Myths about motherhood abound, and many new moms deal with opinions and judgments from every direction. And even when moms feel confident in their mothering capabilities, the false or unhealthy statements about motherhood can add unnecessary pressure, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. However, amidst the mixed messaging, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the breastfeeding journey so you don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself or your little one. We’re disproving some of the most common breastfeeding myths below to clear the air once and for all.
Breastfeeding Myth #1: Breastfeeding should come naturally to moms and babies
Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it is not completely intuitive, and there is often a learning curve for both moms and babies. From finding a comfortable position to helping your baby get the right latch, breastfeeding has certain challenges that take some time and practice to address. When breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally or if your mama-instincts are telling you something isn’t going right, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from other moms or talk with your doctor. Plus, there are professional lactation consultants for a reason!
Breastfeeding Myth #2: Breast pain is normal and unavoidable
Not true! Although those first few weeks of breastfeeding can be uncomfortable as you get used to milk coming in and as your little one practices their latch, you should not be in pain. A correct latch and the right positioning should allow your little one to breastfeed without causing you pain. Conditions like mastitis or sore nipples can occasionally occur during successful breastfeeding, but if these painful problems are consistent, moms should probably check with their obstetrician or a lactation consultant to find a solution. A breast pump may also be a helpful alternative for moms who have a little one struggling to latch but want to continue providing breast milk.
Breastfeeding Myth #3: Moms should limit their diets when breastfeeding to help lose baby weight
As celebrities with personal trainers and dieticians show off their weight loss after pregnancy, many moms feel pressure to lose the baby weight as quickly as possible after birth. But focusing on losing weight by limiting your diet is not what’s best for you or your little one. Producing breast milk requires a lot of energy, and instead of reducing the amount you eat, experts actually recommend consuming an additional 450-500 calories each day. It is also important for breastfeeding moms to consume a balanced diet with foods full of vitamins and minerals that will transfer to your baby through breast milk. Moms struggling with their breast milk supply can also add certain foods to their diet to help promote an increased supply.
Breastfeeding Myth #4: Using a breast pump limits attachment between moms and babies
Skin-to-skin contact is essential for developing attachment between moms and newborns and is often recommended immediately after birth when possible. This intimate contact promotes healthy bonding and is a good first step for getting babies ready to breastfeed. But opportunities for skin-to-skin connection are not limited to only breastfeeding. Moms can cuddle with their little ones as much as they want and still help their baby develop a healthy attachment even if they use a breast pump. Moms often use breast pumps to gain a little more flexibility throughout the breastfeeding journey, but those worried about attachment can still take advantage of skin-to-skin time during a pumping session.
Breastfeeding Myth #5: It’s best to breastfeed on a strict schedule every few hours
Babies are unpredictable, and many new moms may want to turn to a reliable plan for feedings to regain some control over their newly chaotic world. While a consistent feeding schedule may seem best for infants in theory, most babies do not need or want to be fed on a strict schedule. Experts recommend breastfeeding based on your little one’s needs rather than sticking to an immovable timeline. Babies have signs they can use, including crying or whining, to let you know when they are hungry or full. Responding flexibly to their needs leads to a happy and healthy baby before and after feedings.
Breastfeeding is tough enough–let’s not further complicate things with untrue ideas about the process. Be patient with yourself and your little one, stay in touch with your doctor, and remember that practice makes perfect. You’ve got this, mama!
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