Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Common Myths About Breastfeeding {Guest Post}

Join me in welcoming our wonderful guest poster, Jaimie Bowman, who blogs over at The Wonder Years about life with her husband and cute boys.  She is a speaker and writer, as well as a part-time photographer and Lactation Counselor.  I am thrilled to have her guest posting for us today!

Common Myths About Breastfeeding

I am so honored that Christine asked me to guest post today on “Why We Love Green.”  After having my first son 6 years ago, choosing to breastfeed was my own way of “going green” in our household.  Not only did we save money on bottles, formula, cleaning products, and related expenses, but we also helped the environment by reducing waste.  However, breastfeeding was not easy or fun for me in the early months, and I needed a lot of help.  My own struggles with nursing are what compelled me to eventually become a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor, working with mothers and babies who need assistance with breastfeeding.  

For over 4 years now I have worked with nursing mothers, and have realized that many women come into motherhood with preconceived notions about breastfeeding.  Many of the presumptions they have are often myths, and I wanted to address some of those today. My hope is that this information will be helpful to you and dispel any myths you may have heard about breastfeeding.

Myth #1- Babies come out of the womb knowing how to nurse.

Babies come out of the womb knowing how to suck, not necessarily how to nurse.  Nursing is a learned rhythm between mother and baby.  Some babies nurse fantastically after birth, while others take a few weeks to get the hang of it.  For those babies who need some help with nursing, it is crucial that the mother also learn the correct way to position and latch the baby.  I cannot stress how important it is for pregnant mothers to take at least one class on breastfeeding, so she knows how to prepare.  If you are a person who already had your baby, don’t be afraid to reach out for help and take a class after birth, too.

Myth #2- I don't have enough milk. 

It has been estimated that only 1-5% of all women actually do not produce enough milk.  This is extremely rare and is usually due to a medical reason.  In all other cases, mothers get very concerned in the first week when their baby loses weight, and often believe it is due to a low milk supply.  However, all babies lose weight in the first week (up to 10% is considered normal), and a mother’s colostrum is more than enough to fill a newborn baby’s tummy until the milk “comes in” on the 3rd or 4th day.  Even some hospital nurses push bottles in these first days (if they are not trained in breastfeeding).  I would estimate that at least 80% of the problems I see in nursing mothers are due to a baby receiving bottles in those early weeks when it was not really necessary.

Myth #3- Breastfeeding is painful.

Some women start breastfeeding with little to no pain, while others describe the pain as “excruciating.”  What makes the difference?  Every women’s breast is different and will respond differently to nursing.  Some soreness and discomfort is to be expected in the first few weeks.  Yet actual pain is a sign that something is wrong.  Pain in breastfeeding can usually be traced to an incorrect latch.  This can lead to cracking and bleeding of the nipples, as well as infection, so if you have pain it is important that you see a Lactation Counselor or Consultant immediately.

Myth #4- I can't eat “gassy” foods when breastfeeding.

Here is good news for those of you who are avoiding “gassy” foods during breastfeeding – there is no conclusive evidence that gassy foods pass to your baby.  Gas is air passed through your system and does not make it into your milk stream. Babies may react to extremely spicy dishes, but every baby is different.  Unless you have an allergy or lactose intolerance in your family, there is usually no need to avoid certain foods.

Myth #5- Using a breast pump will show how much milk I have.

I get calls all the time from women concerned because they pumped their milk and “not a lot came out.”  A pump will never be as effective as your baby’s suck.  Pumps also can lose suction over time, so you may want to have your breastpump tested at a breastfeeding store or hospital if you have an older pump.  A pump can show some measure of how much you’re producing, but don’t count on it to be accurate, especially if you are pumping after you’ve just nursed.

There are many more myths about breastfeeding, but today I wanted to address just five of the ones that I hear of the most often.  If you are in need of breastfeeding help, check out The La Leche League (, or Kellymom ( for some great online resources.

 Many thanks again to Jaimie Bowman from The Wonder Years! Please visit Jaimie and let her know how much you enjoyed this post!
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