Breastfeeding can be one of the most joyous and fulfilling human experiences that we can have – after all, we’re nourishing our children with nothing but our bodies and our determination.
But it can also be overwhelming for new moms, especially when they’re dealing with a deluge of conflicting information and feel like they’re supposed to have it all figured out.
Sorting through common misconceptions can help you feel calmer and more prepared to tackle breastfeeding, and it can help you know when to ask for help (no shame in that!).
Here are 5 of the most common breastfeeding myths
1. “I’m struggling, so it must mean I’m doing something wrong.”
As a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), it saddens me that there are so many new parents in isolation who think that any minor hurdle in their breastfeeding journey means that they’re not doing enough for their baby.
Even though some moms are able to breastfeed right away with no issues, it’s quite common to need help from a trusted friend who’s been there before or from a professional. Breastfeeding is like a dance that you and baby have to learn together, with a bunch of steps that have to happen at the same rhythm.
Just like you wouldn’t run onstage and perform at a recital without practicing, breastfeeding can take time to figure out, and that’s okay.
2. Your nipples have to “toughen up.”
You may have heard from friends that they had to just grit their teeth and get through the pain of breastfeeding through the first few weeks or months, but nursing your baby should never cause pain to the point where you’re dreading each feeding.
Significant pain usually happens when a mom is weathering damage to the nipple, such as cracking or bleeding, as the result of a shallow latch. Working on a nice deep latch not only prevents nipple damage and discomfort, but it enables your baby to get more milk as they feed. If your baby is getting the hang of latching and you’re feeling pain or discomfort, it’s okay to gently break the latch and try again.
A newborn feeds 10-12 times a day and practice makes perfect – don’t battle through breastfeeding sessions with pain!
3. I have to change my diet if I’m going to nurse my baby.
Our bodies are incredibly smart and they prioritize baby’s needs, the same way that they did in pregnancy – so even if whole foods and healthy cooking have fallen by the wayside with a newborn, you will still produce breastmilk that meets your baby’s nutritional needs.
Babies begin to experience flavors through your breastmilk since it takes on the flavor of whatever you eat, so a varied diet actually gives your baby an introduction to all sorts of new taste experiences – pretty cool!
Of course, you should strive to eat a balanced and nutritional diet for your own recovery and health, adding about 500 calories of healthy snacks and staying hydrated.
4. I have to pump and dump if I have a drink or two.
Pumping and immediately dumping a supply of milk down the drain can be a bummer, and it’s a common misunderstanding that drinking any amount of alcohol means that you should ditch milk.
In general, less than 2% of alcohol consumed by a breastfeeding person reaches their blood and milk, and alcohol leaves breastmilk as it leaves blood. As your body metabolizes alcohol, pumping and dumping does not make that process happen any faster.
Pumping after drinking is important for mom’s comfort and for maintaining milk supply for prolonged time away from your baby, but does not impact how quickly alcohol leaves your breastmilk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more information on safe alcohol consumption when breastfeeding, but as a general rule of thumb – if you feel sober enough to drive, breastfeeding is okay.
5. It’s hard for my partner to bond with my baby if I’m breastfeeding all of the time.
While breastfeeding is a lovely bonding experience for you and your baby, it doesn’t mean that your partner gets left in the dust.
They can (and should!) still spend lots of skin-to-skin time snuggling and cuddling your baby, and they can soothe your baby after a feed, especially in the middle of the night.
They can participate in all of the other ways that you’ll care for your baby, including changing, bathing, and playing. Plus, to support you while you’re nursing, they can make sure you’re well-hydrated and nourished. In short, your partner can do anything and everything that isn’t breastfeeding.
While figuring out breastfeeding can seem intimidating, understanding the basics and spending lots of cuddle time with your baby will get you off on the right foot.
And if you have any challenges, help from a qualified professional, like a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), is in reach – many of us do home visits to assist you where you’re comfortable as you recuperate from birth.
You’ve got this, mama!