By Shari Criso
For such a basic, natural, life-sustaining act that woman have done since the beginning of time, breastfeeding in our country still remains so misunderstood and laden with conflicting information, misconceptions, and myths.
With all of this confusion, it is no wonder that so many new moms struggle to simply feed their baby the way that their and their baby’s body intended.
Working with thousands of women over the past 25 years as a Nurse Midwife and Lactation Consultant, I have found that the best way to achieve breastfeeding success is to “equip” yourself with the best tool available: knowledge!
Education and reliable information is key to building your confidence and ultimately your sustained commitment to breastfeeding.
Besides basic education on positioning and latch, there is so much more to learn and understand. Being able to identify what is normal, what is not, as well as dispelling the most common myths and misconceptions will help you develop trust in your own body and that it is perfectly designed and “equipped” to feed your baby!
Here are some of the most common myths that I hear from my clients that create self-doubt, and even fear that they will not be able to breastfeed successfully!
Myth #1: Many women can’t make enough milk to fully nourish their babies.
This concern is a very understandable considering that all moms want to do the very best for their babies and making sure that they are properly nourished is one of the most important factors in their maintaining their health and well being.
This concern, worry and questioning by new moms of “will I make enough to feed my baby?” is further seeded by tons of advertising promoting infant formula, watching their friends or family supplementing because they were told that their breast milk was “insufficient” for their babies, and unfortunately, by a lack of education in the medical community.
Many nurses and doctors working directly with new moms are not properly educated in lactation physiology, normal parameters for “exclusively” breastfed babies, and basic lactation support for new moms. This component is completely preventable and unacceptable to me considering the overwhelming body of evidence showing the benefits of exclusive and long-term breastfeeding.
Our bodies were made to breastfeed. Our species has survived for thousands of years this way. It is actually uncommon for a mom to carry a pregnancy, deliver a baby, and then just not be able to feed. It does not make sense.
Of course there are some true instances where moms may have issues with milk supply, but most of the time it is due to inaccurate advice to supplement with formula because of a “perceived” low supply issue instead of a real supply issue.
Since breastfeeding is a “supply and demand” system (the more you feed, the more you make)…unnecessary supplementation frequently creates the issue that the mom was worried about in the first place, by gradually decreasing her supply. The concern then becomes real and justified.
Myth #2: If your mom or sister couldn’t breastfeed, you can’t breastfeed either.
I don’t know what happened with a woman’s mom or sister, but I do know that their mother’s mother, and her mother before that, and so on…were able to breastfeed or they would not be here. We come from a line of women that were able to produce enough and feed their babies because since the beginning of time, that was the only way!
Although the ability to breastfeed can have a genetic factor, this is usually not the case. Most of the time the reason that the mom or sister was not able to breastfeed is due to reasons that were not medical issues, but rather misinformation or assumptions about their bodies ability to make enough milk.
Although it can be helpful to understand what kinds of problems your family may have encountered while trying to breastfeed, it is not an indication that the same thing will happen to you.
Ask questions! Many times what you will find is that they were not supported by their doctors or the staff in the hospital, encouraged to supplement early on for reasons unknown to them, or that they were just worried that their babies were not as “chubby” as other formula fed babies that they saw.
Breastfed babies are often lean and may not gain as quickly as babies that are formula fed, however breastfeeding is the biological norm. All babies should be compared to the normal growth patterns of exclusively breastfed babies in order to maintain the normalcy that nature intended.
Very often I will have a mom who was not successful breastfeeding her first baby because she “did not make enough,” only to find out that it was something that interfered with her normal production or just her understanding. These same moms go on to successfully breastfeed their second, third or more babies with no problem at all!
Myth #3: You have to have the perfect diet and lifestyle to make quality, or enough, milk.
This is just simply untrue, and one of the most preventable reasons for moms believing it would be best to not breastfeed if they have a less than ideal diet.
Regardless of what you eat, your body will use its own reserves to make “perfect” milk for your baby. It will break down fat, protein, calcium, and any other nutrient that it needs in the perfect amount, even if it leaves you depleted–similar to pregnancy.
A good diet will keep you healthy, but regardless of what you are eating your milk is rarely effected except in the most extreme cases.
Women throughout history have lived through some of the most difficult and extreme situations and still were able to breastfeed. Although your own good health does make breastfeeding easier, it is not critical in making enough or “quality” milk as many people think.
If having the perfect diet, getting enough rest, or minimal stress were major factors in your body’s ability to produce breast milk, the human species would have become extinct long ago!
About Shari Criso, MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC: Shari Criso is a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, parenting educator, and mother of two breastfed daughters. With her signature online breastfeeding classes: “Simply Breastfeeding: The Criso Breastfeeding Method” and “Breast Pumps and Briefcases,” her unique, comforting, and empowering style of parenting education is now available to everyone.
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