10 breastfeeding myths
With so much information out there - where's a new mum to begin? Check out these breastfeeding misconceptions for starters
There’s plenty of good and helpful information about breastfeeding available to new mums these days. But somewhere between the internet, the abundance of insights from well-meaning friends and family, and advice from health professionals, there is unfortunately also a lot of misinformation.
We asked Munchkin’s midwife and health visitor Katie Hilton to share the top ten breastfeeding myths she hears day in, day out:
Breastfeeding is easy
For some new mothers it does come easy and naturally. But the belief that the vast majority of women take to breastfeeding seamlessly, with no hiccups, is wrong. Breastfeeding requires patience, and getting the hang of it can take some time for both mother and baby. Be safe in the knowledge that you have not failed if you find yourself struggling.
Pain is normal
Breastfeeding isn’t always a breeze, but that doesn’t mean it should hurt. It's true that you may occasionally feel some discomfort when initially starting to breastfeed, however this should not persist. The main culprits are incorrect positioning or attachment. Don’t accept it in silence. Speak to your midwife or health visitor and request a breastfeeding assessment.
You can prepare your breasts
It's beneficial to learn about breastfeeding before your baby arrives to understand the various positions and the principles of effective positioning and attachment. But you don’t, however, need to do anything to your breasts during pregnancy to get them ready. Nipples do not need to be toughened up ready for breastfeeding. If they become sore when feeding, it’s most likely due to an incorrect latch.
Drinking more fluids will produce more milk
Hydration and good nutrition are of course important for breastfeeding mothers, just as they are during pregnancy. Drinking a lot of fluids will not dramatically affect your milk supply or milk quality, although being well hydrated will be beneficial. If your milk supply is low speak to your midwife or health visitor about ways to boost your supply.
Breastfed babies can’t have a bottle
There are a small percentage of babies who will have difficulty going back and forth between bottles and the breast in the very beginning. For this reason it's advisable to ensure breastfeeding is fully established for the first 6-8 weeks before introducing a bottle. In reality many babies are given bottles, and the way a baby handles a bottle is different than when feeding at the breast. With the right guidance, a baby can easily combine breast and bottle-feeding. The key will be selecting a bottle suitable for your baby. Choose a bottle that allows your baby to feed in a similar way to the breast and enables stretch and flexibility when feeding.
Newborn babies will feed every 2-3 Hours
An older baby will have a more consistent breastfeeding pattern, but most babies under six weeks will feed at more random times, sometimes clustering feeding closer together and on occasions going 4-5 hour stretches. Talk to your midwife or health visitor about feeding schedules, and be prepared to feed on demand.
Breastfeeding mothers get less sleep
Formula fed babies do generally go longer between feeds, this is because formula takes longer to digest, but that doesn’t mean parents of formula fed babies are having long, undisturbed sleep. Every baby is different and sleep patterns vary depending on a range of factors. Breastfeeding mothers who keep their baby close to them have the benefit of not having to get up to prepare bottles. The surge of oxytocin released in the body during a feed also helps to lull mum back to sleep.
Only birth mothers can breastfeed
It's a myth that adopted mothers can't breastfeed. If a mother has previously breastfed her biological child, she may be able to stimulate supply purely through pumping. If this isn't possible, a combination of hormones and pumping can be used to breastfeed an adopted baby. Talk to your midwife or health visitor about your options well in advance, and remember that every woman’s breastfeeding experience will be different.
Breastfeeding is a form of contraception
Breastfeeding can be an effective method of contraception, but only if certain conditions are met. Women can use breastfeeding as a form of contraception in the first six months after giving birth if they’re breastfeeding exclusively and the baby isn’t drinking anything else, if they breastfeeding at least every 4-6 hours and have not started their period yet. However, it’s not foolproof, and approximately 1 in 100 women who use this method will get pregnant and 2 in 100 will if they don’t practice the technique correctly.
Start pumping immediately if you’re returning to work
This really depends on your circumstances: whether you have maternity leave, how long that maternity leave is and what your working conditions will be like when you return. Working mothers don't need to stress about filling their freezer with an abundance of frozen 'just-in-case' breast milk. Many mothers think they must stock their freezer in the early months if they will be returning to work full time, and while this may be true for those mothers who are unable to pump at work, it isn't true for everyone. Your employer has a duty to provide a space for you to pump. So relax and enjoy your maternity leave and breastfeeding experience.