There are many myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding. It saddens me when I hear women tell me that the reason they didn’t breastfeed was because they didn’t produce enough, their nipples weren’t long enough or too soft, or worse that their baby didn’t like it or want it. I am going to run through many of the myths and misconceptions that I have found with breastfeeding and what you can do to make sure your experience is enjoyable and healthy for both you and your baby.“I don’t produce enough milk.”
It is true that some women just don’t produce enough, or not at all. However, it’s not as common as you might think. Many women think that they’re not producing enough because of three big reasons.
The first reason: “My baby’s here. Where’s my milk?” Don’t worry! Usually women take 2-4 days to start producing colostrum (liquid gold!). If nothing else, keep going until you get this awesome stuff. There’s a reason why they call it liquid gold. There’s not much of it, but it’s very important for your baby. Some women may take up to a week to produce! Allow your baby to latch as often as possible. If you are able to do that, the saliva and natural suction from your baby’s mouth will tell your body to produce. Also, try to pump every 3 hours, around the clock, until you start to produce. Yes, I know, it’s tiresome! But you’d have to wake up to feed the baby formula anyway, right? Sometimes I skipped 1 pumping to give myself more rest (but then again, my baby was in NICU for 8 days so I was able to do that) without worrying that my baby would go hungry.
The second reason: “My baby keeps nursing, and nursing, and nursing! I’m so tired and he’s still hungry!” Relax Mama! As long as your baby is having regular bowl movements and wet diapers, your baby is more than likely getting enough milk. Many times, women confuse growth spurts for lack of lactation. Sometimes, your baby will want to nurse every… single… hour… sometimes for half an hour to an hour at a time. It’s exhausting! But it’s a price to pay. This too shall pass, so to speak.
The third reason is that you’re dehydrated. Try drinking more water, maybe an extra 2-3 glasses a day. It is a myth that drinking more water will make you produce more milk, HOWEVER, if you are dehydrated you will not produce as much as you should. So, rather than over-hydrating yourself to get your supply up, keep hydrated to keep it from going down.
BONUS RANDOM FACT: Did you know that even if you stop producing (“dry up”) that you can sometimes get your milk to come back in? With enough persuading from your breasts, your little one can help you start producing milk again. There have even been known cases of women who do not have infants that were able to start producing for a family member’s baby before formula was invented.
“I have to keep supplementing because he doesn’t get quite full enough.”
This goes along with the last myth/misconception that was mentioned. However, I want to address this one personally. If at any way possible DO NOT SUPPLEMENT! You are only hurting your supply. Of course, don’t let your baby go hungry. If you feel like your baby is still hungry (and mama does know) then by all means feed that baby a little formula. However, even if you feel like you are completely drained, bring out the pump. Pump for at least 10 minutes, even if you have nothing coming out. This is called dry pumping (not to be used with dry humping that might have kept you from having this cute little kid). Sorry for the distasteful humor, but it couldn’t be helped! ;) You might be surprised that you actually are able to pump more out of your breast! If not, keep doing this. Eventually, your body will do the natural thing. It’s supply and demand. You demand for your body to produce more by pumping, and eventually it will supply! If you still feel that you are not able to produce enough, try the power pumping challenge. It has helped many, many women! Remember to stay hydrated as well.
“My nipples aren’t right for nursing.”
There are very few women who do not have nipples that are suitable for nursing. Your nipples are not too short. They’re not too long. they’re not too big. They’re not too small. They’re not too soft. They’re not too hard. If I rhymed a bit I would sound like Dr. Seuss. In reality, the shape and size of your nipples has very little to do with how your baby latches. It all has to do with the areola. If your baby is latching onto the tip of your nipple, it is an improper latch. You will know, because it will usually hurt. Nursing should not hurt. At first, because your breasts are more sensitive, it can be uncomfortable. But as long as baby is getting a good latch, it should not be painful. Make sure that your areola is completely in the baby’s mouth into a “deep latch.”
“My breasts are just too small!”
Many women have successfully nursed their babies with size A breasts. As a matter of fact, some women produce more than they need and are able to freeze it for later.
“I was told that my breasts are too big and I would smother the baby.”
Honey… I’m in a D cup (DD when I’m engorged) and these puppies never smother my baby… unless he decides to just bury his face in there with excitement! If you hold your baby correctly, you will never have this problem. Make sure that the baby is held to where his head is straight and his airway is clear. Find a way that both you and the baby are comfortable and happy. You do not have to do one specific position. For example, the nurses at NICU told me to use the football hold and both my son and I have always hated that hold. Many babies and mamas love it. Each mother and baby are different.
“It hurts. I don’t want to do this anymore!”
There are a few reasons, some of which I have already discussed, that could be causing your nipples or breasts to be sore.
First, I will discuss the nipples. If they are dry, cracked, sore, and/or bleeding a few things could be happening. Usually, it is from improper latch (see above). Sometimes it is from dry nipples. You could try some lanolin such as Medela. Just rub a pea size on each nipple after you nurse. There is no need to wash it off, because it will not harm the baby. Another reason could be because of a bacterial infection. If your problem persists, I would urge you to go to a lactation specialist. You can go to your OBGYN or pediatrician as well, but personally my lactation specialist helped me more in one day than all of the doctors and nurses have helped me the entire time I was pregnant and after my son was born… in ONE DAY! There are other reasons but these are the most common. It is advised to keep your nipples clean with a gentle soap as well so that bacteria will not cause infections, especially if they are cracked.
Second, if your breasts themselves are sore or hurting, it may or may not be something to worry about. Sometimes, it is simply a milk let-down. Some women feel a tingling and needles. Some women feel pressure and pain, and some women don’t feel anything at all. Usually this feeling goes away as time goes on. Or you may be producing too much milk! If your breasts are engorged, your breasts will swell and many times become painful to the touch. A simple pumping will do the trick. Most women are engorged for the first 2-3 months quite often! Freeze that beautiful nectar for later! If you don’t end up using it for bottles, you can mix it with her food for later if you make your own baby purees! The next reason may be thrush. This is something that only a doctor can help you with, and it is not fun (so I’m told). It is a common fungal infection that develops on your nipples and sometimes in your baby’s mouth. They can be transferred back and forth and is sometimes hard to get rid of without proper treatment. Although it is unusual, sometimes the thrush infection may enter your milk ducts. Finally, you may have a mastitis. That is when milk is forced out of your ducts and into your breast tissue. You will know you have one because your breasts will be redder and touchy. Some women feel feverish and/or have a lump. Get medical treatment ASAP. You can nurse your baby in the meantime.
If you find the root of your problem, your breastfeeding experience will be wonderful!
“I don’t want her to bite me.”
I’m not going to lie. It happens sometimes. The odds of you getting bitten enough to hurt you are slim. Usually babies want to be fed, not to chew on your nipple. It’s a risk that only you can decide if you want to take. Personally, it’s worth the risk for me.
“My baby doesn’t like it.”
Seriously, I doubt it. More than likely, the baby isn’t enjoying herself because of one or more of these issues: you’re not having a let-down quick enough for her, you’re letting down too quickly, you’re going too long between nursing and she’s too hungry to have patience, the latch is wrong, she’s uncomfortable, she’s not being held close enough or held too close, she doesn’t like the cover you’re using, or her mouth is sore (which could be of concern if it’s thrush). If done right, she will like it. Please Mama, do not give up so easily!
“I don’t know what to do when I’m out in public.”
This is a personal choice. I will be honest, some women do not produce enough to pump for extra milk while they’re out in public (for bottles). I am one of them. I did at first, but now I make just enough for my baby. I’m lucky to get an extra ounce each day if I pump 2-3 times. Some babies won’t take a bottle either if they’re used to breast. You could use a cover, however some babies don’t like it and just push it off of them. Also, it can get so hot for the baby! Here is my experience. I wasn’t comfortable nursing in public at first. I nursed in the back of my van for privacy, and even once in a bathroom. If you feel comfortable with that, it’s your choice. However, I got to thinking about how I wouldn’t eat in a bathroom that smelled like urine. Why was I doing that to my son? So I started to just nurse in my van. It was so hot without AC in the late summer/early fall. So I said, “Screw it! I’m feeding my baby in a way that HE’S comfortable. I dare someone to say something to me.” Guess what? Nobody did or ever has. Honestly, most of the time people don’t even know I’m doing it. How do I do this, you ask? It’s simple. Wear two shirts. Pull the top one up. Leave the bottom one down. Pull your breast out as discretely as you can over the top of the bottom shirt and let the baby latch. Make sure your top shirt is covering everything above your baby’s latch without covering her airway. (pictured below) It’s that simple! :) Another way you can breastfeed discretely is with a wrap such as Moby or a woven wrap. Do your research, please, before you jump in with wraps for safety.
If you have any other reasons why you believe that you can’t breastfeed PLEASE comment. I will add it to my blog post and answer any questions you may have, if I can. As always, talk to your pediatrician, OBGYN, lactation specialist or any other healthcare professional that you trust for professional advice when trying something new. Thank you everyone for breastfeeding!
Please help me support public breastfeeding awareness by checking out my sha-booby beanie on Etsy. Wear it in public as a conversation starter on why you choose to feed your child whenever and wherever you so please. Breastfeeding is feeding your child, not pornography, and more people need to know this. Thank you again!