” Luster-Stipe said. “Look at your own breasts and see what’s going on. There is a thing called inverted nipple that a lot of moms don’t know about, and that can make it harder to breastfeed.”
If you decide not to breastfeed, that does not mean you are unfit to be a mother. Feed your baby formula and feel good about it. With your love and care, your child will thrive whether he dines on breast milk, formula, or some combination of the two.
Learn more about the breastfeeding and pregnancy education courses offered at West Jefferson Medical Center by visiting wjmc.org/WomensHealth.